President Barack Obama criticized Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by name and mocked the former Massachusetts governor for describing as “marvelous” the U.S. House-passed budget that overhauls Medicare and cuts domestic programs while lowering taxes for high earners.
“One of my potential opponents, Governor Romney, has said that he hoped that a similar version of this plan would be introduced as a bill on Day One of his presidency,” Obama said at an Associated Press luncheon in Washington.
“He said that he’s very supportive of this new budget and he even called it ‘marvelous,’ which is a word you don’t often hear when it comes to describing budgets,” he said. “It’s a word you don’t often hear generally.”
Saying he was on the side of the middle class, Obama sharpened his aim on Romney, who has turned to attacking the president instead of his Republican rivals as he strengthens his grip on the party’s presidential nomination.
“This is a president who so misrepresents the policies and proposals of our party and of myself as well, and then fails to acknowledge the mistakes and the errors in his own record,” Romney said today on the Sean Hannity radio program. “It’s just astonishing to listen to him.” Obama’s speech was a “disingenuous, fear-mongered approach” designed to deflect blame, Romney said.
House Speaker John Boehner said Obama’s critique of the budget contained “distortions and partisan pot-shots.”
“He’s so unserious about our country’s problems that he’s offered a budget that failed to garner a single vote in the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in an e-mailed statement. “He has chosen to campaign rather than govern.”
Obama said the House Republican budget, written by Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, represented a “doubling down” on “trickle-down” economic policies that have depressed middle-class incomes while the wealthy have gained.
The Ryan plan “makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal,” Obama said, referring to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Republican program in Congress the 1990s.
“Disguised as a deficit-reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country,” Obama said. “It’s nothing but thinly veiled social Darwinism.”
Obama’s address to the gathering of newspaper executives coincided with Republican primaries today in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Romney was looking for a sweep, to cement his lead in the race. Ryan campaigned with the former Massachusetts governor in Wisconsin for four straight days leading up to today’s contests.
In response to the Obama’s budget critique, Ryan said in a statement “the president refuses to take responsibility for the economy and refuses to offer a credible plan” to reduce deficits.
The president’s remarks on the Ryan plan point to election- year choices between his policies and those of Romney. They reprise Obama’s Dec. 6 speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, when he disparaged income inequality and said middle-class families are at a “make-or-break moment.” Government tax and regulatory policy must help assure that the economy is rebuilt with “balance and fairness,” he said then.
The Ryan plan reduces federal deficits by “gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last,” Obama said. “That is not class warfare. That is not class envy. That is math.”
The House last week approved Ryan’s $3.5 trillion fiscal 2013 budget by a vote of 228-191, with no Democrats voting for it. Ryan says the plan would overhaul Medicare (USBOMDCR) and cut food stamps, Pell grants and other programs for the poor while boosting defense spending and reducing taxes on high earners, in a bid to erase deficits exceeding $1 trillion.
Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Senate have said they won’t bring the plan to a vote.
In a separate broadside to illustrate election-year choices, the Chicago-based Obama campaign released an advertisement today that defends the president’s energy program and, for the first time in the campaign, mentioned Romney by name. The 30-second ad, running in six swing states, defends the administration’s energy record against Republican attacks, links Romney to tax breaks for oil companies, and says he has argued against expanding renewable energy and raising mileage standards.
To contact the reporters on this story: Roger Runningen in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org; Hans Nichols in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at firstname.lastname@example.org