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Obama Discusses Deficit-reduction Plan

April 19, 2011 (United Press International) Failure to reduce the deficit will cause "serious damage" to the U.S. economy, President Obama said Tuesday during a town hall meeting in northern Virginia.

"If we don't close this deficit now … it's going to cause serious damage to the economy," Obama said before beginning the question-and-answer session at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Va. "We've got to tackle this challenge. I believe the right way to do it is to live up to an old-fashioned principle [of] shared responsibility. Everybody has to do his part."

But students need to get involved and get their voices heard in Congress along with other advocates and lobbyists.

"If you are heard, we are going to meet this challenge … and be more prosperous than we were before," Obama said.

"Ultimately, the deficit is not about numbers on page," Obama said. "It's about making sure you make the most of your futures … in a nation that's prosperous and rich with opportunity to get ahead."

Obama repeated his message made last week about how his proposal would lower the deficit, reducing the debt while providing investments in education, clean energy and other areas critical to the country's growth.

Combing the budget "to find savings where we find them" in domestic spending goes just so far, Obama said. "We've got to look at defense" for wasteful spending that doesn't protect the troops or the nation.

He also said the country must tackle healthcare spending and strengthen Medicare and Medicaid through "common sense reforms that can actually improve care," such as allowing patients to purchase generic drugs and manage care for the chronically ill more effectively and efficiently.

Finally, "we can reform the tax code so the amount of taxes you pay won't depend on whether you can hire a fancy accountant … and end tax cuts for wealthy Americans," Obama said.

It's not that he's against success or begrudging success, Obama said.

"But we are going to have to ask everybody to sacrifice, if we're going to ask community colleges to sacrifice, if people are going to see potentially fewer services, then we can ask millionaires and billionaires to make a little sacrifice."

But while cutting spending that fair and shared, the nation must still invest in the future, strengthen the middle class and grow the economy.

"I'm not going to reduce the deficit by sacrificing investments" in infrastructure, clean energy or other scientific and medical research or cutting education, Obama said.

"Just as it would undermine the future to ignore deficits, it would also undermine our future to ignore [investment] students like you," Obama said.

Republicans and Democrats agree that the deficit should be reduced and are in "general agreement" on spending cuts, he said.

During the question-and-answer session, Obama criticized the House Republican plan's plan for Medicare, which would create a voucher system so seniors could buy coverage in the private market.

"I think that is the wrong way to go. That would change Medicare as we know it," he said, and was something he couldn't accept.

There were "deep philosophical differences" between how the Republicans and Democrats want to reduce the deficit, he said during the question-and-answer session -- again urging students of all political stripe to get involved in the process.

"This is an important debate," he said.

Copyright United Press International 2011

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