Former President Barack Obama described the coronavirus pandemic as “a teachable moment” for Americans who appeared hesitant about the government spending trillions.
“A part of what happens as a result of the pandemic is there’s a teachable moment about, maybe this whole deficit hawk thing of the federal government, just being nervous about our debt 30 years from now, while millions of people are suffering — maybe that’s not a smart way to think about our economics,” Obama said in an interview with New York Times columnist Ezra Klein.
The former president expressed optimism more Americans would shift toward leftist policies under President Joe Biden’s administration. He argued it was important for Democrats to act big on progressive issues to fundamentally change America’s understanding of the government.
“There are times when that’s presented, I think you try to drive it home as much as possible and get a reorientation of the body politic,” he said.
Obama noted Republicans spending $2 trillion on stimulus spending during the pandemic showed the benefits of deficit spending and sending Americans direct checks.
“I think we’re now in an environment where if we just get some big pieces in place, building on what we did before, people will notice,” he said. “And it will have a political impact.”
Obama said it was encouraging that people could now start comprehending what it looked like for the government to spend trillions of dollars on a specific goal.
“One thing that the pandemic has done is to start getting people to think in scale,” he said. “You can actually put a dollar figure to what it would take to transition to a clean economy.”
Obama expressed his eagerness for the government spending trillions to transition to a clean energy economy and public health care.
“Similarly, maybe it opens up people’s imaginations to say we can actually afford to make this transition,” he said. There are some sacrifices involved, but we can do it.”