WASHINGTON — In a blunt rejoinder to congressional Republicans, President Barack Obama called for $1.5 trillion in new taxes Monday, part of a total 10-year deficit reduction package totaling more than $3 trillion. "We can't just cut our way out of this hole," the president said.
The president's proposal would predominantly hit upper income taxpayers but would also reduce spending in mandatory benefit programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, by $580 billion. It also counts savings of $1 trillion over 10 years from the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama's recommendation to a joint congressional committee served as a sharp counterpoint to Republican lawmakers, who have insisted that tax increases should play no part in taming the nation's escalating national debt. Obama's plan would end Bush-era tax cuts for top earners and would limit their deductions.
"It's only right we ask everyone to pay their fair share," Obama said from the Rose Garden at the White House.
Responding to a complaint from Republicans about his proposed tax on the wealthy, Obama added: "This is not class warfare. It's math."
Obama vowed to veto any deficit reduction package that cuts benefits to Medicare recipients but does not contain revenue increases.
The Republican reaction was swift and derisive.
"Veto threats, a massive tax hike, phantom savings, and punting on entitlement reform is not a recipe for economic or job growth - or even meaningful deficit reduction," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement issued minutes after the president's announcement. "The good news is that the Joint Committee is taking this issue far more seriously than the White House."
Obama's proposal comes amid Democratic demands that Obama take a tougher stance against Republicans. And while the plan stands little chance of passing Congress, its populist pitch is one that the White House believes the public can support.
The core of the president's plan totals just over $2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. It would let Bush-era tax cuts for upper income earners expire, limit deductions for wealthier filers and close loopholes and end some corporate tax breaks. It also would cut $580 billion from mandatory programs, including $248 billion from Medicare. It also targets subsidies to farmers and benefits programs for federal employees.
Under Obama's plan, government spending would no longer add to the national debt starting in 2017
Coupled with about $1 trillion in cuts already approved by Congress and signed by the president, overall deficit reduction would total more than $4 trillion, a number many economists cite as a minimum threshold to bring the nation's debt under control.
Key features of Obama's plan:
—$1.5 trillion in new revenue, which would include about $800 billion realized over 10 years from repealing the Bush-era tax rates for couples making more than $250,000. It also would place limits on deductions for wealthy filers and end certain corporate loopholes and subsidies for oil and gas companies.
—$580 billion in cuts in mandatory benefit programs, including $248 billion in Medicare and $72 billion in Medicaid and other health programs. Other mandatory benefit programs include farm subsidies and federal employee benefits.
—$430 billion in savings from lower interest payment on the national debt.
— $1 trillion in savings from drawing down military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.