Obama’s long-term deficit plan

President Obama laid out a plan to cut $4 trillion from the federal deficit over the next 12 years with a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts.

What happened

President Obama set the stage for an epic ideological struggle with Republicans this week, laying out his own plan to cut $4 trillion from the federal deficit over the next 12 years with a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts. Under the president’s plan, Medicare and defense spending will be trimmed, and Bush-era tax cuts for Americans earning $250,000 and over will be scrapped. Obama also used his speech at George Washington University to tear into a budget blueprint released last week by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, which proposed $4 trillion in savings by privatizing Medicare and making major cuts in Medicaid for the poor, while cutting the top tax rate from 35 to 25 percent. “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” said Obama.

Obama said he was open to negotiations with Republicans over details of his plan, but insisted he would largely preserve Medicare and Medicaid in their current form “as a promise we make to each other in this society.” House Speaker John Boehner criticized Obama for being late to address the debt issue, and declared that reducing deficits by raising taxes is “a nonstarter” with his party.

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What the editorials said

At last Obama is challenging the ridiculous Republican idea that tax cuts can shrink federal deficits, said The New York Times. Incredibly, the Ryan plan would slash $4.3 trillion from “vital services” while adding $4.2 trillion in debt through tax cuts. Our current debt crisis was largely caused by the trillions in tax cuts handed out by President George W. Bush, which turned the Clinton-era budget surplus into a $1 trillion–plus deficit. So if we really want to “dig the country out of its hole,” both the rich and the middle class will have to pay more.

Americans are already taxed to the hilt, said The Washington Times. “Obama’s credibility is already slipping,” and it will fall further now that the White House is falling back on “the classic Democratic tax-and-spend line.” And as the public registers its disapproval of the president’s ideas in coming weeks, “Obama will find it harder and harder to get away with pushing his big-spending plans.”

What the columnists said

Once again, Obama has proved with this deficit-reduction plan that he was “born a moderate,” said Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. His budget plan sensibly shies away from the “eye-popping” spending cuts in Ryan’s proposal, but also embraces the need for deficit reduction. “That leaves Obama alone in the political center,” as he woos “the independent voters who will determine the outcome of the 2012 presidential election.”

Obama might be eager to portray himself as a “pragmatic centrist,” but it was a mistake to address the deficit problem now, said Jonathan Chait in The New Republic online. “The sanity of the Republican Party is at a nadir,” and Obama has given it leverage to use the loony Ryan plan as a baseline for negotiation. Instead, he should have held back until after his re-election in 2012, when the GOP will be in a “less insanely triumphal” mood. I couldn’t disagree more, said E.J. Dionne in WashingtonPost​.com. “After months of mixed signals about what he was willing to fight for,” Obama finally drew a line in the sand on tax cuts for the wealthy, and on carefully reducing Medicare and Medicaid costs without pushing them onto seniors and the poor. It’s good to have Obama “back on the field.”

Now that he’s showed us his hand, let the contest begin in earnest, said Michael Tanner in NationalReview.com. Obama says he wants to reduce the debt, but he’s also in favor of growing the size of government and boosting taxes. Ryan and Republicans want to reduce debt by creating “a smaller government that leaves both more money and more responsibility in the hands of individuals. That is a debate worth having.”

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