Transcript: Obama's Interview With Regional Reporters - Page 7 of 15

Transcript: Obama’s Interview With Regional Reporters

row, which was that this was supposed to lapse in 2010. For them to suggest now that this is some radical assault on the rich I think just makes no sense whatsoever.

Here’s what we do, though — we say that on health care, energy and education, it’s time for us to make investments that had been put off for decades and had made us less competitive. And every dime of increased spending that we include in those areas we offset either with additional revenues or with cuts, and we cut a lot of stuff.

I mean, we’re looking at billions of dollars of cuts out of Medicare’s Advantage program, where we’re subsidizing insurers but not making seniors any healthier. We are making significant cuts in procurement — $40 billion that we’ve identified by making sure that we’re not engaging in the same no-bid contracting that has been such a problem.

In fact, if you look at the trajectory of our non-defense discretionary spending, which is what usually people think about when they think about whether a budget is loaded up with a bunch of nonessential spending, following our budget we would drive non-defense discretionary spending down to the lowest levels since they started keeping records back in ’62 — much lower as a percentage of GDP than it was under Reagan or under Bush.

So really what the — what the big arguments are going to be about are, number one, do you believe that now is the time for us to deal with health care in a serious way? And if you’re serious about long-term fiscal responsibility and dealing with Medicare and Medicaid, then you can’t say we’re not going to deal with health care now. That’s our biggest problem. If health care continues to go up at 6, 7, 8, 10 percent a year, then we can’t solve our budget deficits and we can’t solve our national debt.

So I’m happy to have that argument with anybody. I also think that on the energy front, if we aren’t willing to start putting a price on carbons that are contributing to climate change but also encourage us to use fossil fuels that we end up importing from other countries, then we can talk all we want about energy independence — we’re not going to get there.

And on education, if we’re pricing people out of the college market, if nobody wants to teach because teachers don’t get paid much, if we’re not investing in early childhood education, if we’re not investing in science and technology, then we’re going to fall behind.

So whether we’re talking about Republicans or my fellow Democrats, my argument is going to be that these are the — these are the right priorities for America, these are the right priorities for long-term economic growth. Yes, they require some uncomfortable votes. If it was easy, I’m assuming it would have been done 20 years ago or 30 years ago. It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask