So, in many ways, the trends that have taken hold over the past few decades -- of a winner-take-all economy where a few do better and better and better while everybody else just treads water or loses ground -- those trends have been made worse by the recession.
That's what we should be focused on. That's what I'm focused on. That's what I know the Americans standing beside me as well as all of you out there are focused on. And as Congress begins another budget debate, that's what Congress should be focused on. How do we grow the economy faster; how do we create better jobs; how do we increase wages and incomes; how do we increase opportunity for those who have been locked out of opportunity; how do we create better retirement security -- that's what we should be focused on, because the stakes for our middle class and everybody who's fighting to get into the middle class could not be higher.
In today's hypercompetitive world, we have to make the investments necessary to attract good jobs that pay good wages and offer high standards of living. And although ultimately our success will depend on all the innovation and hard work of our private sector, all that grit and resilience of the American people, government is going to have a critical role in making sure we have an education system that prepares our children and our workers for a global economy.
The budget Congress passes will determine whether we can hire more workers to upgrade our transportation and communications networks, or fund the kinds of research and development that have always kept America on the cutting edge. So what happens here in Washington makes a difference. What happens up on Capitol Hill is going to help determine not only the pace of our growth, but also the quality of jobs, the quality of opportunity for this generation and future generations.
The problem is at the moment, Republicans in Congress don't seem to be focused on how to grow the economy and build the middle class. I say "at the moment" because I'm still hoping that a light bulb goes off here. (Laughter.)
So far, their budget ideas revolve primarily around even deeper cuts to education, even deeper cuts that would gut America's scientific research and development, even deeper cuts to America's infrastructure investment -- our roads, our bridges, our schools, our energy grid. These aren't the policies that would grow the economy faster. They're not the policies that would help grow the middle class. In fact, they'd do the opposite.
Up until now, Republicans have argued that these cuts are necessary in the name of fiscal responsibility. But our deficits are now falling at the fastest rate since the end of World War II. I want to repeat that. Our deficits are going down faster than any time since before I was born. (Applause.) By the end of this year, we will have cut our deficits by more than half since I took office.
That doesn't mean that we don't still have some long-term fiscal challenges -- primarily because the population is getting older and they're using more health care services. And so we've still got some changes that we've got to make and there's not a government agency or program out there that still can't be streamlined, become more customer-friendly, more efficient. So I do believe we should cut out programs that we don't need. We need to fix ones that aren't working the way they're supposed to or have outlived their initial mission. We've got to make government faster and more efficient.
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