A visibly stern and ready-for-action President Barack Obama took to the Rose Garden today to explain how he intended to pay for the proposals put forth in the American Jobs Act, and to chide Congress, and especially Speaker of the House John Boehner and the House Republicans, for refusing to pass his legislation.
The President began his speech in an argumentative tone, acknowledging that his American Jobs Act, which he proposed last week, was full of bipartisan ideas accepted by both parties, and also offered a tax break to nearly every working person in America. He blamed Congress for dragging their feet on passing the act, saying, “I’m ready to sign a bill. I’ve got the pens all ready.”
Every proposal is fully paid for, the president explained, and he reminded Republicans and the American people that it will not add to our debt. “The health of our economy depends on what we can do right now. But in the long run, it also depends on our ability to pay down our debt over the decades. If we don’t act, that burden will fall on our children’s shoulders.”
Obama then blamed the Speaker of the House for walking away during debt ceiling negotiations rather than trying to find real solutions that would stimulate the economy as well as bring down the massive debt the government has been accumulating.
The president then launched into his own plans to pay for the American Jobs Act as well as begin the deficit reduction that the Republican Party claims is such an immediate need. “This plan will reduce our debt by more than 4 trillion and it is fair, asking everyone to bear some of the costs.”
The administration plans to reduce spending by reform agricultural subsidies, bringing up the number of farms being paid not to produce crops. He also proposed making modest reductions to federal retirement programs, making cuts to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, asking banks to pay back the massive bailout funds they received at the height of the financial crisis, and saving a full $1 trillion as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are brought to a close. He also proposed structural reforms in changes to Medicare and Medicaid, to make them more accountable. “But,” he warned, “I will not allow this to be an excuse to turn Medicare into a voucher program.”
He re-pledged his support for Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Social Security, and said that despite any reforms, the country will not allow these programs to no longer be the support that Americans have come to rely on. And under no conditions would he be willing to accept any bill that only allowed for spending cuts, without any increase in revenue. “An all cuts plan would ask for sacrifices from the elderly, the poor, and children while leaving the rich and corporations untouched.”
“If we are going to meet our obligations, we have to do it together,” said the president, discussing the need to rescind the tax cuts for the wealthiest and corporations. “The most fortunate among us need to pay their share like everyone else…We can’t afford these lower rates for the wealthy, rates that were supposed to be temporary.”
“Any reform plan will have to raise revenue in order to close the deficit, and middle class taxpayers should not pay a higher tax rate than millionaires and billionaires,” continued Obama, beginning to explain his new “Buffett rule” that would raise the tax rate on capital gains and other investment income for those earning more than $1 million a year. “Explain to me why someone who is making $50 million a year should pay 15% while a teacher making $50K should pay a higher rate. It’s not ‘class warfare’, it’s just the right thing to do. We can either ask the rich to pay more in taxes, or ask seniors to pay more in Medicare. This is not class warfare. It’s math.”
“I will veto any bill that makes changes in benefits but does not ask the wealthiest Americans and corporations to pay their fair share,” the president vowed. “We know what’s right, it’s time to do it.”
Photo from whitehouse.gov