In Romney Deficit Plan, Obama Campaign Sees Class Divide

Nov 4, 2011 6:01am

As Mitt Romney rolls out his plan to curb the federal budget deficit, the Obama campaign is honing its election narrative based on a clear class divide: by warning the Republican’s economic plan would devastate the middle class while lining the pockets of the rich.

In a memo to reporters, Obama for America policy director James Kvaal said that the Romney plan, which the former governor previewed in a speech Thursday night, would “end Medicare,” impose “deep cuts” to education and infrastructure spending, and enact tax cuts that would largely benefit millionaire families and corporations.

“Romney apparently operates under the false assumption that we can just cut our way to prosperity,” Kvaal wrote.

“While a balanced, responsible approach to reducing the deficit is needed, Romney will not ask everyone to contribute their fair share,” he said. ”As a result, his plan requires deep spending cuts across government, everywhere outside of defense spending.”

Obama also favors spending cuts, including some “modest adjustments” to entitlement programs, but only if coupled with tax hikes on wealthier Americans making more than $200,000 a year.

Emphasizing the contrast between President Obama and Republicans on taxes and spending has been a key objective for Democrats, who see a path to victory in 2012 if the electorate is acutely aware of the tangible trade-offs at stake.

Underscoring the campaign’s focus on the GOP frontrunner, Kvaal’s memo repeatedly invoked the name of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., whose austere and controversial budget plan has become a political prop in arguments on both sides of the aisle.

The Ryan plan passed the House in April with no Democratic votes and remains unpopular with many voters nationwide.

Polls show much of the concern with Ryan’s plan centers on proposed changes to Medicare, one of the primary drivers of the federal budget deficit. Under the proposal, for which Romney has voiced support, the federal government would provide subsidies to seniors through the states to help them purchase private health insurance plans.

“I’d like to take some of these programs like Medicaid and take the dollars the federal government has been spending and give those back to states and let states craft the programs in the ways they think best to care for their own poor,” Romney said Thursday night in Exeter, N.H.

Democrats believe that vision will be a non-starter among elderly voters, who are worried about their financial security and health care costs now more than ever before.

Romney “would cut taxes for the most fortunate Americans at the same time he makes reckless cuts to the very programs that help strengthen and build the middle class and provide security to seniors, children with disabilities and the most vulnerable Americans who are working harder and harder to make ends meet,” Kvaal said.

For his part, the former Massachusetts governor says the government as a “moral responsibility” to balance the budget through cuts alone.

“There are some who say when you talk about fiscal responsibility and cutting a program you’re showing that you’re heartless,” Romney said Thursday. “I think you have to say, ‘No, no, we have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.”

He’s also proposed specific initiatives aimed at boosting the middle class, including eliminating taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest for anyone earning less than $200,000.

Romney is expected to lay out additional details of his deficit reduction plan in a speech today at the Americans for Prosperity convention in Washington.

UPDATE: Romney campaign spokesman Andrea Saul responded to Democrats’ criticism, accusing President Obama of ”devastating” the middle class.

“The middle class won’t see an improvement in their situation until Barack Obama is defeated and gone,” Saul wrote in an email. “President Obama has utterly failed to control the excessive spending in Washington. In fact, he has added to the problem. On his watch, America suffered its first ever credit rating downgrade — which humiliated us in the eyes of the world. I am not surprised that President Obama is now attacking Mitt Romney for putting forward his ideas on how to get spending and debt under control. The fact that they don’t recognize that we are in a fiscal crisis is just another reason why President Obama doesn’t deserve another term in office.”

ABC News’ Emily Friedman contributed to this report. 

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