Obama Draws Lines in the Budget Sand

In expected move, the President calls for an end to tax breaks for the wealthy.

Posted: 04/13/2011 02:43 PM EDT
Filed Under budget

President Obama attacked the budget plan House Republicans are touting because, he believes, it doesn’t reflect the American value of shared responsibility and calls for cuts that would harm the nation’s economic recovery. During a nationally televised budget speech from the campus of George Washington University, he framed his side of the debate by illustrating how the Republican plan would directly impact Americans.

“A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That’s what they’re proposing,” Obama said. “These aren’t the kind of cuts you make when you’re trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in. And they paint a vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic.“

Republicans have for months said that raising taxes during a recession will lead to the loss of jobs, but Obama countered that argument by pointing to the fundamental unfairness of giving wealthy individuals tax breaks while so many other people are financially drowning. According to the President, that’s just wrong.

“The top one percent saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that’s who needs to pay less taxes?” Obama said. “They want to give people like me a $200,000 tax cut that’s paid for by asking 33 seniors to each pay $6,000 more in health costs?  That’s not right, and it’s not going to happen as long as I’m president.” He added that he agreed to tax cuts for wealthy Americans in December to prevent middle class tax hikes, but he won’t do it again.

The president highlighted a number of scenarios that could happen under the GOP plan, such as 50 million Americans losing their health insurance, crumbling roads and collapsing bridges that would have to go unrepaired, and the inability of students to go on to college.

Obama said his plan would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years. He agreed that annual domestic spending must be reduced and said that could be achieved through some of the savings and cuts in the continuing resolution he and congressional leaders negotiated last week that out of necessity includes programs that he cares about, but continues to make investments that will help grow the economy, keep the nation competitive and create jobs. He also called for eliminating waste in defense spending. In addition, his plan would reduce healthcare spending by lowering the cost of healthcare, as opposed to the GOP plan, which he said would do so by forcing seniors and poor families to absorb extra costs.

“I don’t expect the details in any final agreement to look exactly like the approach I laid out today.  I’m eager to hear other ideas from all ends of the political spectrum,” Obama said. “And though I’m sure the criticism of what I’ve said here today will be fierce in some quarters, and my critique of the House Republican approach has been strong, Americans deserve and will demand that we all bridge our differences, and find common ground.”



(Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)