Obama should start 2nd term by asking what government should do for Americans, Yarmuth says

01/21/2013 12:17 PM

With President Barack Obama facing the next round of challenges in a second term, one of his closest allies in Kentucky said the president should start by broadening the debate to define what Americans expect from their government.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, told Pure Politics before Obama’s inauguration that the questions about handling the debt ceiling and federal spending cuts are the wrong questions at this point.

“What we should be doing is saying, What do the American people want government to do? … Historically, the federal government’s role has been, number one, to protect and preserve the country; secondly to provide services and infrastructure that benefit everyone and help the country grow, so dealing with research and infrastructure and education,” he said (2:30 of the interview). “Then the other things, we can debate.”

Obama did touch on theme in Monday’s inaugural address.

“Progress does not compel us to settle century’s long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time,” Obama said before calling for civility in such a debate. “For now, decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”

The interview with Yarmuth also included a discussion about the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof’s article that highlighted fraud among Owsley County families who kept their children out of school so they would remain illiterate, and thus, “disabled” for the purpose of inflating their Supplemental Security Income. Yarmuth called it “immoral and borderline criminal — maybe not even borderline.” (3:15)


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