President Obama held a press conference today to address the foreign situation, as well as his new proposed budget, addressing that it’s time for some “adult conversation” between himself and Congressional Republicans.
Unrest in the Middle East was discussed as the situation in Iran and other countries continue to grow more and more unstable. “What has been true in Egypt should be true in Iran, that people should be able to express their disagreements and be heard by the government.” Obama said. “My hope and expectation is that we are going to continue to see the people of Iran be able to express their yearnings for a freer government.”
But he noted that America cannot actually step in and make change. “These are sovereign countries,” he said. “We can only express our support.”
“The world is changing. We have a young and vibrant generation in these countries,” the President reminded. “You can’t maintain power through coercion. In any society there has to be consent.”
Although some foreign policy discussion came up, the majority of the press conference revolved around the Obama’s proposed budget and the need for compromise between the President and the Congressional Republicans’ budget proposal.
President Obama focused primarily on the Republican desire to cut entitlement programs and dismantle health care reform.
“I believe we should strengthen social security for future generations, and I believe we can do that without slashing benefits,” the President stated, saying that he does not believe social security is a significant budgetary issue.
However, Medicare and Medicaid are a different story. “Medicare and Medicaid are huge problems. I’m prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans to work on that in a serious way. That’s part of what health care reform was about.”
“When it comes to difficult choices…we have found common ground before,” Obama stated, reminding people that President Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill managed to pass a budget together despite ideological difference.
“We’ve taken a scalpel to the discretionary budget rather than a machete,” Obama stated, defending his incremental budget cuts. His proposal would allow the government to bring in the same amount of money as it would be spending by the middle of the decade.
He was then asked to explain how the national debt can continue rise even with his proposed cuts. “We still have all this accumulated debt, and there’s a lot of interest on that debt. Just like on a credit card, you have to pay that interest on the debt.”
Obama called his plan a two step process. Step one, stabilize spending to ensure the government spends no more than it takes in to stop the accumulation of new debt. Step two would be to start to bringing that debt down, which would require cutting entitlements and reforming the tax code. “But that doesn’t minimize the first step,” Obama said.
Obama acknowledged the desire to see more rapid paydown of the national debt, but advised caution, especially when it came to implementing the advice of the recent debt commission. “You guys are pretty impatient. You assume if something is not done today you think it’s not going to happen. My goal is that one year from now or two years from now people are going to look back and say ‘something is starting to happen.’”
Obama was then asked how he expects to close tax loopholes for corporations or subsidies for oil businesses, both of which didn’t pass when he had majorities. “Why do you think they will pass now?” one reporter questioned.
“Because I think I’m right,” he answered.
“If you’re really serious about the deficit, you need to be serious about looking at the tax code,” the president argued, stating that you cannot cut entitlements under the guise of balancing the budget and ignore the special perks that corporations and oil companies receive.
“The key thing American people want to see is that all sides are serious about it, all sides are willing to give, and that people aren’t just trying to score political points,” he admonished, pointing to the compromises the two parties made on tax cuts during the lame duck session last month.
“We need to have an adult conversation about what we want and how to pay for it,” Obama stated. “We’re talking about cutting off infant formula to the poor. Is that who we are as a country?”
And, on a final note, the President is not making calls for Rahm Emanuel in the Chicago mayoral race. “I think he’s doing just fine on his own.”
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