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Amplifying the populist message he hopes will carry him through election day, President Barack Obama on Tuesday launched a ferocious assault on Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget plan, warning it was a “Trojan Horse” that would put middle class prosperity out of reach for millions of Americans.

Speaking to the annual luncheon of Associated Press editors and publishers in Washington, the president called out Republican leaders by name for embracing a fiscal blueprint that would cut taxes for the rich, slash social programs, and leave many without a viable path to upward economic mobility.

“Disguised as a deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country,” Obama said of the Ryan plan. “It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism.”

He reiterated his call for the “Buffett Rule,” so named for Nebraska investor Warren Buffett, to ensure that wealthy Americans deriving their income chiefly from investments pay at least 30 percent in taxes.

Comparing it to the platform Republicans campaigned on in 1994 when they won control of Congress for the first time in decades, Obama said Ryan’s proposal “makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal.” He decried the lack of moderation in the opposition, and singled out Mitt Romney for special criticism, mocking the former Massachusetts governor’s hokey choice of words.

“He even called it ‘marvelous,’ which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing a budget,” Obama said. “It’s a word you don’t often hear generally.”

Obama found “Trojan Horse” an apt descriptor because Ryan’s proposal has the sheer of bipartisanship (one Democratic senator has embraced its Medicare privatization scheme, even if ten House Republicans voted against the budget last week) and Ryan has a reputation as a “serious” budget guru. It is certain to go nowhere in the Senate, controlled by Democrats, but the president wants it to remain in the discussion as a bludgeon with which to whack Romney as an extremist, not a “Massachusetts moderate,” as Newt Gingrich loves to call him.

We should not be surprised if we keep hearing this line of attack all the way until November. Long after the budget proposal is dead on Capitol Hill, Obama will use it — the only GOP plan with specific budget cuts to popular programs — to taint Romney, much the way Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign used Newt Gingrich and his extremism against Bob Dole in 1996.

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Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

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