Combative Obama vows to fight for his budget

Obama’s spending blueprint, with its massive $1.17 trillion  deficit and tax hikes on the wealthy, seeks to squeeze billions  of dollars in savings out of current spending through  competitive bidding among health insurers and ending subsidies  and tax breaks for banks, agribusiness and oil companies.

“These steps won’t sit well with the special interests and  lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business,”  the president said in his weekly radio address.

“I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak,” he  said. “My message to them is this: So am I.”

Republicans, in their radio response, warned that  Democratic spending priorities threaten to destroy the American  dream that hard work can build a better life for each  successive generation of citizens.

“This week, the president submitted to Congress the single  largest increase in federal spending in the history of the  United States, while driving the deficit to levels that were  once thought impossible,” said Senator Richard Burr. He said Obama’s budget commits the government to a billion  dollars a day in interest on the debt over the next decade.    “Now, instead of working hard so our children can have a  better life tomorrow, we are asking our children to work hard  so that we don’t have to make tough choices today,” Burr said.

Obama said his budget blueprint delivered on the changes he  promised in his election campaign: tax cuts for 95 per cent of  working Americans, a rollback in tax breaks for people making  over $250,000, lower healthcare costs, education reform and an  expansion in the use of clean, renewable energy.

The president said his budget also reflected the fact the  United States faces a financial crisis, a costly recession and  a trillion dollar deficit. “Given this reality, we’ll have to be more vigilant than  ever in eliminating the programmes we don’t need in order to make  room for the investments we do need,” he said.

He said a page-by-page examination of the federal budget  had already identified $2 trillion in potential savings over 10  years.

“I realize that passing this budget won’t be easy,” Obama  said. “Because it represents real and dramatic change, it also  represents a threat to the status quo in Washington.”

The insurance industry would not like having to bid  competitively to participate in the Medicare coverage programme  for the elderly, but it is needed to protect the programme and  reduce costs, Obama said.

He said banks and big student lenders would not like losing  their taxpayer subsidies, but it would save nearly $50 billion  and make college more affordable.

And he said oil and gas companies wouldn’t like losing $30  billion in tax breaks, but it was needed to fund renewable  energy research.

“The system we have now might work for the powerful and  well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too  long, but I don’t. I work for the American people,” Obama  said.

“I didn’t come here to do the same thing we’ve been doing  or to take small steps forward, I came to provide the sweeping  change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in  November.”

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