- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 28, 2009

President Obama on Saturday struck back aggressively at critics of his $3.6 trillion budget proposal, casting himself as a populist crusader whose “sweeping change” has angered Washington’s entrenched special interests, and promised to fight them.

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

Mr. Obama’s language was combative and confrontational, as he promised to fight for “American families.”

“I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I,” he said.

Since he unveiled his budget blueprint on Thursday, the reaction in the financial markets and among the business community, not to mention the Republican party, has been decidedly negative.

Influential conservative economist Lawrence Kudlow wrote Friday that Mr. Obama was proposing “anti-growth” tax hikes that make “absolutely no sense” and are intended to promote a “left-wing social vision.”

Mr. Obama, he said, was “declaring war on investors, entrepreneurs, small businesses, large corporations, and private-equity and venture-capital funds.”

One day after announcing that U.S. combat troops would leave Iraq in 18 months, the president’s weekly address was his first major response to budget criticisms. He portrayed critics as fat cats and power brokers who have enriched themselves at the cost of every day Americans.

“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,” he said.

Mr. Obama identified the insurance industry, banks and student lenders, and oil and gas companies as part of the cabal opposing the new budget.

The president, much like his predecessor in the White House, vowed not to limit himself to small or limited measures.

“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,” he said.

The president’s language did include one concession to criticisms. During Tuesday’s address to Congress he said he had identified “two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade” in the budget.

But many pointed out that the “savings” came from tax hikes on those making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000, and from cutting Iraq war spending that critics said was never going to happen anyway.

On Saturday, Mr. Obama continued to use the $2 trillion figure, but called it “deficit reductions” instead of “savings.”