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Obama assails Ryan budget as ‘thinly veiled social Darwinism’

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Click image to see more photos. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

President Obama on Tuesday denounced the House Republicans' recently-revealed budget plan, saying it would hurt America's working families and seniors. Tuesday's speech was the president's most thorough and direct public reaction to the plan House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., unveiled March 20.

The president, speaking at an Associated Press luncheon attended by editors and publishers, chided congressional Republicans as well as Mitt Romney and "most" of the GOP presidential field for backing the plan. The proposed cuts, Obama said, amount to "thinly veiled social Darwinism."

"Instead of moderating their views even slightly, Republicans running Congress right now have doubled down," Obama said, adding that he believes the proposal is "so far to the right, it makes the Contract with America look like the New Deal."

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He also knocked Republicans' belief in a trickle-down economy—where economic activity of the wealthiest Americans is relied on to boost the overall economy.

The Ryan budget's proposal to make Medicare into a partially privatized voucher system, the president said, would increase health care costs and shift the burden to America's seniors. "It's a bad idea and will ultimately end Medicare as we know it," he said, echoing a frequently used Democratic attack line.

He took pains to cast the current Republican Party as extreme, contrasting its approach with that taken by Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower, who he said both championed government programs as "expressions of the fact we are one nation," rather than "some scheme to redistribute wealth."

"Reagan could not get through a Republican primary today," he said during the question and answer session.

Ryan denounced the president's speech in a statement Tuesday as pure politics, saying Obama continues to shirk responsibility for the economy and remains more focused on his re-election efforts than on offering real solutions:

Like his reckless budgets, today's speech by President Obama is as revealing as it is disappointing: While others lead by offering real solutions, he has chosen to distort the truth and divide Americans in order to distract from his failed record. His empty promises are quickly becoming broken promises — and the American people will hold him accountable for this violation of their trust.

Upon the plan's release, Ryan's proposal was immediately met by Democratic criticism. Republicans have focused on the plan's major fiscal proposals, including eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, reducing the current six individual tax brackets to two—10 percent and 25 percent—and lowering the highest corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent.

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Obama called out Romney by name for backing the plan, poking fun at Romney's word choice of "marvelous" to describe the proposal. "That's a word you don't often hear generally," Obama joked.

The president positioned himself and his party as the champions of the middle-class, saying Republicans and the GOP field are preoccupied with protecting the wealthiest Americans.

"I believe this is a make or break moment for the middle class," Obama said.

Obama's speech Tuesday was a preview of Democrats' 2012 election talking points. He took care to champion his administration's accomplishments, including cutting taxes for small business owners and protecting government services for low-income Americans.

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