Transcript: Obama's Interview With Regional Reporters - Page 6 of 15

Transcript: Obama’s Interview With Regional Reporters

no surprise the Republicans don’t really like it. But the interesting thing is, it may be the centrist Democrats who are the — this evolving coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and to some degree the Blue Dogs in the House, that are the real problem as they begin to look at the budget and find objections. Could you talk a little bit about that, the coming budget fight, but specifically what you can do to make sure that the vision in that document simply isn’t dismantled as it goes through the messy budget process?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me sort of provide you an overarching frame, because I think that — you know, there’s — the way that it has been discussed, I think, in some cases overstates the degree to which there’s some massive transformational shift. On the other hand, in some ways it understates, I think, the significant reforms that are embedded in the budget.

So, point number one, this is a pretty honest budget. You’ve got billions of dollars that we’ve put into the budget that for the last eight years at least have never been acknowledged as costs. Fixing AMT, which is about $70 billion a year — that was just off the books. The war in Iraq — off the books. The way budgeting was done, it presumed that there was never, ever a national emergency arising out of a hurricane, a flood or tornado; that none of them existed.

Now, if we had continued on — had we applied the same gimmicks and tricks to our budget as folks have been putting up with for the last eight years, including members of Congress, we could make our numbers look really pretty. We thought that that was the wrong approach.

So, number one, we have provided I think a honest document of what the costs of government are right now.

Second point is that on the revenue side, I campaigned during the election and was not shy about it that we needed to restore some balance to our tax code; that over the last decade the average worker has seen no increase in their wages or incomes when you factor in inflation — just been flat; whereas the top 5 percent, but more particularly the top 1 percent, and even more particularly the top one-tenth of 1 percent, had seen extraordinary gains in their incomes.

And what I said was, is that we needed to return to the tax structure that existed during the ’90s under Bill Clinton and let the Bush tax cuts lapse. That’s what this budget does.

Now, if you think about it, just to go back to the budget gimmick issue before, since 2001 part of the trick that had been perpetrated on the American people was to say that the Bush tax cuts would lapse in 2010 and that’s why this wasn’t a huge budget-buster.

So, in effect, all we’re doing is actually moving forward with the premise of the budget that the Republicans presented about five, six years in a