The President unveiled his budget and deficit reduction proposal in a speech that was quintessential Obama. The President was eloquent, forceful, combative and vague as he laid out the differences between his vision of America’s future and that of his Republican opponents.
The President was eloquent in his portrayal of the American dream and the belief that we all must work together to help one another. But he became combative as he addressed the components of the Ryan plan dealing with Medicare, Medicaid and taxes. “They want to end Medicare as we know it”, he said and to extend tax cuts for the wealthy while demanding that seniors pay more for health care. “That’s not right and it’s not going to happen as long as I am President.” He further criticized the Ryan plan saying “there is nothing serious or courageous about a plan that gives $1 trillion in tax cuts to millionaires while increasing health care cost for the poor and the elderly.” And, as if to further emphasize the seriousness of their differences, Paul Ryan was seated in the front row having been invited to attend the speech by the President himself.
The President offered some specifics. He proposes to cut $4.4 trillion from the deficit over the next ten years with $3 trillion coming from reductions in spending and $1 trillion from increased revenues. He would leave Medicare and Medicaid basically in their current format, but over the next ten years cut $200 billion more from Medicare and $100 billion from Medicaid. He did not provide any details as to how these numbers would be achieved.
The key difference between the Presidents’ plan and the Ryan plan lies in the area of taxes. Ryan would leave the Bush tax cuts in place, revamp the tax code to eliminate loopholes and reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%. Obama proposes tax increases totaling $1 trillion, increasing the rates for individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000.
The President has boxed the Republicans into a corner and has drawn a line in the sand. He has given voters a clear choice: tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires or lower health care costs for the poor and the elderly.
Let the campaign begin.