Transcript: Debate excerpts – President Barack Obama on reducing the federal deficit

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Excerpts from President Barack Obama’s remarks on reducing the federal deficit at the first presidential debate held at the University of Denver, Colorado on Oct. 3, 2012:

“…We do have to close our deficit, and one of the things I’m sure we’ll be discussing tonight is, how do we deal with our tax code? And how do we make sure that we are reducing spending in a responsible way, but also, how do we have enough revenue to make those investments?

“And this is where there’s a difference, because Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut — on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts — that’s another trillion dollars — and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That’s $8 trillion. How we pay for that, reduce the deficit, and make the investments that we need to make, without dumping those costs onto middle-class Americans, I think is one of the central questions of this campaign.”

“…I would just say this to the American people. If you believe that we can cut taxes by $5 trillion and add $2 trillion in additional spending that the military is not asking for, $7 trillion — just to give you a sense, over 10 years, that’s more than our entire defense budget — and you think that by closing loopholes and deductions for the well-to-do, somehow you will not end up picking up the tab, then Governor Romney’s plan may work for you…”

When I walked into the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion-dollar deficit greeting me. And we know where it came from: two wars that were paid for on a credit card; two tax cuts that were not paid for; and a whole bunch of programs that were not paid for; and then a massive economic crisis.

“And despite that, what we’ve said is, yes, we had to take some initial emergency measures to make sure we didn’t slip into a Great Depression, but what we’ve also said is, let’s make sure that we are cutting out those things that are not helping us grow.

“So 77 government programs, everything from aircrafts that the Air Force had ordered but weren’t working very well, 18 government — 18 government programs for education that were well-intentioned, not weren’t helping kids learn, we went after medical fraud in Medicare and Medicaid very aggressively, more aggressively than ever before, and have saved tens of billions of dollars, $50 billion of waste taken out of the system.

“And I worked with Democrats and Republicans to cut a trillion dollars out of our discretionary domestic budget. That’s the largest cut in the discretionary domestic budget since Dwight Eisenhower.

“Now, we all know that we’ve got to do more. And so I’ve put forward a specific $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. It’s on a website. You can look at all the numbers, what cuts we make and what revenue we raise.

“And the way we do it is $2.50 for every cut, we ask for $1 of additional revenue, paid for, as I indicated earlier, by asking those of us who have done very well in this country to contribute a little bit more to reduce the deficit. Governor Romney earlier mentioned the Bowles-Simpson commission. Well, that’s how the commission — bipartisan commission that talked about how we should move forward suggested we have to do it, in a balanced way with some revenue and some spending cuts. And this is a major difference that Governor Romney and I have.

“Let — let me just finish their point, because you’re looking for contrast. You know, when Governor Romney stood on a stage with other Republican candidates for the nomination and he was asked, would you take $10 of spending cuts for just $1 of revenue? And he said no.

“Now, if you take such an unbalanced approach, then that means you are going to be gutting our investments in schools and education. It means that Governor Romney…

.. talked about Medicaid and how we could send it back to the states, but effectively this means a 30 percent cut in the primary program we help for seniors who are in nursing homes, for kids who are with disabilities.

“And — and that is not a right strategy for us to move forward…”

“Ultimately, we’re going to have to make some decisions. And if we’re asking for no revenue, then that means that we’ve got to get rid of a whole bunch of stuff.

“And the magnitude of the tax cuts that you’re talking about, Governor, would end up resulting in severe hardship for people, but more importantly, would not help us grow.”


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