U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers are turning their attention to the economy. And they used their weekly radio and video addresses to focus on two issues of huge importance to many Americans: health care and energy costs.
Top U.S. officials have been spending much of their time trying to revive the country's economic health by targeting aid at failing banks and ailing auto companies. But President Barack Obama says a big part of the problem is soaring costs for health care. "This much is clear: the status quo is unsustainable for families, businesses, and government. America spends nearly 50 percent more per person on health care than any other country," he said.
And the president Saturday has this message for his critics. "I know some question whether we can afford to act this year. But the unmistakable truth is that it would be irresponsible to not act. We can't keep shifting a growing burden to future generations. With each passing year, health care costs consume a larger share of our nation's spending, and contribute to yawning deficits that we cannot control," he said.
Mr. Obama is proposing reforms to the U.S. health care system (Medicare and Medicaid) that would cut the costs of key programs by an estimated $313 billion.
The cost of health care is especially important to these Americans, who visited a free health care clinic earlier this month in a remote area of the eastern U.S. state of Tennessee.
Bob Thompson says the free clinic was the only way he could get help for his teeth, which were damaged in an accident. "Our healthcare system is hemorrhaging at every seam right now. To put it mildly, the group of friends I've had over the years and ran around together with, it was originally seven of us and the healthcare system in the United States has killed us all but two," he said.
In their weekly address Saturday, Republicans turned their attention to the rising cost of energy. Indiana representative Mike Pence called a proposal by the Democratic party to protect the environment by putting a limit on greenhouse gases "an economic declaration of war." "During these difficult economic times, higher energy prices pose a great hardship on families struggling to make ends meet. Unfortunately the Democratic majority in Congress is embracing a national energy tax that will lead to even higher energy prices and massive job losses for the American people," he said.
The Republican's own proposal calls for investment in renewable energy, more nuclear power and increased oil and gas exploration.
Oil prices have been pushing higher in recent weeks, and have gained more than 60 percent so far this year.