Obama Calls For “Modest Modifications” To Entitlements

Earlier today, President Obama held a press conference about his efforts to reach an agreement with Congressional Republicans to raise the debt ceiling—avoiding an economically disastrous default—and reduce the staggering national deficit and debt.

Obama admitted that there will have to be “modest modifications” to entitlement programs—most significantly, wealthy beneficiaries of Medicare (such as Obama himself) will have to pay higher co-pays. The president also expressed a willingness to trim domestic spending, reducing it to “the lowest percentage of out overall economy since Dwight Eisenhower.”

The president firmly rejected the Republicans’ so-called “Balanced Budget Amendment,” a constitutional amendment that would slash $2.4 trillion from social welfare programs serving such groups as poor college students and disabled veterans.

Instead, Obama argued for a balanced deficit reduction plan that cuts some government spending while increasing government revenues by ending tax breaks for “millionaires and billionaires” and closing corporate tax loopholes “so that oil companies aren’t getting unnecessary tax breaks or that corporate jet owners aren’t getting unnecessary tax breaks.” The majority of Americans, even “the clear majority of Republican voters,” Obama reported, support such a balanced plan.

A Gallup poll released this week shows that 80% of American voters and 74% of Republican voters support a plan that includes some revenue increases in addition to spending cuts.

He also rejected the proposal from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to raise the debt limit without trying to lower the deficit. Obama explained that it’s necessary we raise the debt limit, but “”we do have a genuine underlying problem that our debt and deficits are too big” that cannot be ignored. Still, he supports McConnell’s plan as a last resort.

The central message of Obama’s press conference was that raising the debt ceiling and reducing the deficit is easy to accomplish and supported by ordinary Americans. In the middle of the press conference, he offered an a summary of why we’re in the current mess we are and the common sense solutions needed to get ourselves out of it:

And here’s the good news — it turns out we don’t have to do anything radical to solve this problem. Contrary to what some folks say, we’re not Greece, we’re not Portugal. It turns out that our problem is we cut taxes without paying for them over the last decade; we ended up instituting new programs like a prescription drug program for seniors that was not paid for; we fought two wars, we didn’t pay for them; we had a bad recession that required a Recovery Act and stimulus spending and helping states — and all that accumulated and there’s interest on top of that.

And to unwind that, what’s required is that we roll back those tax cuts on the wealthiest individuals, that we clean up our tax code so we’re not giving out a bunch of tax breaks to companies that don’t need them and are not creating jobs, we cut programs that we don’t need, and we invest in those things that are going to help us grow.


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