Obama Says Critics Making 'The Same Argument' Despite Better Economy : It's All Politics The president defends his economic track record, even as Republicans are trying to change the government's fiscal course. House and Senate committees unveiled draft budgets that would cut spending.
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Obama Says Critics Making 'The Same Argument' Despite Better Economy

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Obama Says Critics Making 'The Same Argument' Despite Better Economy

Obama Says Critics Making 'The Same Argument' Despite Better Economy

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

President Obama is defending his economic track record even as Republicans in Congress are busy trying to change the government's fiscal course. House and Senate committees released draft budgets this week. Both would sharply reduce government spending and take one more run at repealing the president's signature health care law. Obama says his policies have been working, and he accuses Republicans of turning to failed policies from the past. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama says despite all the squabbling in Washington, the U.S. is enjoying strong job growth, falling energy prices and shrinking government deficits. He says the economy is now well-positioned for the future. Seventh-grader Alura Winfrey asked the president what he's learned during the six years he's been in office.

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ALURA WINFREY: If you could go back to the first day of your first term, what advice would you give yourself?

(LAUGHTER)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That's a good question.

HORSLEY: Obama thought for a moment, then said he'd try to do a better job of explaining just how deep the recession was and how prolonged the recovery would be. In other words, he would've worked harder to sell the administration's economic policies, often controversial both then and now.

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OBAMA: We were told our goals were misguided, they were too ambitious, that my administration's policies would crush jobs and explode deficits and destroy the economy forever. Remember that?

HORSLEY: Obama says it's important that people do remember now that the stock market has doubled and the unemployment rate's been cut nearly in half.

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OBAMA: 'Cause sometimes - yeah, we don't do the instant replay. We don't run the tape back. And then we end up having the same argument going forward.

HORSLEY: Indeed, those old arguments are in full force as the new all-Republican Congress tries to put its stamp on federal tax and spending policies. Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, unveiled a blueprint yesterday that would cut spending by more than $5 trillion over the next decade.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

SENATOR MIKE ENZI: This balanced budget delivers to hard-working taxpayers a more effective, efficient and accountable government which supports Americans when it must and gets out of the way when it should.

HORSLEY: The House budget plan calls for even deeper spending cuts. It would also replace Medicare with a voucher-type system for future retirees. The two GOP budgets differ in their approach to military spending, which is likely to be a source of friction within the Republican Party. But both budgets call for a repeal of Obamacare. The president argues that would be a mistake. He notes the number of uninsured Americans has dropped by more than a third since the law took effect, while per capita health care spending is now growing at the slowest rate in half a century.

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OBAMA: Health care was the single biggest factor driving up our projected deficits. It's now the single biggest factor driving them down.

HORSLEY: The federal deficit is less than 3 percent of the overall economy, a level many analysts consider manageable. Still, congressional Republicans are determined to see further reductions in red ink, even as they resist any increase in taxes.

With Republicans now in control of both the House and Senate, there's likely to be a lot more fiscal wrangling with the White House. Obama told his seventh-grade questioner yesterday about another piece of advice he'd give his 2009 self - start dying your hair early. After a year in office, he joked, it was already too late. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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