President Barack Obama believes that if he were president 25 years ago, his economic policies would make him a moderate Republican.
During an interview with Noticias Univision 23, the network's Miami affiliate newscast, Obama pushed back against the accusation made in some corners of south Florida's Cuban-American and Venezuelan communities that he wants to instill a socialist economic system in the U.S. The president said he believes few actually believe that.
"I don't know that there are a lot of Cubans or Venezuelans, Americans who believe that," Obama said. "The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican."
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Obama's comments come amid the contentious debate over how to resolve the "fiscal cliff," in which the White House and Congress are trying to figure out whether to extend a series of tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year while staving off steep spending cuts to domestic and defense programs set to go into place at the beginning of 2013.
For years amid the brooder debate over taxes and the size of government, Obama has been characterized by some on the right as a socialist who wants to redistribute wealth. They cite Obama's healthcare law in particular as a massive increase in the size of government.
Obama is seeking to eradicate that image as he tries to sell his economic plan to the public amid the fiscal cliff debate, which includes eliminating the low Bush-era tax rates for those families making more than $250,000 per year.
"What I believe in is a tax system that is fair. I don't think government can solve every problem. I think that we should make sure that we're helping young people go to school. We should make sure that our government is building good roads and bridges and hospitals and airports so that we have a good infrastructure," he said. "I do believe that it makes sense that everyone in America, as rich as this country is, shouldn't go bankrupt because someone gets sick."
Republican leaders have largely rejected tax-rate increases repeatedly and said that Obama is not serious about reducing the federal budget deficit and reforming the nation's entitlement programs.
"The president's plan to avert the fiscal cliff still does not meet the two standards that I laid out the day after the election," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday. "His plan does not fulfill his promise to bring a balanced approach to solving this problem. It's mainly tax hikes, and his plan does not begin to solve our debt crisis. It actually increases spending."
But Obama reiterated his belief that higher tax rates for upper-income earners should be part of a broader effort to reduce the deficit.
"We also need to reduce our deficit in a responsible way, that means revenue, asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more taxes, protecting middle-class families. Then cutting out some programs that we don't need, passing responsible spending cuts. And I hope that we can get this resolved," he said. "We just need, you know, for Speaker Bohner and the House Republicans to step up and say they are ready to get going."
The Obama-as-a-socialist notion recently played out on the campaign trail. In an effort to energize anti-Obama sentiment among Cuban- and Venezuelan-American voters in south Florida, the Romney campaign ran a Spanish-language TV ad there one week before Election Day that tied Obama to Cuba's Castro brothers and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The president's campaign took the unusual step of releasing its own ad in Spanish to counter the Romney ad.
Some on the left have long argued that the president's policy beliefs closely resemble moderate Republican views from the 1980s and 1990s. Ezra Klein made the argument in a 2011 column, citing his adoption of the individual health insurance mandate, an idea developed in conservative think tanks. Will Saletan of Slate made a similar argument this year.