President Barack Obama yesterday called for reforming the gigantic government pension and health care programs, as well as simplifying the tax code — steps that would go far beyond the $3.7 trillion budget he proposed this week.
At a White House news conference, Obama tried to quell Republican criticisms of his fiscal policies and called on the opposition party to join him in reducing the costs of the major entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
He said he wanted to simplify the unwieldy tax code, which also could help reduce a U.S. budget deficit that the White House estimates will hit $1.65 trillion this year.
“All of these steps are going to be difficult. That’s why all of them will require Democrats, independents and Republican,” Obama said, adding, “everyone is going to have to give a little bit.”
But Republicans in Congress were prepared to launch what promises to be a raucous debate over government spending in the House of Representatives.
They hope to pass by week’s end legislation to cut current spending by at least 14 percent, or $61 billion. Conservatives — with Tea Party backing — were hoping to slice much deeper with hundreds of amendments that they hope to test on the House floor.
Obama’s budget did not touch the biggest drivers of the deficit — mandatory spending for Social Security pensions, Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the poor and elderly, which make up about two-thirds of the budget.
White House Budget Director Jack Lew traveled to Capitol Hill to defend Obama’s budget blueprint, only to hear Republicans accuse the president of failing to tackle the nation’s deep fiscal problems.
Obama:?Think of recovery
President Obama warned Republicans against making “symbolic cuts” in spending that could damage the fragile U.S. economic recovery.
“If the steps that we take then prompt thousands of layoffs in state or local government,” Obama told a White House news conference, “well that could also have a dampening impact on our recovery.”
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner echoed the president’s message in testimony to Congress, saying cutting government services too soon would destroy thousands of jobs.