Q Yes, sir. Mr. President, can you explain the anger and even outrage many Democrats felt when the tax cut bill extended tax cuts not just for the middle class but also for the wealthy? And is that a divide that you may be contributing to when you and the Vice President talk about “morally inappropriate” tax cuts for the wealthy?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, the frustration that people felt about that was frustration I share. I’ve said that before, and I’ll probably say it again. I don't think that over the long run we can afford a series of tax breaks for people who are doing very well and don't need it; were doing well when Bill Clinton was in office. They were still rich then, and they will still be rich if those tax cuts went away.
And so this is going to be a debate that we’re going to be having over the next couple of years because I guarantee you, as soon as the new Congress is sworn in, we’re going to have to have a conversation about how do we start balancing our budget, or at least getting to a point that's sustainable when it comes to our deficit and our debt.
And that's going to require us cutting programs that don't work, but it also requires us to be honest about paying for the things that we think are important. If we think it’s important to make sure that our veterans are getting care that they need when they come back home from fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq, we can’t just salute and wish them well and have a Veterans Day Parade. We got to make sure that there are doctors and nurses and facilities for post-traumatic stress disorder -- and that costs money.
If we say that education is going to be the single most important determinant（决定因素） for our children’s success and this country’s success in the 21st century, we can’t have schools that are laying off so many teachers that they start going to four days a week, as they’ve done in Hawaii, for example.
We’ve got to make sure that young people can afford to go to college. If we want to keep our competitive edge in innovation, well, we’ve got to invest in basic research -- the same basic research that resulted in the Internet, the same basic research that invited -- that resulted in GPS. All those things originated in research funded by the government.
So we are going to have to compare the option of maintaining the tax cuts for the wealthy permanently versus spending on these things that we think are important. And that's a debate that I welcome. But I completely understand why not just Democrats but some Republicans might think that that part of the tax package we could have done without.
Having said that, I want to repeat -- compromise（妥协，折衷） , by definition, means taking some things you don't like. And the overall package was the right one to ensure that this economy has the best possible chance to grow and create jobs. And there is no better anti-poverty program than an economy that's growing. There is no better deficit-reduction program than an economy that is growing. And if the economy started contracting, as it might have had we not gotten this tax agreement, then the choices that we would have to make would be even tougher.
Q Sir, is there a divide between middle-class and wealthy Americans?
THE PRESIDENT: I think middle-class folks would confirm what the statistics say, which is that they have not seen a real increase in their incomes in a decade, while their costs have skyrocketed. That's just a fact.
What is also a fact is that people in the top 1 percent, people in the top 1/10th of 1 percent, or 1/100th of 1 percent have a larger share of income and wealth than any time since the 1920s. Those are just facts. That's not a feeling on the part of Democrats. Those are facts.
And something that's always been the greatest strength of America is a thriving, booming middle class, where everybody has got a shot at the American Dream. And that should be our goal. That should be what we’re focused on. How are we creating opportunity for everybody? So that we celebrate wealth. We celebrate somebody like a Steve Jobs, who has created two or three different revolutionary products. We expect that person to be rich, and that's a good thing. We want that incentive. That's part of the free market.
But we also want to make sure that those of us who have been extraordinarily fortunate, that we’re contributing to the larger American community so that a whole bunch of other kids coming up are doing well. And that means schools that work and infrastructure like roads and airports that function, and it means colleges and universities that teach and aren’t restricted to just people who can afford it but are open to anybody with talent and a willingness to work. And that’s going to be I think part of the conversation that we’ve got to have over the next couple years.