Obama Calls for Modest Changes


President tells NPR cuts should allow entitlement programs to “retain [their] integrity.”

Full interview to air Friday at 11 a.m. ET.


July 21, 2011; Washington, D.C. – In an interview airing tomorrow on NPR’s Tell Me More, President Barack Obama defends the importance of maintaining entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare in the ongoing debate over the debt ceiling, while allowing that modest changes to both benefits must be made. Obama tells NPR News: “A lot of the spending cuts that we’re making should be around areas like defense spending as opposed to food stamps. …What is true is that given the rising number of seniors and given the huge escalation in health care costs, that if we don’t structure those programs so that they are sustainable, then it’s going to be hard for the next generation to enjoy those same kinds of benefits. And so we are going to have to make some modest changes that retain the integrity of the program, but make sure that they’re there for years to come. And that’s not even just a deficit problem, that’s a step that even if we were all Democrats up here on Capitol Hill, we’d have to start making to make sure the integrity of those programs are preserved.”

Asked about the delay in reaching a compromise on raising the debt ceiling, and people who question the consequences of not raising it, Obama says: “You’ve got some members of the Republican Party who’ve been down playing the consequences of default. The irony is Ronald Reagan, I think, when he was president, repeatedly talked about how irresponsible it would be to allow the full faith and credit of the United States to be impaired in any kind of way.”

He continues: “I also think, in fairness, that the decisions we’ve got to make right now are tough ones, and nobody likes them. I mean it’s always easier to give people more benefits and cut their taxes than it is to raise more revenue and reduce benefits. What we’ve got to do is to have an honest conversation with each other about each side taking on some of their sacred cows and, frankly, that’s what the American people expect.”

On recent criticism of First Lady Michelle Obama ordering a high calorie meal, despite her nutrition and fitness initiatives, Obama says: “Michelle doesn’t take that too seriously. Michelle knows that – well, let me put it this way, Michelle’s never hid the fact that her favorite food is french fries, or that she’s going to have a burger once and awhile. The whole point that she’s been making – which is common sense and so this should be a non-issue – is how do we make sure that our kids in particular have balanced meals on a regular basis?”

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