Before President Barack Obama on Wednesday held a town hall meeting on the economy at Facebook’s headquarters in Silicon Valley with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Obama told students during a town hall meeting at Northern Virginia Community College on Tuesday that his plan to cut the nation’s $1.4 trillion deficit would not include “cutting education and eliminating college scholarships. In a world where our students face stiff competition from students from other countries, why would we make it harder for you to compete?”
Obama told students at the community college in Annandale, Va., that the plan he revealed last week “to get America’s finances in order,” is a plan for “shared prosperity through shared sacrifice and shared responsibility.” For a long time, Obama said, “Washington acted like deficits didn’t matter. A lot of folks promised us a free lunch. So I think everybody needs to recall, we had a surplus back in 2000, 11 short years ago, but then we cut taxes for everybody, including millionaires and billionaires. We fought two wars and we created a new and expensive prescription drug program, and we didn’t pay for any of it.”
Cutting the deficit includes “finding savings” in, for instance, the defense budget, reducing health care spending, and strengthening “Medicare and Medicaid through some common-sense reforms,” Obama said, and ending the tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans.
“This is not because we want to punish success. … But we are going to have to ask everybody to sacrifice,” Obama said. “And if we’re asking community colleges to sacrifice, if we’re asking people who are going to see potentially fewer services in their neighborhoods to make a little sacrifice, then we can ask millionaires and billionaires to make a little sacrifice.”
In response to a question from one student on whether Social Security would remain intact, Obama said that “The big drivers of our deficit are health care costs. The thing that we’ve really got to get control of is Medicare and Medicaid. That’s what’s skyrocketing really fast. Because not only is the population getting older, but health care costs are just going up a lot faster than people’s wages and salaries–or tax revenues to the federal government.” Social Security, he continued, “is a problem but one that we can solve much more easily. So … Social Security will definitely be there when you retire. I’m absolutely confident about that.”