By Amanda Litvinov
In his first official speech since his re-election, President Obama called on Congress today to lose no time in finding a balanced approach to deficit reduction that doesn’t rely on cuts that would cause more hardship for students and the middle class.
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“Our work is made that much more urgent because at the end of this year, we face a certain deadline that requires major decisions about how to make our debt smaller,” said the President, referring to automatic, across-the-board cuts that kick in on Jan. 2 if Congress doesn’t agree on a budget.
“The decisions will have a huge impact on the economy and the middle class both now and in the future.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that funding for federal education programs would be cut by more than 8 percent if the across-the-board cuts go into effect. That $4.8 billion reduction would drop education funding to pre-2003 levels, ending or decreasing services for some 9 million students and causing potential job losses for up to 80,000 educators from pre-K to college, according to an NEA analysis.
“Washington is going to make major decisions in the next few weeks and they should be clear on the direction the American people gave them in this week’s election,” said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel.
“Instead of sticking everyday Americans and our nation’s students with the tab, the wealthiest 2 percent must pay their fair share. We cannot preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent by cutting funding for special education and low-income students.”
It’s the approach that Obama championed on the campaign trail and repeated in his remarks today.
“If we’re serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue. And that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes,” said Obama. “That’s the only way we can still afford to train our workers or help our kids pay for college.”
Obama urged the U.S. House of Representatives to act on legislation that would extend tax cuts for the middle class now to prevent further economic uncertainty for those families still struggling to recover from the Great Recession.
“We shouldn’t need long negotiations or drama to solve that part of the problem,” said Obama. “There may be disagreement in Congress over whether or not to raise taxes on folks making over $250,000 a year, but nobody, not Republicans, not Democrats, wants taxes to go up on folks making under $250,000 a year.”
“So let’s not wait. Even as we’re negotiating a broader deficit reduction package, let’s extend the middle class tax cuts right now.”
You can back up the President in his charge to prevent devastating cuts to public education funding. Take the first step today by signing our Kids Not Cuts pledge to urge your members of Congress to stand up for kids and working families.