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Obama speech: His four-part plan to cut $4 trillion from federal deficits

Obama's plan to cut federal deficits over the next 12 years relies on tax increases for the wealthy as well as budget cuts. But he rejects Republican plans for reforming Medicare.

By Staff writer / April 13, 2011

President Obama outlines his plan for tackling federal deficits during an address at George Washington University in Washington Wednesday.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Washington

President Obama laid out a broad plan Wednesday to address soaring budget deficits through tax increases and entitlement reforms.

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In a speech at George Washington University, Mr. Obama set a goal of reducing the cumulative annual deficits of the next 12 years by $4 trillion. That benchmark far outstrips the $1.1 trillion reduction in deficits over 10 years that he laid out two months ago in his fiscal year 2012 budget – a point that feeds the Republican charge that Wednesday’s initiative represents a presidential budget “do-over."

Still, Obama’s new plan is slightly less ambitious than the proposal of his bipartisan fiscal commission released last December, which would reduce deficits by $4 trillion in 10 years. And it is much less ambitious than last week’s GOP budget proposal, which the author, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin, says would lower deficits by $5.8 trillion in the next decade, all through spending cuts.

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Obama’s plan calls for a tax increase on the wealthy, a provision he failed to enact last December in his tax deal with the Republicans, plus other revenue increases achieved through tax reform.

“Some will argue we shouldn’t even consider raising taxes, even if only on the wealthiest Americans,” Obama said. “It’s just an article of faith to them. I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more.”

Obama's four-part plan

Obama laid out a four-part plan for deficit reduction:

  • Cuts in nonsecurity discretionary spending, while still investing in energy innovation, education, and infrastructure. The level of his cuts would be consistent with the recommendations of his bipartisan fiscal commission, saving $770 billion from 2012 to 2023.
  • Cuts in security spending deeper than those in his 2012 budget. Projected savings by 2023 are $400 billion.
  • Cuts in spending on Medicare and Medicaid by making delivery of health services more efficient and cost-effective. Obama says he would slow the growth of Medicare by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts, and consumers, which recommends ways of reducing unnecessary spending. He also proposes to make Medicaid more “more flexible, efficient, and accountable.” Savings from both programs would add up to $500 billion by 2023, he says.
  • Reforming the tax code in a way that closes loopholes, limits deductions, and allows tax rates to go down. Limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans would reduce the deficit by $320 billion over 10 years, Obama says. All told, his plan projects revenue from changes to the tax code at $1 trillion.
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