President Obama took to the bully pulpit Tuesday morning to warn Americans of how automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, set to take effect on March 1 will affect their lives. Flanked by a group of first responders in the South Court Auditorium at the White House, the president called on Americans to be aware of the tough cuts to come if Congress doesn't act.
"Thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find childcare for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings," Obama said.
He also noted that the Navy has already had to delay an aircraft carrier that was set too deploy to the Persian Gulf, adding that such changes will affect the nation's ability to respond to threats in unstable parts of the world.
"These cuts are not smart, they are not fair, they will hurt our economy, they will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls. This is not an abstraction: people will lose their jobs," Obama warned.
The president said that he has outlined a balanced approach to prevent cuts he believes will be harmful and that both Democrats and Republicans have proposed ideas, but noted that the GOP's ideas "ask nothing of the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations," placing the burden on first responders, seniors or middle-class families. So now they face a choice.
"Are you willing to see a bunch of first responders lose their job because you want to protect some special interest tax loophole? Are you willing to have teachers laid off or kids not have access to Head Start or deeper cuts in student loan programs just because you want to protect a special tax interest loophole that the vast majority of Americans don't benefit from? That's the choice. That's the question," he said.
Obama said his door is open and he's willing to work with anyone to avert sequestration.
"None of us will get a hundred percent of what we want. But nobody should want these cuts to go through because the last thing our families can afford right now is pain imposed unnecessarily by partisan recklessness and ideological rigidity here in Washington," said Obama.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York), speaking on MSNBC Live, said that Republicans aren't likely to accept Obama's offer to work with them unless they hear from the American people. They need to call out lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, Rangel said, "blame them by name."
"This is too serious for a handful of people with petty differences to destroy our nation's economy," he said.
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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)