2:34 p.m. -- Speech ended
I was intrigued by this letter Obama says he received from a man in Florida which closed out his remarks:
The other day I received a letter from a man in Florida. He started off by telling me he didn’t vote for me and he hasn’t always agreed with me. But even though he’s worried about our economy and the state of our politics, he said,
“I still believe. I believe in that great country that my grandfather told me about. I believe that somewhere lost in this quagmire of petty bickering on every news station, the ‘American Dream’ is still alive…
We need to use our dollars here rebuilding, refurbishing and restoring all that our ancestors struggled to create and maintain…We as a people must do this together, no matter the color of the state one comes from or the side of the aisle one might sit on.”
While I can't speak for the man who wrote the letter, I think his sentiments are shared by most Americans. However, I don't really believe he was thinking of Social Security, Medicare, Planned Parenthood, the National Endowment for the Humanities, EPA, etc. when talking about ideas and institutions his ancestors struggled for. At least, that's my opinion.
If you thought last week's budget deal signaled a willingness to compromise from the White House, think again. From these remarks, it's very clear the Obama White House is counting on Americans to maintain a stranglehold on entitlements and Republicans face a serious uphill battle in getting any cuts. More than any partisan difference, there seems to be a HUGE ideological divide between the Ryan and Obama plans. Godspeed.
2:26 p.m. -- Obama gives shout-out to his progressive friends
Indeed, to those in my own party, I say that if we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have the obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments. If we believe that government can make a difference in people’s lives, we have the obligation to prove that it works – by making government smarter, leaner and more effective.
2:22 p.m. -- Obama suggests "debt failsafe"
If, by 2014, our debt is not projected to fall as a share of the economy – or if Congress has failed to act – my plan will require us to come together and make up the additional savings with more spending cuts and more spending reductions in the tax code. That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now, instead of kicking our problems further down the road.
So this is our vision for America – a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and rising opportunity for our children.
"Doing nothing on the deficit is not an option."
2:20 p.m. -- Obama calls on Congress to reform individual tax code
My budget calls for limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2% of Americans – a reform that would reduce the deficit by $320 billion over ten years. But to reduce the deficit, I believe we should go further. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to reform our individual tax code so that it is fair and simple – so that the amount of taxes you pay isn’t determined by what kind of accountant you can afford.
A shorter version of this speech would go something like this: "Our national greatness is rooted in government programs and big spending. Thank you and God Bless America."
Fuzzy math: Obama wants to cut deficit by $4T over the next 12 years, but his other plan would expand the deficit by $9.6T over 10 years.
Obama says he agreed to extend Bush tax cuts to save the middle class: "I refuse to renew them again."
2:16 p.m. -- Obama plans to "lower government's health care bills"
The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer: their plan lowers the government’s health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government’s health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.
2:15 p.m. -- Obama proposes military cuts
The second step in our approach is to find additional savings in our defense budget. As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than protecting our national security, and I will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America’s interests around the world. But as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has said, the greatest long-term threat to America’s national security is America’s debt.
Just as we must find more savings in domestic programs, we must do the same in defense. Over the last two years, Secretary Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again. We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but conduct a fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it’s complete.
Finally -- a pseudo-proposal:
The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week – a step that will save us about $750 billion over twelve years. We will make the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs I care about, but I will not sacrifice the core investments we need to grow and create jobs. We’ll invest in medical research and clean energy technology. We’ll invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education and job training. We will do what we need to compete and we will win the future.
Take another drink!
2:12 p.m. -- Halfway through the speech and still no proposal from Obama
"There's nothing courageous about tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires... the America I know is generous and compassionate. Yes we take responsibility for ourselves, but we also take responsibility for each other."
Obama says GOP plan cuts education & clean energy but "can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy." -- "That's not going to happen as long as I'm president."
Obama's message seems to be that everything is on the table except Paul Ryan's budget plan.
Obama characterizes Ryan plan as "pesmisstic and suggests "roads will crumble." This vision suggests we "can't afford the America I envision." (<--well, duh.)
Obama characterizes Ryan budget plan:
"It’s a vision that says America can’t afford to keep the promise we’ve made to care for our seniors. It says that ten years from now, if you’re a 65 year old who’s eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy the insurance that's available in the open marketplace, tough luck – you’re on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it. "
President Obama suggests cuts from "folks in Washington" would go toward education, clean water, energy, medical research, etc.
"Economists" think we need "phased-in approach," he says. Vision of America in the future should guide cuts today.
Paul Ryan plan "would lead to a fundamentally different America..."
2:01 p.m. -- "We can solve this problem."
Solving the problem, Obama says, is admitting "what's causing the problem." <--this should be good.
Obama claims we were close to being debt-free 10 years ago. (huh?)
Those who benefit most can afford to give back, Obama says, stressing the importance of supporting middle class and seniors. "We don't begrudge those who have done well."
Alluding to his predecessor, Obama says the U.S. "lost our way" in the last decade by spending money we didn't have and giving tax cuts to the rich. Now that economy is getting back on track, we can afford to take action.
"Emergency steps" saved "millions" of jobs -- "absolutely the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive and added to our debt in the short-term."
"Now that our economic recovery is gaining strength... we must restore fiscal responsibility" of the 1990s, Obama says.
"Win the future" mentioned first time -- take a shot!
"This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page... it's about the kind of future that we want. It's about the kind of country we believe in."
Free markets and free enterprise have been "engine of American prosperity," he says. We have been a self-reliant people with a skepticism of too much government. But there's always been another thread running through our history -- "we are all connected."
"Each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity," he continued. No matter how hard we work
Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, Medicare -- President begins remarks by highlighting the importance of collective insurance plans. "We would not be a great country without those commitments," he says.
This is not sounding like a speech where he'll announce cuts...
1:49 p.m. -- Getting started
President Obama begins by introducing a number of distinguished guests, including Vice President Joe Biden. He is speaking at my alma mater, The George Washington University.
President Obama is set to deliver remarks on his own budget deficit plan at 1:35 EST. For a live video feed, click here.
So what can we expect to hear from the president? I'm anxious to see what kind of entitlement reforms the president might suggest -- though they're unlikely to be significant, they would be a sure sign that the tea party mantra of regaining fiscal control has seeped into Obama's politics.
I'm also interested to see if the president will discuss Ryan's proposal at all. Heading into 2012, could Ryan's plan stand the electoral test? Will voters be willing to accept painful cuts to save the country? The White House is betting no.
Just days after Rep. Paul Ryan introduced his own 2012 budget plan which included $6 trillion in spending cuts, how much will the president propose to strike? Will he even give specifics? So far, the talk of tackling the debt has come almost exclusively from the right. Meanwhile, Independents and Democrats seem to be more concerned with getting the economy back on track. Will Obama leave the budget talk to the Republicans?
Finally, can Obama really sell himself as a deficit hawk? His first two years in office have all but ignored America's crushing debt. Can he suddenly turn the page and convince voters he's serious about fiscal responsibility? If nothing else, he seems to be delivering this speech to placate political pundits and independents who want to hear that the president is at least thinking about tackling the debt.
Key drinking game words: "win the future" and "investment"