President Obama outlined his plan to cut $4 trillion from the deficit over the course of the next 12 years through a combination of targeted spending cuts and tax increases that would allow the nation to balance its books and retain its “generous and compassionate” values.
In a 43-minute speech at George Washington University Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Obama said Republicans and Democrats both share the goal of getting the country’s fiscal house in order but have starkly different approaches to doing so, arguing that his is more balanced by spreading sacrifices across the board and including tax increases for the wealthiest Americans.“I don’t need another tax cut, Warren Buffet doesn’t need another tax cut…,” he said. “…I believe most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to the country that’s done so much for them. Washington just hasn’t asked them to.”
The speech stakes out new budget ground for the President after weeks spent battling Republicans over spending and a budget showdown that managed to avert a government shutdown at the 11th hour late last week. It also serves as a way to define his vision for the nation’s fiscal future just as his campaign for re-election shifts into gear.
While the nation must focus on cutting out-of-control Washington spending, Obama said, it must also continue to invest in programs that create jobs, stabilize the economy and help the United States compete globally. He also made clear his intention to fiercely oppose any new efforts to lower taxes for the wealthiest Americans despite his tax-cut compromise with congressional Republicans in December.
“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” Obama said, referring to budget proposals House Republicans are championing. “There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.”
The speech comes eight days after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his 2012 budget, which would include abolishing Medicare and replacing it with vouchers. Instead, Obama was far more vague about changes to Medicare, saying that he would create a commission of “doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers” to look at the best ways to reduce spending while protecting “access to the services seniors need.”
In pledging to change the way the nation’s pays for health care, Obama said he would create new incentives for doctors and hospital to prevent injuries and improve results, but he did not provide details of that part of his plan.
The costs savings from the reforms the commission recommends, he said, would save $500 billion by 2023 and an additional $1 trillion in the decade that follows.
Obama reserved his most vivid language in the speech for the contrast of his vision for “winning America’s future” — a campaign slogan — with what he said was the Republican plan. Republicans’ vision for America was deeply pessimistic, he said, one in which the country cannot afford to fix crumbling roads and bridges, to send bright children to college whose parents can’t pay for it, and can’t keep the promise made to care for older Americans.
In contrast, he said his plan would secure a prosperous and generous future for the country.
“We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country,” he said. “To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.”