President Barack Obama rebuked Republican budget proposals Wednesday in a speech at Jack Morton Auditorium, calling for both tax hikes on the wealthy and spending cuts to trim the nation’s mounting deficit.
Obama outlined his administration’s vision for fiscal discussions aimed at slashing the deficit by $4 trillion by 2012 at his fourth visit to GW since he entered office in January 2009.
Over the course of nearly 45 minutes, Obama stressed bipartisanship as key in the effort to balance the budget. He said sacrifices must be made across the board, while also protecting the middle class, seniors and “key investments in our future.”
Obama also called for a “debt fail-safe,” which would enact spending cuts and reductions if the deficit is not on track to fall considerably by 2014. His proposed framework calls for America to “live within its means” and said he will not allow Medicare or Medicaid to be stifled.
“We need to use our dollars here rebuilding, refurbishing and restoring all that our ancestors struggled to create and maintain,” Obama said. “We as a people must do this together, no matter the color of the state one comes from or the side of the aisle one might sit on.”
Addressing a packed auditorium filled with cabinet officials, members of Congress, professors, students and members of the press, the 44th president joked that part of his reasoning behind averting a government shutdown last week was to ensure he could speak at GW.
“I wanted to make sure you had one more excuse to skip class,” Obama said. “You’re welcome.”
School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno said the speech reflected a more negative tone than he anticipated.
“I think he’s going to face heat from Republicans and Democrats,” Sesno said. “Presidents are not rewarded for asking people to sacrifice.”
Sesno said he expected Obama to call the American people to action, by recalling “America the great” as opposed to “America the indebted.”
The White House set aside a pool of student tickets for the event, which individual schools at GW distributed among students. Freshman Gordon Gebert said watching Obama’s speech in person solidified why he came to GW, adding that Obama made budget topics clear for students in the audience who might not know fiscal jargon.
“I like that he explained things.” Gebert said. “I’m taking macroeconomics right now and a lot of the things he’s talking about, we’re talking about.”
Jordyn Newcome, another freshman, said students were the most pertinent audience in the building that day.
“I think it’s important students were here today,” Newcome said. “The problems now are going to realize themselves and we’re going to have to deal with them.”
Obama’s speech prompted the University to relocate a handful of classes at the Media and Public Affairs building for security purposes, shutting down the lower level and second floor during the speech as well.