- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 1, 2009

President Obama on Saturday attacked 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 he vowed that he is ready for a fight.

“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.”

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“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 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 increases 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.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Georgia Republican, said in a speech Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington that Mr. Obama’s budget represented “the boldest effort to create a European socialism we have ever seen.”

In the official Republican weekly address, Sen. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina said that Mr. Obama’s plan will incur such a large national debt that the country will be paying more than $1 billion a day in interest for the next 10 years.

“Looking at the spending priorities of Democrats in Washington in the proposed budget and over the past month, it’s hard to escape the reality that for the first time we could see the American Dream vanish,” Mr. Burr said.

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 everyday 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.

This theme was echoed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking at a summit of black leaders and activists in Los Angeles, who characterized Republicans who have opposed the president’s broader economic agenda as intolerant ideologues.

“They remain obstructionists, the same forces that conspired to obstruct women’s right to vote, that tried to obstruct workers’ right to organize,” Mr. Jackson said to attendees of Tavis Smiley’s “State of the Black Union” conference, to which Mr. Obama spoke in a short videotaped message.

Mr. Jackson attacked Republican governors such as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal for saying he will refuse part of the state’s portion of funds from the $787 billion economic-stimulus package passed earlier this month.

“The South is the biggest region, the poorest region, the most uninsured seniors, the shortest life expectancy, the most schools in disrepair. How can those millionaire, educated governors say no to their people across the South?” Mr. Jackson said.

In his nationwide address, 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 specific budget proposals that he said have angered these groups are a “competitive bidding” process for private health plans to participate in Medicare, a plan to end government subsidies for banks and lending institutions that have originated student loans for college, and the proposed elimination of $30 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas companies over the next decade.

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 “$2 trillion in savings over the next decade” in the budget.

But many pointed out that the “savings” came from tax increases 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.”

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