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

01/21/2013 01:17 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)

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.