Fighting Words

Obama and Romney exchange barbs on economic issues.

Posted: 04/04/2012 11:57 AM EDT

GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney may have to tolerate rival Rick Santorum for a few more primaries before he becomes President Obama’s official challenger, but that’s not stopping the president from treating him as if he’s already the de facto nominee.

 

In a bristling speech delivered Tuesday at a luncheon hosted by The Associated Press, Obama attacked the federal budget presented by House Republicans in March and named names, specifically Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who authored the proposal, and Mitt Romney, who has given it his stamp of approval.

 

Voters will have a choice this fall, a combative Obama declared, between a candidate who wants to invest in programs that help everyone succeed or one who aims to help the rich grow more prosperous at the expense of low- and middle-income Americans.

 

The Ryan plan would have a disproportionate effect on communities of color whose high levels of unemployment have caused them to increasingly rely on the social safety net to make ends meet. It would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $133.5 billion over a decade, which, for a family of four, would mean $90 less per month in food stamps. Twenty-two percent of SNAP recipients are Black. It also proposes cuts to job training and Pell grants. Twenty-four percent of the financial aid program’s recipients are African-American and two-thirds or more of all students at HBCUs rely on Pell grants.

 

In 2010, Medicaid covered 57 percent of people of color, including 45 percent of minority children. The Republican budget would block-grant the funds to cash-strapped states, forcing them to either cut benefits or raise taxes in return for shouldering the entire responsibility for the program. Additionally, an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, found that low-income working families would see an increase in their tax burdens while the Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year would be made permanent for high-income households.

 

According to Obama, under Ryan's “radical” plan, the average millionaire would receive a tax cut of at least $150,000, an amount which would, combined, buy a year’s worth of prescriptions for a senior citizen, a new school computer lab, a year of medical care for a returning veteran, a medical research grant for a chronic disease, a year’s salary for a firefighter or police officer, a tax credit to make one year of college more affordable and a year’s worth of financial aid.

 

“[Romney] said that he’s very supportive of this new budget. And he even called it marvelous, which is a word you don’t often hear when describing a budget. It’s a word you don’t often hear generally,” Obama said to laughter.

 

The former Massachusetts governor responded to the speech in an interview on conservative commentator Sean Hannity’s radio program.

 

"This is a president who so misrepresents the policies and proposals of our party and of myself as well and then fails to acknowledge the mistakes and the errors in his own record," Romney said. "It's just astonishing to listen to him."

 

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(Photo: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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