Obama Kicks Off Series Of Town Halls On Deficit Reform: “Hopeful” Both Sides Can Come Together

By Nick Gass

Apr 19, 2011 1:51pm

From Sunlen Miller

Kicking off the first of three town halls that will take him from Virginia to California, to Nevada over the next three days to sell his plan for deficit reform, President Obama today promised to even look under the cushion for couch coins to help “get the nation’s finances in order.”

“I’m not going to quit until we’ve found every single dime of waste and misspent money.  We don’t have enough money to waste it right now.  I promise you that.  We’re going to check under the cushions — you name it.”

Speaking in front of a student and teacher audience at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia this afternoon the president tailored his speech last Wednesday, when he announced a broad vision for deficit reduction, to demonstrate how the cost of doing nothing would cause “serious damage” to the economy and to students who are trying to build a life for themselves.

“Like any student on a tight budget …America has to start living within its means,” President Obama said, “There are powerful voices in Washington; there are powerful lobbies and special interests in Washington.  And they’re going to want to reduce the deficit on your backs.  And if you are not heard, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

The speech was not a campaign event officially – yet looked like one, with the president’s shirt sleeved rolled up. And certainly sounded like one too, the president himself even calling the audience, voters.

“This gives me a chance to get out of the immediate environs of Washington and hear directly from voters and have a conversation with them.”

The president laid into Republicans for their own deficit plan.

“The House Republican budget that they put forward, they didn’t just not ask the wealthy to pay more; they actually cut their taxes further.”

The president, who had to pay $453,000 in taxes just recently joked that he was looking at his tax filings for last year, and said, “wow, I don’t — let me think about my position on taxing the wealthy here. “

But the president countered, “It’s a matter of values and what we prioritize.  And I certainly don’t think my taxes should be even lower.  That’s — I think America wants a smart government.  It wants a lean government.  It wants a accountable government.  But we don’t want no government.“

The president again called for reforming the tax code – “so the amount of taxes you pay doesn’t depend on whether you can hire a fancy accountant or not.”

“The president said the Republicans plan also calls for closing the deficit by “gutting” investments in clean energy, medical research or basic science, which he said is not a “viable” choice.

By way of example the president mentioned the “hardship” of Americans facing $4 a gallon for gas.

“Whenever this happens, just like clockwork, you see politicians going in front of the cameras and they’ll say they’ve got a three-point plan for two-buck-a-gallon gas.  Truth is, the only real solution to helping families at the pump in the medium and the long term is clean energy.  That’s how we’ll save families money.  That’s how we’ll reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

The president said that the Republicans plan, of cutting clean energy investments by 70%, would be a mistake.

The president said the bottom line is that the debate Washington is having is not about whether the government needs to reduce deficits, it’s HOW to reduce deficits.

“And my view is, we need to live within our means while still investing in our future -– cutting where we can while investing in education, investing in innovation, investing in infrastructure, and strengthening the safety net provided by programs like Medicare so that they’re there for this generation and for next generations."

With an optimistic nod, the president said that he believes that Democrats and Republicans can come together to get this done.

“Shockingly enough, there will be some politics played along the way.  There will be those who say that we’re too divided, that the partisanship is too stark.  But I’m optimistic.  I’m hopeful.  Both sides have come together before.  I believe we can do it again.”

-Sunlen Miller

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