April 23, 2024

Obama, Before Facebook Crowd, Presses G.O.P. on Budget

In a town-hall-style forum with the 26-year-old Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Obama seized on a question about the House-passed budget to mount a long, withering indictment. The questioner, an employee of the social networking company, noted that some news media accounts suggested that the sponsor of the Republican budget, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, is “bold and brave” for proposing the deep spending cuts.

“The Republican budget that was put forward I would say is fairly radical,” Mr. Obama said. “And I wouldn’t call it particularly courageous.” He added: “I do think Mr. Ryan is sincere. I think he’s a patriot. I think he wants to solve a real problem, which is our long-term deficit. But I think that what he and the other Republicans in the House of Representatives also want to do is change our social compact in a pretty fundamental way.”

“Nothing is easier,” Mr. Obama said, “than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor, or people who are powerless and don’t have lobbyists or don’t have clout.”

Mr. Obama’s critique in many ways echoed his speech at George Washington University a week ago, two days before the House passed the plan without any Democratic votes. There he first called for a more balanced approach for reducing deficits by $4 trillion in 10 to 12 years, with spending cuts and tax increases. But here he grew particularly exercised in contrasting his and Republicans’ visions for reducing annual deficits, with his energy and the enthusiasm of the estimated 1,200 mostly young people giving the event a campaignlike partisan air.

While Mr. Obama’s new energy in criticizing Republican policies has stirred supporters, it is infuriating Republicans even as he is calling for bipartisan talks with them to reach a compromise framework in time for Congress’s vote before July on raising the $14.2 trillion debt limit.

In a statement just before Mr. Obama’s appearance here, the House majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, reiterated that if the president and Congressional Democrats “refuse to accept serious reforms that immediately reduce federal spending and end the culture of debt in Washington, we will not grant their request for a debt limit increase.”

Early in his remarks, Mr. Obama recounted the origins of the current debt, recalling the trillions of dollars added in the past decade when Republicans controlled the White House and Congress and cut taxes, opened two wars, and created a new Medicare prescription drug benefit — all without offsetting spending cuts or tax increases.

He joked to the billionaire Facebook founder that wealthy Americans — “people like me and, frankly, you, Mark” — should pay higher taxes to reduce deficits. But Republicans, he said, would further reduce taxes for rich taxpayers and corporations and cut deeply from clean energy, education and transportation programs “to make his numbers work.”

“I guess you could call that bold. I would call it short-sighted,” Mr. Obama said, provoking another burst of applause.

He said the Republican proposals to shrink projected health spending, by eventually turning Medicare into a voucher system and Medicaid into a limited block grant to the states, would not curb the rise of health care costs.

Mr. Zuckerberg, who posed questions to Mr. Obama from his employees and from Facebook users nationwide, as both men sat on stools in a cavernous hall, wore a sport coat and tie for the occasion, along with jeans and jogging shoes. But at the end he brought out his trademark hoodie, in purple, and presented it to the president.

From the Facebook campus, Mr. Obama headed to nearby San Francisco for the first of several fund-raising events over two days, including in Reno, Nev., and Los Angeles on Thursday.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=b6dbe3d912655968d5a30a5ed027b454

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