Republican members of Congress from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan said they saw little new in President Obama's speech on the deficit Wednesday, while Democrats said the President did a good job of defending government programs that shouldn't be abolished in favor of tax cuts for "millionaires and billionaires."
The President attacked the conservative budget plan introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and outlined his own approach that he said would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years without sacrificing Medicare and investment in the future.
In his speech at George Washington University on long-term deficit control, Mr. Obama said the Ryan plan, named after the chairman of the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee, would give millionaires and billionaires additional tax cuts by taking away the social programs that made America great.
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) said the President's speech was a rehash of his 2012 budget that was "dead on arrival" when it was introduced in February.
"This is like the old song and dance from the Democrats. Every time they get themselves in a hole in a campaign — and he's already started his campaign — the first thing the Democrats do is run out and say Republicans are out to attack America's seniors," Mr. Latta said.
Mr. Latta said Mr. Obama wants to grow government and tax the people who produce jobs while refusing to tackle the ballooning cost of Medicare.
"The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that President Obama's 2012 budget would produce $9.5 trillion in deficits over the next decade. We have arrived at such an uncontrollable deficit problem due to Washington's overspending, something neither the President's deficit speech nor any of the plans laid out in his budget corrects," he said.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo said the President made a good start in setting the boundaries of what kind of budget-cutting he'll support.
"I think overall he's addressing the important goals of having balanced accounts, but setting broad parameters and some rules of the road that he won't compromise on as we move forward, so I think it's a good start," Miss Kaptur said.
"He does talk about tax reform so I think he's open on that. It's pretty clear he doesn't want to renew tax cuts for billionaires. I like the fact that he puts everything on the table rather than just 12 percent [of the federal budget], which is what they're doing now," Miss Kaptur said.
She said she was disappointed that the President ignored the role that Wall Street played in the Great Recession that started in 2008.
"He didn't mention the Wall Street mess in terms of adding to our deficit. Whether it's unemployment, a food program, energy assistance, the cost of the unemployment checks, all of that was due to what Wall Street did to this country and he doesn't reference it," Miss Kaptur said. "So I didn't care for that. We have to remember what got us to this point."
Rep. Tim Walberg (R., Tipton, Mich.) called the speech "the same old rhetoric."
Mr. Walberg defended the Ryan budget plan, which would convert Medicare from a system in which the government pays for procedures and drugs to a voucher program under which the government provides subsidies to seniors to help pay their private insurance premiums, beginning with people who are now under 55.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said he was disappointed by the lack of specific proposals to fix the "our staggering debt and deficit."
"His budget plan [released in February] was a political document that called for more spending and rejected the serious recommendations of his own Fiscal Commission, which set a deficit reduction goal of more than $4 trillion over 10 years.
"This goal should be the standard for any serious plan to reduce the deficit," Mr. Portman said.
Mr. Portman said the emphasis in the budget should be on creating a pro-growth environment that improves the economy.
"While we can debate about the specifics in Congressman Ryan's budget, there is no doubt the House Republican plan provides the kind of real leadership and innovative solutions that are necessary to ensure that our children and grandchildren enjoy the same opportunities that we do today," Mr. Portman said.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) called Mr. Obama's deficit-reduction plan "a more realistic framework" than the one proposed by House Republicans.
"We owe it to our children and grandchildren to reduce our nation's deficit. But we also owe it to our parents and grandparents to protect the Medicare and Social Security benefits they have earned throughout their careers," Mr. Brown said. "We don't need to dismantle Medicare as we know it to pay for more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
"Deficit reduction will require sacrifice, but that sacrifice must be shared rather than placed squarely on the backs of seniors and working Americans."
Former U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio), a member of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the President needs to support a comprehensive plan to reduce the national debt that deals with Social Security and Medicare.
Mr. Voinovich said the tax code should be broadened so more than 54 percent of Americans pay income taxes, and he said the wealthiest will have to pay more.
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