Former President Barack Obama spoke out on Tuesday to describe the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed millions of people 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 told The New York Times.
Obama went on to say that he has hope that Americans will become more open to leftist policies under Joe Biden. He then said 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 pointed out that Republicans spent $2 trillion on stimulus spending during the pandemic, saying that this 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 also said that he finds it encouraging that people could now start comprehending what it looked like for the government to spend trillions of dollars on one very 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 concluded by saying that he’d like to see 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.”