As he starts his second term of office, President Obama argues that government health care programs constitute an essential safety net.
In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama articulated a strong defense of his priorities, including maintaining health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
“The commitments we make to each other—through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security—these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us,” Obama said during his 18-minute speech. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
The reference to “a nation of takers” was a response to language used by Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the former Republican vice presidential nominee, and others during the 2012 election. While some have argued that government programs create a culture of dependency that sap people’s drive to succeed on their own, Obama portrayed these programs as a necessary safety net.
Arguments over the correct level of funding for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are likely to continue throughout Obama’s second term. Congressional Republicans have vowed to cut spending and see these entitlement programs as prime targets for cost-cutting.
Elsewhere in the inaugural address, Obama emphasized his goals of combatting climate change, achieving full equality for gays, reforming the immigration system, and valuing diplomacy over aggression in foreign affairs.