U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday "trickle-down" economics has failed and the 2012 election will be a "make-or-break moment" for the middle class.
Addressing newspaper editors at an Associated Press luncheon in Washington, Obama said the upcoming presidential election will be a choice between a country in which "a shrinking number of people do exceedingly well while a growing number struggle to get by" versus one in which "everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules."
"The next president will inherit an economy that is recovering, but not yet recovered, from the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression," Obama said. "Too many Americans will still be looking for a job that pays enough to cover their bills or their mortgage. Too many citizens will still lack the sort of financial security that started slipping away years before this recession hit. A debt that has grown over the last decade, primarily as a result of two wars, two massive tax cuts, and an unprecedented financial crisis, will have to be paid down. …
"I believe this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and I can't remember a time when the choice between competing visions of our future has been so unambiguously clear," Obama said, noting moderation and compromise are the way to get things done.
"I have never been somebody who believes that government can or should try to solve every problem. … As president, I've eliminated dozens of programs that weren't working. … I know that the true engine of job creation in this country is the private sector, not Washington, which is why I've cut taxes for small business owners 17 times over the last three years," Obama said, adding he believes the free market is "the greatest force for economic progress in human history."
Obama said social programs such as Medicare and Social Security once enjoyed broad bipartisan support and noted a Republican president, Richard Nixon, created the Environmental Protection Agency.
"These investments aren't part of some scheme to redistribute wealth from one group to another. They are expressions of the fact that we are one nation," Obama said, telling the audience the current Republican Party is pushing a budget that would drastically cut spending in education, transportation, healthcare and more.
"Disguised as deficit reduction plans, it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism," Obama said, calling it a "Trojan Horse" and a "prescription for decline."
"We have on one side, a party that will brook no compromise," Obama said, surmising President Ronald Reagan, who proposed spending cuts and tax increases multiple times, would not get through the Republican primary today.
Obama defended his landmark healthcare law, currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court, by saying the individual mandate to buy health insurance "originated as a conservative idea to preserve the private marketplace in healthcare while still assuring that everybody got covered."
"I have enormous confidence that in looking at this law, not only is it constitutional, but that the Court is going to exercise its jurisprudence carefully because of the profound power that our Supreme Court has. As a consequence, we're not spending a whole bunch of time planning for contingencies," he said.