WASHINGTON — Challenging Republican budget plans, President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed lowering the nation's future deficits by $4 trillion over a dozen years through a blend of specific measures and vague objectives designed to lower spending in politically sensitive health care programs while also increasing taxes.
The president proposed reductions in the growth of Medicare spending, cuts in defense, an overhaul of the tax system to eliminate many loopholes enjoyed by individuals and corporations, and an end to Bush-era tax cuts for wealthier Americans.
"We have to live within our means, we have to reduce our deficit, and we have to get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt," Obama said in a speech at George Washington University.
As much a policy speech as it was a political address, Obama laid the blame for the rising debt on the spending increases and tax cuts enacted during the presidency of George W. Bush and the recession that struck in late 2007. "We lost our way," he said.
Ensuring that the nation's fiscal health will be at the center of the 2012 presidential election, Obama drew sharp contrasts with a Republican plan that cuts about $5.8 trillion in spending over the next decade and which the White House says unfairly singles out middle-class taxpayers, older adults and the poor.
Such cuts, he said, "paint a vision of our future that's deeply pessimistic."