Weekly Address: Congress Must Compromise to Stop the Impact of the Sequester

Statement

By:  Barack Obama II
Date: March 2, 2013
Location: Unknown

Hi, everybody. On Friday, I met with leaders of both parties in Congress to try and find a way forward in light of the severe budget cuts -- known in Washington as "the sequester" -- that have already started to inflict pain on communities across the country.

These cuts are not smart. They will hurt our economy and cost us jobs. And Congress can turn them off at any time -- as soon as both sides are willing to compromise.

As a nation, we've already fought back from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, and we'll get through this, too. But at a time when our businesses are finally gaining some traction, hiring new workers, bringing jobs back to America -- the last thing Washington should do is to get in their way. That's what these cuts to education, research, and defense will do. It's unnecessary. And at a time when too many of our friends and neighbors are still looking for work, it's inexcusable.

Now, it's important to understand that, while not everyone will feel the pain of these cuts right away, the pain will be real. Many middle-class families will have their lives disrupted in a significant way.

Beginning this week, businesses that work with the military will have to lay folks off. Communities near military bases will take a serious blow. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who serve their country -- Border Patrol agents, FBI agents, civilians who work for the Defense Department -- will see their wages cut and their hours reduced.

This will cause a ripple effect across the economy. Businesses will suffer because customers will have less money to spend. The longer these cuts remain in place, the greater the damage. Economists estimate they could eventually cost us more than 750,000 jobs and slow our economy by over one-half of one percent.

Here's the thing: none of this is necessary. It's happening because Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit. Just this week, they decided that protecting special interest tax breaks for the well-off and well-connected is more important than protecting our military and middle-class families from these cuts.

I still believe we can and must replace these cuts with a balanced approach -- one that combines smart spending cuts with entitlement reform and changes to our tax code that make it more fair for families and businesses without raising anyone's tax rates. That's how we can reduce our deficit without laying off workers, or forcing parents and students to pay the price. I don't think that's too much to ask. It's the kind of approach I've proposed for two years now. A majority of the American people agree with me on this approach -- including a majority of Republicans. We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and the rest of the country.

Now, I know there are Republicans in Congress who would actually rather see tax loopholes closed than let these cuts go through. And I know there are Democrats who'd rather do smart entitlement reform than let these cuts go through. There's a caucus of common sense. And I'm going to keep reaching out to them to fix this for good.

Because the American people are weary of perpetual partisanship and brinksmanship. This is America, and in America, we don't careen from one manufactured crisis to another. We make smart choices. We plan. We prioritize. So I'm going to push through this paralysis and keep fighting for the real challenges facing middle-class families. I'm going to keep pushing for high-quality preschool for every family that wants it, and make sure the minimum wage becomes a wage you can live on. I'm going to keep pushing to fix our immigration system, repair our transportation system, and keep our children safe from gun violence.

That's the work you elected me to do. That's what I'm focused on every single day. Thanks.