President Obama thoroughly destroyed the latest Republican budget proposal during a speech on Wednesday while speaking in Ohio at the City Club of Cleveland.
You can watch the segment of the president’s speech, below, followed by a transcript of the relevant portion.
Now, a good place to start down a stronger path involves America’s budget, the blueprint for what we believe this country should be — where should we go? The budget is not just numbers on a page. It reflects our values and our priorities.
Now, Republicans in Congress have been working hard to reposition their rhetoric around the economy. They started noticing that people would like to see someone champion the middle class and folks who are trying to get in the middle class. So we’ve seen a shift in how they talk about the issues.
There was one Republican who said she couldn’t agree with me more that we need to be helping working moms and dads more. Another wrote a policy memo saying that Republicans must define themselves as the party of the American worker, the party of higher wages. Another urged his party to shout at the top of its lungs, the GOP is the ticket to the middle class.
Now, this is good. This is a good development. I’m encouraged by this, because once you get everybody talking about the same thing, now we can decide, all right, how do we do it? If we can at least share our goals, if the goal is strengthening the middle class, creating more ladders of opportunity for the middle class, raising wages, that’s good. There’s nothing I’d like more than an opposition party that works with me to help hardworking Americans get ahead. I don’t have another election to run. Come, let’s go. Let’s work.
Now, the problem, though, is, so far, at least, the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality. The walk doesn’t sync up with the talk. And all you have to do is look at the budget that House Republicans put forward just yesterday. It’s a budget that doesn’t just fail to embrace middle-class economics; it’s the opposite of middle-class economics — doubles down on trickle-down.
I don’t expect you, by the way, to read the budget — theirs or mine — but you can do some fact-checking on this. Their budget doles out even more to those who already have the most; makes massive cuts to investments that benefit all of us; asks middle-class families to foot the bill. It’s a budget that claims that reducing our deficit should be our very highest priority, despite the fact that the deficit has been reduced by two-thirds. But its very first proposal, its centerpiece is to spend hundreds of billions of dollars, maybe even trillions of dollars, on another giant tax cut slanted overwhelmingly in favor of those at the top. If you are claiming that deficit reduction is your number-one priority, how can you start by giving a tax cut to everybody at the top and not doing much to help folks down the economic pyramid?
Under the Republican budget, millionaires and billionaires would get an average tax cut of more than $50,000 per year. Translation: The average millionaire would take home about as much in tax cuts as the average middle-class American makes in an entire year. Now, they say they’ll also close high income tax loopholes for folks at the top, which I’ve put some very specific proposals for how we can do that. Their budget does not name a single loophole it would close. Not one.
This budget does provide nothing to prevent tax cuts from expiring for 26 million working families and students. I mean, these are folks who for almost two decades now have gone without a raise, but their budget lets these tax cuts expire. That’s the equivalent of a thousand-dollar-a-year pay cut for these families.
So you can call cutting taxes for the top 1 percent while letting taxes rise for working families a lot of things. What you can’t call it is a ticket to the middle class. That you cannot do.
Allowing tax cuts for working families to expire doesn’t get you close to this “budgets cut at all cost” goal of $5 trillion in deficit reduction. Republican leaders say we need to keep bringing down our deficits. I think we should bring down our deficits; my budget would keep our deficits below 3 percent of GDP. That’s a rate that most economists agree protects our fiscal help. But because House Republicans want to balance the budget without asking any sacrifices of the wealthiest Americans — in fact, asking them to sacrifice less — that means that everybody else has to sacrifice more. The middle class has to sacrifice more. Those working to join the middle class have to sacrifice more.
The authors of this budget were careful not to get too specific about the cuts they proposed, and they kind of imply that, well, no matter who you are, somebody else is going to bear the burden. But compared to the plan I’ve put forward, if the cuts they’ve proposed were to fall equally on everybody, here is just some of what would happen over the next few years. We’re getting to questions. I just want to — I’ve really got to bear down on this thing.
Investments in education would be cut to their lowest levels since 2000 — 15 years ago — at a time when we know we need to be upping our game in education because of competition around the world; 157,000 fewer children would have the chance to get early education through Head Start; more than 8 million low-income students would see their financial aid cut. Investments in job training would be cut to the point where more than 4 million fewer workers would have the chance to earn higher wages through programs to help them upgrade their skills. We would end partnerships that help 30,000 small manufacturers grow their businesses and create good jobs, including right here in Cleveland.
These aren’t just new cuts; these are some of the greatest hits on this broken record. (Laughter.)
And just as more working families are finally beginning to feel some hard-fought stability and security in their lives, the Republican budget would strip health insurance for millions of Americans. It would take away coverage from millions more who rely on Medicaid, including right here in Ohio — nursing home patients, children with autism, parents of children with disabilities who need at-home care. They would try once again to gut the guarantee at the center of Medicare by turning it into a voucher program.
Instead of the promise that health care will be there for you when you need it, you get a roll of the dice. If you get sick and that voucher is enough to cover the costs of your care then you win. But if not, you lose. Programs that help low-income parents care for sick children, or buy food for their families, or put a roof over their heads, all those would be in the crosshairs.
And at a time of new and evolving threats overseas, the Republican budget, despite all the talk they have about national security, would actually cut up our core national security funding to its lowest level in a decade. And still those at the top aren’t asked to sacrifice a single dime.
So, lower taxes for the most well-off, higher taxes for working families; gutted investments in education, job training, infrastructure, military and our national security; kicking tens of millions of Americans off their health insurance; ending Medicare as we know it.
If you have heard these kinds of arguments about this kind of budget before, that’s because you have seen this kind of budget before. Republicans in Congress have put forward the same proposals year after year after year, regardless of the realities of the economy. When the economy is in a slump, we need tax cuts. When the economy is doing well, you know what, let’s try some tax cuts. (Laughter.)
We know now that the gloom-and-doom predictions that justified this budget three, four, five years ago were wrong. Despite the economic progress, despite the mountains of new evidence, their approach hasn’t changed.
There’s nothing wrong with changing your opinion if the underlying facts change. Serious economic proposals change when the underlying assumptions are proven false. If Republicans believe we should adhere to a set of abstract principles, even though they hurt the middle class, then they should make the case. Show us. Prove it to us. If they believe it’s time to end the social contract that sustains so many of us, the basic bargain of shared sacrifice and shared responsibility, own it and make the argument.
But you can’t credibly claim that this vision is about helping working families get ahead, or that this budget is a path to prosperity. It’s the same argument I’m having about health care. It was one thing for them to argue against Obamacare before it was put in place. Every prediction they’ve made about it turned out to be wrong. It’s working better than even I expected. (Laughter and applause.) But it doesn’t matter. Evidence be damned, it’s still a disaster. Well, why?
I mean, the truth is the budget they’re putting forward and the theories they’re putting forward are a path to prosperity for those who have already prospered. And in that sense, it’s a story of retreat.