Full Text Campaign Headlines September 21, 2012: Mitt Romney Releases More Tax Returns — Paid 14.1 Percent Tax Rate in 2011

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Romney Releases 2011 Tax Returns

Source: NYT, 9-21-12

Mitt Romney paid 14.1 percent in taxes on his 2011 investment income, his campaign said, making good Friday on Mr. Romney’s promise to release his 2011 returns….READ MORE

Mitt Romney Paid 14.1 Percent Tax Rate in 2011

Mario Tama/Getty Images

After months of criticism for not being transparent enough as a presidential candidate, Mitt Romney has filed his 2011 tax returns which the campaign says shows the presidential candidate paid a 14.1 percent tax rate.

Romney paid $1.9 million in taxes on $13.7 million in income for the year 2011.

The rate falls in line with Romney’s estimate back in August that he had paid “13.6 [percent] or something like that.”

In a surprise move, the campaign will also release a summary of 20 years of returns. Romney had previously pledged to only release the two most recent years of returns….READ MORE

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Full Text Campaign Buzz September 21, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at a Campaign Event in Woodbridge, Virginia

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event — Woodbridge, VA

Source: WH, 9-21-12

G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium
Woodbridge, Virginia

12:14 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Virginia!  (Applause.)  Well, it is great to be here in Pfitzner Stadium, home of the Potomac Nationals.  I want to congratulate the Washington Nationals for bringing playoff baseball to D.C.  (Applause.)  You guys are looking good.  I am looking forward to a White Sox Nationals World Series.  (Applause.)  It’s going to happen.  White Sox are still in first place.  But I got to admit, you guys are looking a little better right now.  You guys are looking very good.

A couple of people I want to acknowledge.  I want to thank, first of all, your former outstanding governor and your current outstanding Senator, Mark Warner, for his leadership.  (Applause.)  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  I also want to thank your Congressman, Gerry Connolly, for being here with us today.  (Applause.)

And I want to thank all of you for being here, although I got to admit on a day like today, this is not a bad place to be, out on the ballpark.  (Laughter and applause.)  Got a nice little breeze going.  It feels good.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)  I do.  (Applause.)  Now, unless your cable has been broken for a while, you may be aware there’s an election going on.  (Laughter.)  I was told a story by my campaign manager.  He was meeting with some folks, and there was a young couple there with a young son, maybe three or four years old, and the parents were really proud that he knew who I was.  And they explained to my campaign manager — they said, listen, he loves Barack Obama.  And they turned to the little boy and they said, what does Barack Obama do?  And the little boy says, Barack Obama approves this message.  (Laughter.)  So you know it’s election season.  That’s what I do.  I approve this message.  (Laughter.)  And that’s because in the coming weeks, you’ve got a very big choice to make.  This is not a choice between two candidates or two parties. This is a choice between two different paths for America, two fundamentally different visions of our future.

My opponents are big believers in top-down economics.

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo, vote!  (Applause.)  Mr. Romney thinks that if we just spend another $5 trillion dollars on tax cuts that favor the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, all our problems are going to solved.  Jobs and prosperity will rain down from the sky.  Deficits will magically disappear.  We will all live happily ever after.  The end.

There’s only one problem.  We tried that scheme during the last decade.  It didn’t work.  Top-down economics don’t work.  This country doesn’t succeed when only the rich are getting richer.  We succeed when folks at the top are doing well, but also when the middle class is doing well, and folks who are fighting to get into the middle are doing well; when more people have a chance to get ahead and live up to their God-given potential.

I don’t believe we can get very far with leaders who write off half the nation as a bunch of victims — (applause) — who think that they’re not interested in taking responsibility for their own lives.  I don’t see a lot of victims in this crowd today.  (Applause.)   I see hard-working Virginians.  (Applause.)

Some of you may be students trying to work your way through college.  (Applause.)  Some of you may be single moms like my mom — (applause) — putting in overtime to see if you can provide a better life for your kids.  Some of you may be senior citizens who have been saving your whole life for your retirement.  Some of you may be veterans who have served this country bravely — (applause) — soldiers who defend our freedom today.  (Applause.)

Nobody believes that anyone is entitled to success in this country.  We don’t believe that government should be helping people who refuse to help themselves.  But we do believe in something called opportunity.  (Applause.)  We believe in a country where hard work pays off; where responsibility is rewarded; where everyone gets a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody plays by the same rules.  That’s the country we believe in.  That’s what I believe in.  That’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.  (Applause.)

Now, I told you before and I will tell you again, the path I’m offering is not necessarily going to be quick or easy, because the truth is it’s going to take more than a few years to solve challenges that built up over decades. But I can tell you this, Virginia, this is America.  Our problems can be solved and our challenges can be met.  We’ve got the best workers in the world.  We’ve got the best businesspeople and entrepreneurs in the world.  We’ve got the best scientists and researchers in the world.  We’ve got the best colleges and universities in the world.  (Applause.)  There’s not a country on Earth that wouldn’t trade places with the United States of America.

So the path I’m offering may be harder, but it leads to a better place.  I’m offering a practical, five-point plan to create jobs, and grow the middle-class, and rebuild the economy on a stronger foundation.

So let me break it down in case you guys missed the convention — (applause) — just in case.  Or just in case you only saw Michelle.  (Laughter and applause.)

Number one, I want to export more products and outsource fewer jobs.  (Applause.)  When my opponent said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt,” we came together to reinvent a dying auto industry that’s back on top of the world.  (Applause.)  In the last two and a half years, we’ve created more than half a million new manufacturing jobs in this country.  (Applause.)

So now you have a choice.  We can build on that progress, or we can do what the other folks want to do and give more tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas.

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  We can continue to see outsourcing, or we can do some insourcing and reward companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs right here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)  I want to help big factories and small businesses double their exports.  We can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years.  We can make that happen.  But I’m going to need your help.

Number two, I want us to control more of our own energy.  After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, your cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas.  (Applause.)  We’ve doubled the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar.  Thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries.  Today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades.  (Applause.)

So now you’ve got a choice.  You can do what Mr. Romney wants to do and reverse all that progress —

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  — or we can build on it.  I’m not going to let oil companies write this country’s energy plan.  I don’t want them to keep collecting another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers.  (Applause.)

We’ve got a better plan where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal technology, and farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and our trucks; where we’re putting more construction workers back to work retrofitting homes and factories so they waste less energy.  We can develop nearly a 100-year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet.  And my plan would cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.  (Applause.)  But I’m going to need your help to make it happen.

Number three, I want to give more Americans the chance to learn the skills they need to compete.  Governor Warner — Senator Warner said it well:  We’ve got to invest in our workforce.  And education was the gateway of opportunity for me; it was the gateway of opportunity for Michelle.  It’s the gateway of opportunity for many of you.  It’s the gateway to a middle-class life.  (Applause.)  And we’ve already been working on this, so millions of students are right now paying less for college because we took on a system that was wasting billions of dollars in taxpayer money to banks and lenders.  We said, let’s give it directly to students.  (Applause.)

But now you’ve got a choice.  The other side, they want to gut education to pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy.  I think that’s the wrong way to go.  I think we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dream deferred because of a overcrowded classroom.  No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they didn’t have the money.  (Applause.)  No company should have to look for workers in China because they couldn’t find ones with the right skills right here in Virginia.  (Applause.)

So I’m asking you to help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in the next 10 years, and improve early childhood education.  (Applause.)  Let’s give 2 million workers the chance to learn skills at community colleges for jobs that are hiring right now.  (Applause.)  And let’s work with colleges and universities to cut the growth of tuition costs, because we don’t want our young people loaded up with debt.  We want them to be able to get the education they need to compete in the 21st century.  That’s the path we have to choose together.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  (Applause.)

Fourth, we’ve got to reduce our deficit.  And I put forward a plan that independent experts have looked at the numbers; it cuts the deficit by $4 trillion — without sticking it to the middle class.  Now, I’ve already worked with Republicans to cut a trillion dollars in spending, and I’m willing to do more.  I want to reform our tax code so it’s simpler and fairer, but the only way we’re going to reduce the deficit is also to ask the wealthiest households to pay higher taxes on incomes over $250,000 — (applause) — to go back to the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was President, our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, we went from deficit to surplus, and we created a whole lot of millionaires to boot.  (Applause.)

And understand the reason why I want to do this, it’s because that’s how an economy grows.  If we keep taxes low for middle-class families, if you’ve got a little more money in your pocket, what do you do?  You spend it.  Maybe you buy that new computer for your kid.  Maybe you finally trade in that 10-year-old car you’ve got.  And that means that business now has more customers, and they’re making more profits, which means they hire more workers.  Everybody does better when we’re growing together.

Now, my opponent, he’s got a plan, too.  But as President Clinton pointed out, there’s no math in it.  (Laughter.)  It’s missing arithmetic.  (Applause.)

They say the biggest priority — we’ve got to reduce our debt, reduce our deficit.  You see their ads:  Oh, we’ve got to reduce our deficit.  And then the first thing they want to do is spend trillions of dollars on new tax breaks for the wealthy.  And when you ask them, well, how does that work, they can’t explain it.  They won’t say how they’d pay for $5 trillion in new tax cuts without raising taxes on middle-class families.  They want to spend another $2 trillion on new military spending that our military says we don’t need.  The reason they can’t explain it is because the math doesn’t work.

And I tell you what, I want you to be clear, Virginia, I want to work with Republicans to reduce our deficit.  (Applause.)  I don’t want continued gridlock on Capitol Hill, but I’m not ashamed to say I will refuse to ask middle-class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising kids just so millionaires get another tax cut.  (Applause.)  I refuse to ask students to pay more for college — (applause) — or kick children off of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans, including the poor and the elderly and the disabled –- just to pay for more tax cuts that we can’t afford.

And I promise you, I will refuse to turn Medicare into a voucher.  (Applause.)  Americans who have worked hard shouldn’t have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies.  They should retire with the care and the dignity they have earned.  So we’ll reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care –- not by dumping those costs onto seniors.  Just like we’ll keep the promise of Social Security, but we will not be slashing benefits or turning it over to Wall Street, like some have proposed.  That’s the wrong way to go.  (Applause.)

Now, Virginia, I’ve talked about what we need to do here at home, but it’s connected to what we do abroad.  Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq, and I did.  (Applause.)  I said we’d wind down the war in Afghanistan, and we are.  Thirty-three thousand more troops have now left Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  Meanwhile, a new tower is rising above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, Osama bin Laden is dead.  (Applause.)

But as we saw last week, we still face serious threats in the world.  We have to make sure that not only our military, but also our diplomats overseas are protected.  We’ve got to go after anybody who harms Americans overseas.  (Applause.)  And as long as I am Commander-in-Chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known.  (Applause.)

And when our troops come home and take off their uniform, we will serve them as well as they’ve served us -– (applause) — because nobody who has fought for us should have to fight for a job or a roof over their heads when they come home.  (Applause.)

Now, my opponent has got a different idea.  He says it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq; still won’t tell us how he’d end the war in Afghanistan.  I have, and I will.  And I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more folks to work back here in the United States rebuilding roads and bridges, runways, broadband lines, schools.  (Applause.)  After a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.  (Applause.)

So that’s the choice we now face.  This is what the election comes down to.  Over and over, we’ve been told by the other side, the opponent, that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way to go; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing.  Their basic attitude is, you’re on your own.  If you can’t afford health insurance, hope you don’t get sick.  If some plant is releasing pollution into the air that your children breathe, well, that’s the price of progress.  If you can’t afford to go to college, just borrow some money from your parents.  (Laughter.)

I’ve got a different vision.  I don’t think that’s who we are.  I don’t think that’s what this country is about. (Applause.)  We don’t think government can solve all our problems.  But we don’t think government is the source of all our problems either.

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  We don’t think anybody is the source of all our problems — not welfare recipients, not corporations, not unions, not immigrants, not gays.  (Applause.)  Not all the other groups that we’re told to blame for our troubles, because we believe that here in America we’re all in it together.  (Applause.)

We believe America only works when we accept responsibility for ourselves, but also certain responsibilities for each other and for our country — (applause) — to create a country that’s filled with more opportunity and possibility than any other nation on Earth.  We understand that America is not what can be done for us, but what can be done by us together, as one nation, as one people.  (Applause.)

And that’s what the campaign was about four years ago.  I’ll say it again, it was not about me.  It was about you.  (Applause.)  You were the change.  You were the reason a mother from Leesburg doesn’t have to worry about her son being denied medical coverage due to his heart condition.  You made that happen.  You’re the reason a veteran in Virginia Beach can go to college on the new GI Bill.  You did that.  (Applause.)

You’re the reason a middle-class family here in Virginia got a tax cut, money they’re using to buy groceries and put gas in the car, maybe pay off some hospital bills when their daughter was born.  That’s because of you.  You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and pledged allegiance to our flag is no longer going to be deported from the only country she’s ever known.  (Applause.)

You’re the reason why an outstanding soldier won’t be kicked out of our military just because of who he loves.  (Applause.)  You’re the reason why families all across this country can welcome home loved ones who served us so bravely, give them that hug, know they’re back and safe.  (Applause.)  You’re the reason.  That’s how change happened.

Now, yesterday, I made this same point at a town hall in Florida.  I said, one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t change Washington just from the inside.  You change it from the outside.  You change it because people are mobilized.  You change it with the help of ordinary Americans who are willing to make their voices heard because of the decency and the goodness and the common sense of Americans.  That’s what moves the country forward.  (Applause.)

Now, for some reason my opponent got really excited.  He rewrote his speech real quick.  (Laughter.)  He stood up at a rally, proudly declared, “I’ll get the job done from the inside.”  (Laughter.)  What kind of inside job is he talking about?  (Applause.)  Is it the job of rubberstamping the top-down, you’re-on-your-own agenda of this Republican Congress?  Because if it is, we don’t want it.  (Applause.)  If it’s the job of letting oil companies run our energy policy, we don’t want it.

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  If it’s the job of outsources writing our tax code, we don’t want it.

AUDIENCE:  No!

THE PRESIDENT:  If it’s the job of letting politicians decide who you can marry, or control the health care choices that women should be able to make for themselves, we’ll take a pass.  (Applause.)

We don’t want an inside job in Washington.  We want change in Washington.  (Applause.)  And from the day we began this campaign, we’ve always said that change takes more than one term or even one President, and it certainly takes more than one party.  It can’t happen if you write off half the nation before you even took office.  (Applause.)

In 2008, 47 percent of the country didn’t vote for me.  But on the night of the election, I said to all those Americans, “I may not have won your vote but I hear you voices, I need your help, and I will be your President.”  (Applause.)  And for everybody who is watching, or anybody here who is still undecided, I don’t know how many people are going to vote for me this time around, but — (applause) — hold on — but I’m telling the American people I will be fighting for you no matter what.  (Applause.)  I will be your President no matter what.  (Applause.)  I’m not fighting to create Democratic jobs or Republicans jobs, I’m fighting to create American jobs.  (Applause.)

I’m not fighting to improve red state schools or blue state schools, I’m fighting to improve schools in the United States of America.  (Applause.)  The values we believe in don’t just belong to workers or businesses, the 53 percent or the 47 percent, the rich or the poor, the 1 percent, the 99 percent — these are American values.  They belong to all of us.  (Applause.)

Virginia, I still believe we’re not as divided as our politics suggest.  I still believe we’ve got more in common than the pundits tell us.  I believe in you.  I still believe in your capacity to help me bring about change.  And I’m asking you to keep believing in me.   (Applause.)

I’m asking for your vote.  And if you’re willing to stand with me and work with me, we’ll win Prince William County.  We will win Virginia.  We’ll finish what we’ve started, and we’ll remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

God bless you.  God bless the United States.

END
12:40 P.M. EDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz September 21, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the AARP Convention —

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Slams Romney’s Medicare Plan to AARP

Source: ABC News Radio, 9-21-12

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages

Appealing to senior voters, President Obama today defended his Medicare and social security policies, while claiming his opponents would slash the popular entitlement programs to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.

“There’s a lot of talk about Medicare and Social Security that hasn’t been completely on the level over the last several months,” the president told an AARP convention via satellite. “Here is what you need to know: I have strengthened Medicare as president.”…READ MORE

Remarks by the President to AARP Convention via Satellite

Source: WH, 9-21-12 

G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium
Woodbridge, Virginia

11:18 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jane. (Applause.) Thank you, AARP. (Applause.) I want to thank Barry, and the entire AARP, for everything you do on behalf of America’s seniors. (Applause.)

And today is especially poignant for me I think because I can’t help to think about my grandmother, Madelyn Dunham. During World War II, she worked on a bomber assembly line, with a baby at home, while her husband was off serving his country. And in the postwar years, she worked her way from a secretary to vice president at her local bank. And later, she helped raise my mother, and then obviously helped raise me and my sister.

She was a great citizen who lived up to her responsibilities. And after a lifetime of hard work, what she hoped for in return was to be able to live out her golden years with dignity and security, and to see her grandchildren and her great grandchildren have a better life.

And she was fiercely independent, so she didn’t want a lot of help from me or anybody else. She just wanted to make sure that the work she had put in was going to pay off. And I’m thinking a lot about her these days because we lost my grandmother three days before I was elected to this office, back in 2008. But rewarding those hopes that she and so many other Americans shared — restoring the basic bargain that says if you work hard, that work will pay off — is one of the reasons I ran for this office in the first place. The values that she taught me are part of what has driven me over the last four years

Now, we’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet. And that’s why I’m asking you for a second term as President. (Applause.)

There’s been a lot of talk about Medicare and Social Security in this campaign, as there should be. And these are bedrock commitments that America makes to its seniors, and I consider those commitments unshakeable. But given the conversations that have been out there in the political arena lately, I want to emphasize Medicare and Social Security are not handouts. (Applause.) You’ve paid into these programs your whole lives. You’ve earned them. And as President, it’s my job to make sure that Medicare and Social Security remain strong for today’s seniors and for future generations.

It probably won’t surprise you, though, that there’s a lot of talk about Medicare and Social Security that hasn’t been completely on the level over the last several months. So here’s what you need to know:

I have strengthened Medicare as President. (Applause.) We’ve added years to the life of the program by getting rid of taxpayer subsidies to insurance companies that weren’t making people healthier. And we used those savings to lower prescription drug costs, and to offer seniors on Medicare new preventive services like cancer screenings and wellness services.

In fact, the health reform law we passed has already saved more than 5.5 million seniors and people with disabilities nearly $4.5 billion on their prescription drugs. (Applause.) Seniors who received a discount have saved an average of more than $600 this year alone. And over the next 10 years, we expect the average Medicare beneficiary to save nearly $5,000 as a result of this law.

Now, my opponents have pledged to repeal these savings and benefits in their first day on the job, which means billions in new profits for insurance companies, but also would mean immediately increased costs for seniors and would bankrupt the Medicare trust fund in just four years. And what would they replace it with? Their plan replaces guaranteed Medicare benefits with a voucher that wouldn’t keep up with costs.

And when they tell you that their plan lets you keep your doctor, they’re leaving out one thing — and that’s the facts. A new study says that under their plan, if just 5 percent of seniors switch to private plans, 40 percent of doctors who currently take Medicare would stop accepting it. So think about that. Millions of seniors would be forced to change doctors.

I don’t consider this approach bold or particularly courageous, I just think it’s a bad idea. No American should ever spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and the dignity that they have earned. (Applause.)

Now, we do have to reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’re going to do it by reducing the costs of care — not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more while we’re giving millionaires and billionaires a massive new tax cut. (Applause.)

And when it comes to Social Security, we’ve got to keep the promise of Social Security by taking responsible steps to strengthen it, not by turning it over to Wall Street. (Applause.) The last time the other side was in charge, my opponent’s running mate wrote a bill that would have privatized Social Security. And after what happened on Wall Street just four years ago, does anybody actually think that’s a good idea? (Laughter.)

Most seniors rely on Social Security for most of their income. It keeps 20 million Americans out of poverty each and every year. And while it’s not the cause of today’s deficits, we do need to strengthen the program for the coming decades. And that means folks on both sides need to come together around a balanced plan. (Applause.)

My opponent claims that to pay for a new $5 trillion tax cut skewed towards the very top, he’d just close tax loopholes for the very wealthy. But independent experts say there’s no way to do that without also cutting deductions that the middle class relies on, and that includes taxing things like Social Security benefits. And this could mean higher taxes for seniors on Social Security, including taxing benefits for seniors who make less than $32,000 a year for the first time ever. Nearly 30 million seniors could see their taxes go up by hundreds of dollars.

So I want you all to know at AARP I’m not going to let that happen. (Applause.) My plan calls for both parties to come together and take responsible steps to preserve Social Security for the long run. And we’ll do it in a way that ensures a lifetime of hard work is rewarded with dignity and security for generations to come.

So you guys have a big choice in this election and these are the paths — the two paths our country can take. We can spend trillions of dollars on tax cuts targeted towards the wealthiest Americans, which could result in cuts to benefits that you’ve worked a lifetime to earn. Or we can take a balanced approach to invest in the middle class and strengthen Medicare and Social Security for you and your children and your grandchildren. That’s the choice in this election and that’s why I’m asking for your vote. (Applause.)

So thanks so much, AARP, for having me. And with that, Jane, I’m ready to take some questions. (Applause.)

Q Mr. President, Jane Pauley here again. I’m back in the hall with our members, and they do have some questions for you. I’d like to explain here in the hall that — what a satellite delay is. When I ask a question, it goes up there, and then it comes down. There’s about a second and a half delay between my delivering a question and the President hearing it. Just so you know the drill and a little inside stuff on television.

Mr. President, we are so grateful that you can stay with us a few minutes longer.

Mike, from Brier, Washington, asks: “How will you reduce the federal debt and not gut Social Security and Medicare?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a great question, Mike, and I appreciate it. We have a genuine challenge in bringing our deficit down and reducing our debt, and I think it’s important for folks to know that 90 percent of the debt and deficits that we’re seeing right now are the result of choices that were made over the course of the last decade — two wars that weren’t paid for; tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy that were not paid for. So we made some decisions, and then when the Great Recession hit, that meant more money was going out and not as much money was coming in, and that has blown up our deficit and our debt.

The key to reducing it is to do it in a balanced, responsible way. So I’ve put forward a $4 trillion, deficit-reduction plan which would bring our deficits down to a manageable level and begin the work of bringing our debt down, and it involves making some tough choices. So I’ve already signed a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts, programs that we don’t need, programs that, frankly, are not helping people get more opportunity or creating pathways for success for middle-class families or those who are striving to get into the middle class.

But after those cuts are made and some additional cuts are made, the only way to reach that $4 trillion target to also ask the wealthiest among us to do a little bit more. So what I’ve suggested is that we go back for people whose incomes are above $250,000 to go back to the tax rates that existed when Bill Clinton was President, which, by the way, was a time when we created 23 million new jobs, went from a deficit to a surplus, and created a whole lot of millionaires to boot. (Applause.)

Now, this contrasts with the plan that my opponent is putting forward for deficit reduction. And some of you may have seen President Clinton speak at the convention — (applause) — what’s missing from it is arithmetic, because what they’re proposing is not only to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but then they want to add another $5 trillion tax cut on top of that, and $2 trillion in additional defense spending that our Joint Chiefs of Staff say doesn’t make sense at a time when we’re winding down two wars.

So before they even start digging us out of the hole that we’re in, they just added to the hole with $7 trillion in additional spending on tax cuts or on defense. Now, they haven’t explained how they would pay for that, but independent analysts who have looked at it have said the only way you pay for this is not only to gut investments in education, in basic research that could help find cures for cancer or Alzheimer’s, to not invest in our infrastructure, but it also means that you’re going to have to impose a higher tax burden on middle-class families — up to $2,000 a year for families with children.

And as I mentioned in my opening remarks, if you’re looking at figuring out how to pay for that $5 trillion tax cut, part of what you would also start looking at is taxing Social Security benefits, or turning Medicare into a voucher program. And that is not the right approach to take.

My attitude is that if we’re going to work together to bring down our deficit, everybody has got to do their fair share, everybody has got to do their part. (Applause.) And for us to have new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires to pay for cuts in Social Security or Medicare or education is just not the right way to go.

Q Mr. President, from Washington D.C, Paulette (ph) asks a question. She says, “If one makes $106 [thousand] a year or less, they pay Social Security taxes on 100 percent of their income; a millionaire pays 10 percent or less. Will you try to get the cap removed for Social Security taxes?”

THE PRESIDENT: I do think that looking at changing the cap is an important aspect of putting Social Security on a more stable footing. (Applause.) And what I’ve said is, is that I’m willing to work with Republicans and examine all their ideas, but what I’m not going to do as a matter of principle is to slash benefits or privatize Social Security and suddenly turn it over to Wall Street. Because we saw what can happen, back in 2008/2009, when the stock market crashed. And we’re still recovering from that.

Q Mr. President, James from Derry, Pennsylvania says, “I haven’t heard you say much about out-of-control prescription drug costs facing those of us retired and living on fixed incomes. What are you plans to bring down these costs?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the good news is, I’m not just talking about it, we’ve actually done something about it. (Applause.) The health care bill that we passed, Obamacare, which, by the way, I don’t mind the term because I do care, that’s why we passed the bill — (applause) — one of the things that we did was to begin closing the notorious doughnut hole that so many seniors suffer from.

So starting this year already, what we’re seeing is a 50 percent discount for seniors who are in the doughnut hole. Each year they’re going to get additional discounts until the doughnut hole is completely closed. That’s already saving millions of seniors around the country an average of $600 to $650 a year. That’s on top, by the way, of the preventive care that is now provided without additional charge, under Medicare, as a consequence of what we did with Obamacare.

And there’s more that we can do on prescription drugs. One of the things that I’ve proposed in my budget is that Medicare recipients should get some of the same deep discounts that Medicaid receives. That would save additional billions of dollars for seniors. (Applause.) And there’s work that we can also do in terms of accelerating the use of generics and making sure that the process for seniors getting access to cheaper prescription drugs is obtained.

But this is critically important because I meet too many families where they tell me a story of their parents having to cut their pills in half because they just can’t afford the prescriptions that have been given to them.

Q Mr. President, a question for you from Hawaii, from Richard: “What would you do to guarantee the future of Medicare?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, again, it turns out that contrary to what you’ve heard and what you may hear from subsequent speakers, Obamacare actually strengthened Medicare. So what we did was extend the Medicare trust fund by eight years. In addition, we dealt with prescription drugs in a way that is helping seniors now and in the future. The preventive care that we’re doing is going to ensure that seniors stay healthier, which reduces costs.

And one thing that I want to point out is, when you hear this notion of — that we somehow took $716 billion, robbed it from Medicare beneficiaries and seniors, I want you to know that is simply not true. (Applause.) What we did was we went after waste and fraud, and overcharging by insurance companies, for example. Those savings do come out to $716 [billion], and those savings are part of what allows us to close the doughnut hole, provide the preventive care, and is actually going to extend the life of Medicare over the long term. It also, by the way, helps to reduce the increase in the premiums that seniors pay under Medicare.

And that points to what we need to do with Medicare generally. What we need to do is to go after the waste, the fraud, and reduce health care costs overall. (Applause.) So part of what we’re doing through this new health care law is using the power of — the purchasing power of Medicare to say to doctors and hospitals and insurance companies, you guys need to work smarter — instead of having five different tests that you’re charging us for, do one test and then email it to everybody. (Applause.) Instead of having all kinds of administrative costs and paperwork, let’s make sure that we’re using health IT — information technologies — to do a better job. Let’s coordinate care better. Let’s engage in more preventive care. (Applause.)

Because this is not just a Medicare problem. Medicare actually is a very efficient program relative to the private insurance programs. The problem is health care costs generally are going up. So we’ve got to bring down health care costs; that’s what we’re focused on. And I just want to point out that the other side’s approach to saving Medicare — and you’ll be hearing about this, I gather, after I speak — is to turn Medicare into a voucher program and essentially transfer those costs onto seniors.

Congressman Ryan’s original plan that was put forward — independent analysis showed that, as a consequence, seniors could expect to pay over $6,000 more for their Medicare once they were under a voucher program. Now, that was his original plan. I want to be fair here. He then modified it — because obviously there was a lot of pushback from seniors on that idea — so he said, well, we’re going to have traditional Medicare stand side by side with the voucher program, and no current beneficiaries will be affected.

The problem is that insurance companies, once they’re getting vouchers, they’re really good at recruiting the healthier, younger Medicare recipients, and weeding out and leaving in traditional Medicare [to] the older, sicker recipients. And over time what happens is that, because there are older, sicker folks in the traditional Medicare plan, premiums start going up, they start going through the roof. And the entire infrastructure of traditional Medicare ends up collapsing, which means that all seniors at some point end up being at the mercy of the insurance companies through a voucher program. That’s what we’re trying to prevent. And the reason that AARP supported Obamacare and does not support this voucher approach is because they have looked at these independent experts and the analysis that they’ve put forward, and they know that a voucher program is not going to be a good deal for Medicare over the long haul. (Applause.)

Q Mr. President, from Sandwich, Massachusetts. Kathy (ph) has the following question for you: “What would your administration do to make sure age discrimination laws are enforced so we have an even playing field to get a job?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, this is a great question, and obviously one of the challenges that we’ve seen as a consequence of this terrible recession we went through was a lot of workers in their 50s and early 60s found themselves suddenly laid off, and it’s very hard for them to get their foot in the door despite all the incredible experience that they have and the skills and training that they’ve got. So there are a couple of things that we need to do.

Number one, we just have to make sure that we’re enforcing nondiscrimination laws effectively. And the Attorney General knows that that’s always a top priority for me. In some cases, part of what we’re trying to do is to see if we legislatively can overturn some bad Supreme Court rulings that have made it harder to prove age discrimination. (Applause.)

Q Using the —

THE PRESIDENT: And that’s something that we’re really focused on.

Q Forgive me for interrupting the President of the United States. Sorry. (Laughter.)

Mr. President, you used the word “legislation” which will ring a bell with Joe from Fort Aktinson, Wisconsin, who asks: “What can you do about this gridlock between both sides of the aisle in Congress?”

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Jane, let me just say this — first of all, before I go to the gridlock issue, I did want to emphasize that in addition to dealing with age discrimination, the work that’s being done between the SBA and the AARP around the Encore Entrepreneur’s Program, helping thousands of seniors across the country start their own small businesses, if in fact they’re not getting hired, to provide them a source of income and use their incredible skills — I just wanted to give a shout out to AARP because that program is really doing great work. (Applause.)

But when it comes to gridlock, look, I came in in 2008 and I said, even though I got 53 percent of the vote and 47 percent of the country voted against me, that I’d be the President for everybody, and I’d listen to everybody’s voices. (Applause.)

And every idea that I put forward and all the work that we have done has been to draw on the best ideas from both parties. In fact, Obamacare now owes a debt to what was done in Massachusetts by my opponent Mr. Romney, even though sometimes he denies it. (Applause.)

So I am always going to be looking to find common ground and solve problems for the American people. The one thing I won’t do, though, is to go along with bad ideas that are not helping the middle class, not helping people who have worked hard all their lives, not helping to provide ladders of opportunity to people who are still looking to succeed in this great country of ours. And so, if I hear that the only way that Republicans in Congress are willing to move forward is to voucherize Medicare, I’ll say no. (Applause.) If the only thing that they’re willing to offer in terms of deficit reduction is to do it on the backs of seniors or our children who need to get a great education, or middle-class families who can’t afford another tax increase, I’m going to say no.

So part of what I think you want from your President is somebody who is working hard to bring people together, but is also willing to stand up to bad ideas that would end up tilting the playing field further in favor of those who have already made it instead of also thinking about folks who are trying to make it who worked hard all their lives, like my grandmother. And that’s exactly why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States. (Applause.)

Q Mr. President, on behalf of everyone here in the hall and listening online, we are so grateful that you could spend some time with us this morning. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, Jane. Take care, everybody.

END
11:46 A.M. EDT

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