"’Just say no’ is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs," President Obama said this morning in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. "It is not an acceptable response to what our economic policies propose by the other party."
The president was flanked by the Senate and House chairmen of the budget committees, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, and Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., with whom he’d just spoken to about his $3.6 trillion budget proposal.
"With the budget committees hard at work this week, I wanted to meet with Chairman Conrad and Chairman Spratt to talk about the progress they’re making on this budget resolution," the president said. "Because these are no ordinary times, I don’t just view this budget document as numbers on a page or a laundry list of programs, I see it as an economic blueprint for our future and a foundation on which to build a recovery that lasts."
Obama said that "what we need in Washington are not more political tactics, we need more good ideas. We don’t need more point scoring, we need more problem solving. So if there are members of Congress who object to specific policies and proposals in this budget, then I ask them to be ready and willing to propose constructive alternative solutions. If certain aspects of this budget people don’t think work, provide us some ideas in terms of what you do. …The American people sent us here to get things done."
The president ran through some familiar language about how his budget proposes investments "directly linked to our long-term prosperity," for health care, education and alternative energy.
"As I said last week, we can’t go back to a bubble economy, an economy based on reckless speculation and spending beyond our means, on bad credit and inflated home prices, and some of the shenanigans that have been taking place on Wall Street," he said. "Such activity does not lead to the creation of lasting wealth; it leads to the illusion of prosperity. And as we’re finding out, it hurts us all in the end."
Not acknowledging that his enormous cap and trade system proposal has been characterized as a "pretty regressive" energy tax by supporters such as billionaire investor Warren Buffett — “In the utility business, it’s going to be borne by customers," Buffett said last week, "and it’s a tax like anything else" — the president said today that his budget "does not raise the taxes of any family making less than $250,000 a year by a single dime. In fact, 95 percent of all working families will receive a tax cut as a result of our recovery plan."
The president also pushed back on "those who say the plans in this budget are too ambitious to enact … that in the face of challenges that we face, we should be trying to do less than more. What I say is that the challenges we face are too large to ignore." He said that the "American people don’t have the luxury of just focusing on Wall Street. They don’t have the luxury of choosing to pay either their mortgage or their medical bills. They don’t get to pick between paying for their kid’s college tuition and saving enough money for retirement. They have to do all these things. They have to confront all these problems, and as a consequence, so do we."
The president, clad in a pale green tie, started his remarks by wishing reporters a "Happy St. Patrick’s Day," and noting that Conrad, wearing a red tie, "didn’t get the memo."
After the meeting, Conrad told reporters — off camera (I tried to get him to go before the cameras, but he wouldn’t) — that "the president is a wise man" who "understands the legislative process" and the "give and take" of how budgets are put together.
Last week Conrad said that "there are not the votes at the moment" but after negotiations he was confident “there will be the votes to pass a strong budget.”
Today the North Dakotan said that Senate leaders hope to keep to the official schedule, and will have marked up the bill before the end of the congressional work period, which ends in mid-April.
– Jake Tapper, Sunlen Miller & Stephanie Smith