President Obama today outlined his own proposal for reducing the nation's deficit by $4 trillion in the next 12 years, calling it a "more balanced approach" than the one championed by congressional Republicans, and emphasized that everything in the budget must be up for discussion.
"Any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget," the president said in remarks a few blocks away from the White House at George Washington University. "It's an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table, but one that protects the middle-class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future."
In a 44-minute speech that included few specific targeted cuts but many broad objectives, Obama said that in order to reach his deficit reduction goals, he would focus on four key areas: keeping domestic spending low; cuts to the Pentagon budget; health care savings in Medicare and Medicaid; and taxes.
Obama Cites Bipartisan Fiscal Commission
The president said these ideas come from the recommendations of the bipartisan fiscal commission and builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction that he already proposed in his 2012 budget.
"We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit, and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt," he said. "And we have to do it in a way that protects the recovery, and protects the investments we need to grow, create jobs, and win the future."
With the 2012 presidential campaign looming, Obama today tried to draw a clear contrast between his plan and that which congressional Republicans have put forward, which has drawn support from several Republican presidential contenders.
The president said that while both sides want to make dramatic spending cuts, their approach goes after the wrong targets and is less about deficit reduction than it is about "changing the basic social compact in America."
"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," Obama said of the plan put forward by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "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. 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."
Specifically, Obama said that the changes he has proposed for Medicare and Medicaid will keep the commitments to the nation's seniors while still saving $500 billion during the next 12 years and an additional $1 trillion by 2033.
The president also pledged to increase the tax rates on upper income Americans -- individuals who make more than $200,000 a year or families that make more than $250,000 -– because they can afford to pay a little more.
In December, the president agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans, in order to keep his campaign pledge to prevent a tax increase for the middle class. That won't happen again, he said today.
"We cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. And I refuse to renew them again," he said. "I don't need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn't need another tax cut."