- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2015

President Obama blasted congressional Republicans’ budget proposals Wednesday, saying their spending plan “doubles down on trickle-down” economics by cutting taxes for wealthier families and cutting programs that benefit the middle class.

“It’s the opposite of middle-class economics,” Mr. Obama said at the City Club of Cleveland. “It’s the story of retreat, and I’m offering a different path.”

The president laid out his principles for the coming appropriations battle with the new Republican majority in Congress, which is calling to balance the federal budget within 10 years by cutting spending as much as $5.5 trillion.

Mr. Obama’s budget for fiscal 2016 would boost spending on items like infrastructure, education and transportation beyond current sequestration caps, but would add $6 trillion in deficits over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The president said Republicans’ game plan on the budget stays the same, no matter what the economic situation. Without mentioning the administration of former President George W. Bush, Mr. Obama said the economic policies under Mr. Bush led to “soaring deficits” and a recession.

“Their theory does not change,” he said. “For the first eight years of this century, before I came into office, we tried trickle-down economics. Reality has rendered its judgment. Trickle-down economics does not work, and middle-class economics does.”

Republicans said Mr. Obama was simply preaching to his Democratic base in a campaign-style event.

“If President Obama was serious about expanding growth and opportunity, he’d be working with Republicans on areas of common ground,” said Cory Fritz, a top aide to Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “Today’s stop in Cleveland was nothing more than a political stunt designed to double down on the same tax and spend policies that have failed middle-class families.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Mr. Obama’s budget is an “unserious” proposal that would raise taxes by nearly $2 trillion and add more than $7 trillion to the national debt over a decade.

Neither the president’s plan nor the Republican budget proposals contain a solution to shoring up the long-term finances of Social Security. Mr. Obama would shift $330 billion between Social Security’s trust funds to avert deep cuts in disability payments, beginning at the end of 2016, but Republicans oppose that move, saying it will hasten the insolvency of the retirement fund.

The administration estimates that the proposed change would enable the disability and retirement funds to remain solvent until 2033, but that’s one year earlier than current projections for the retirement fund to exhaust its reserves.

The House Republicans’ budget plan calls for a bipartisan task force to come up with recommendations for the retirement fund.

In his speech Wednesday, the president also attacked the GOP for using a budget “gimmick” to add $94 billion for defense through an emergency overseas account, to avoid the appearance of topping mandatory budget caps. He said the move would actually reduce “core” defense spending.

“At a time of new and evolving threats overseas, the Republican budget, despite all the talk they have about national security, would actually cut our core national security funding to its lowest level in a decade,” Mr. Obama said.

The president summed up his objections to the GOP budget plans: “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. Republicans in Congress have put forward the same kinds of proposals year after year, regardless of the realities of the economy.”

The White House strategy for trying to get the upper hand in the budget debate is to insist on dollar-for-dollar increases in defense and non-defense discretionary spending, while portraying Mr. Obama’s approach as benefitting the middle class.

Republicans are countering with proposals to balance the budget, pointing out that the president’s budget never balances. The White House said its budget would hold deficits to less than 3 percent of gross domestic product, a level that administration officials call responsible.

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