WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama hinted on Sunday that Americans can expect budget cuts if he is re-elected in November, telling an interviewer that some spending programs “are worthy” but unaffordable.
Seeking to counter Republican criticism that his administration has increased the national debt to $16 trillion, Obama said a balanced budget was the first step toward tackling fiscal woes and that would mean cutbacks.
“There are some programs that are worthy, but we just can’t afford right now. And I’m willing to do more on that front,” Obama said in an excerpt from a CBS News interview, noting that $1 trillion in cuts have already been made.
“And there’s still waste, there’s still programs that don’t work.”
With less than 60 days before the November 6 vote, Obama is leading opinion polls in crucial swing states. But his Republican opponent Mitt Romney is seeking a turn around given poor job numbers released last week.
The Republicans attacked Obama last week for adding more than $5 trillion to the national debt since he took office in 2009.
The figure stood at $10.6 trillion when he entered the White House, but by implementing an economic stimulus plan aimed at heading off a depression the figure has soared — negating the president’s pledge to halve it by 2012.
But Obama criticized Romney in the interview aired Sunday for refusing to take what he called a “balanced approach” that cuts spending while raising taxes on the richest Americans.
“If we go back to the tax rates for folks making more than $250,000 a year, back to the rates that we had under Bill Clinton, we can close the deficit, stabilize the economy, keep taxes on middle class families low, provide the certainty that I think all of us would be looking for,” Obama pledged.
He said the problem with Romney’s plan “is the math, or the arithmetic, as President (Bill) Clinton said, doesn’t add up,” in a reference to the latter’s barnstorming speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Clinton said that the Republicans’ plan to cut $5 trillion in taxes will mean “they’ll hurt the middle class and the poor” in order to cut taxes for the rich.
Or else, he continued, “they’ll just do what they’ve been doing for more than 30 years now — they’ll go in and cut taxes way more than they cut spending … and they’ll just explode the debt and weaken the economy.”
Obama has argued that his Republican predecessor George W. Bush deepened the national debt by imposing sweeping tax cuts and launching wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The public bailouts of US financial institutions in the wake of the global economic meltdown, also under Bush’s tenure, caused the debt to spiral further.