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John Kerry: U.S. Must Get Its Finances in Order

Secretary of State John Kerry at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Updated 12:30 p.m. ET:

Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized the need for the United States to get its finances in order, else it will look weak abroad, in a speech he delivered at the University of Virginia on Wednesday — his first major policy address since becoming secretary at the end of January.

He was referring to the March 1 deadline for Congress to come up with a spending agreement, or deep automatic cuts will kick in, including in the Defense Department and other government agencies — a situation known as sequestration.

It’s hard for the United States to tell the leaders of other countries they must resolve their economic issues if it can’t resolve its own, said Kerry, adding that the inability to reach a budget resolution hurts his image abroad.

“In these days of a looming budget sequester, we can’t be strong in the world unless we are strong at home.”

Kerry also alluded to another upcoming administration push: on the environment.

He said preserving the environment against climate change was a way to help save money and create new markets for American businesses and entrepreneurs. “Rising temperatures and sea levels will surely lead to rising costs,” he said.

“President Obama is committed to moving forward on the environment. So must you be ready to join us,” he told the crowd.

In addition, Kerry emphasized the need for continued U.S. foreign assistance, saying it would help the United States in the long run. When politicians say they want to spend less abroad, it’s a guaranteed applause line, he continued, “but it does nothing to guarantee our security, a stronger country, sounder economy or more stable job market.”

Investment deals with other countries also strengthen both sides, and in terms of economic ties, the United States is in good standing, Kerry said. “We are a country without any permanent enemies.”

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