The president also said that he agreed to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans solely to prevent a tax hike on the middle class.
“But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. And I refuse to renew them again,” he said. “I don’t need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn’t need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn’t be here without,” the president said.
Earlier in the day, Obama hosted a group of Republican lawmakers at the White House to preview his speech. Later that day, a visibly upset group of GOP leaders criticized the speech as being more political than solution-oriented and that they felt blindsided while sitting in the front row at the event.
“I’m very disappointed in the president. I was excited when we got invited to attend his speech today,” said House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), who is the primary author of his chamber’s 2012 budget proposal. “I thought the president’s invitation to Mr. Camp, Mr. Hensarling and myself was an olive branch. Instead, what we got was a speech that was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate and hopelessly inadequate to addressing our country’s pressing fiscal challenges.”
Obama, in his remarks, predicted such criticisms and acknowledged his “strong criticism” of the Ryan budget proposal. But he also said he’s eager to hear other plans from a variety of fronts, but in the end, the solution must include shared responsibility.
“This larger debate we’re having, about the size and role of government has been with us since our founding days. And during moments of great challenge and change, like the one we’re living through now, the debate gets sharper and more vigorous,” the president said. “That’s a good thing. As a country that prizes both our individual freedom and our obligations to one another, this is one of the most important debates we can have.”