By Ian Swanson - 12/14/12 11:49 AM EST
President Obama said his economic policies are "so mainstream" he'd be considered a moderate Republican in the 1980s.
In a Thursday interview with a Miami-based local television station, Obama said he thinks few people believe he wants to impose socialism on the country.
"I mean, what I believe in is a tax system that is fair," he continued. "I don't think government can solve every problem. I think that we should make sure that we're helping young people go to school. We should make sure that our government is building good roads and bridges and hospitals and airports so that we have a good infrastructure.
"I do believe that it makes sense that everyone in America, as rich as this country is, shouldn't go bankrupt because someone gets sick, so the things I believe in are essentially the same things your viewers believe in," Obama said.
Conservatives frequently raise concern that Obama has turned the U.S. toward socialism, pointing to Obama's healthcare law and the stimulus bill the president championed shortly after taking office.
After Obama won reelection, former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Fox News said his win would be catastrophic for the U.S. economy because "Obama's socialist policies" will "destroy America's working class as he outsources opportunities."
Obama made the latest comments in response to a question about why he did well in the election with Cuban-American voters in Florida who could be concerned about the U.S. moving toward socialism because of their experiences with Fidel Castro.
"I don't know that there are a lot of Cubans or Venezuelans, Americans who believe that," Obama said.
The president is locked in negotiations with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and congressional Republicans over a deficit-reduction package, and is demanding tax hikes on wealthier households. Republicans want Obama to agree to deeper spending cuts and reforms to entitlement programs.
"We can responsibly cut our deficit while at the same time doing those things that we need to grow," Obama said Thursday. "But we can't do it if people like me aren't willing to pay a little bit more in taxes.
"You know, we could balance our deficit just by cutting our way out of our problem. But that would mean that senior citizens would pay a lot more for Medicare," he continued. "It would mean that young people who are currently going to college might not get the same financial aid. And my attitude is: They need more help than I do, and that's why we need a balanced approach."
Here's a full transcript of the interview with Obama:
AMA: What do you say to Americans who are worried, but at the same time do not really understand what the fiscal cliff is? Do you really believe there will be a resolution before the year ends?
PBO: Well, first of all, things are not that complicated. Right now, if Congress does nothing, on January 1, taxes go up for every American family. And for the average middle-class family, you're looking at $2,000 out of your pocket. And that means $200 billion in consumer spending that suddenly goes away because it's being taxed. Obviously, it's a huge strain on families that are struggling in Florida or elsewhere. And so what we've said is our first step in resolving the fiscal cliff is to do something the Democrats and Republicans both say they want to do, which is, "Don't let taxes go up for middle-class families." The Senate has already passed that bill. Democrats in the House are ready to pass that bill, and all we need is House Republicans to go ahead and say, "You're right. For 98 percent of Americans, for all incomes under $250,000, your taxes shouldn't go up." That would take away a lot of the anxiety for most families. And we want to make sure that the families tell their story about what $2,000 would mean to them so we're -- if you've got a Twitter account, you can go to #My2k that allows you to tell your story, we collected 300,000 so far, but what we also need to do to reduce our deficit in a responsible way, that means revenue, asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more taxes, protecting middle-class families. Then cutting out some programs that we don't need, passing responsible spending cuts. And I hope that we can get this resolved. I'm prepared to do it and put forward a plan that is balanced. That's what most Americans want. We just need, you know, for Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans to step up and say they are ready to get going.
AMA: Mr. President, Latinos come to the U.S. in order to achieve the American dream; however those immigrants as well as younger generations will inherit an extraordinary amount of debt. What do you think?
PBO: Well, I think that's why we need a responsible debt-reduction package. And we can do this without hurting our investment in things like education, protecting our seniors and Medicare. We can responsibly cut our deficit while at the same time doing those things that we need to grow. But we can't do it if people like me aren't willing to pay a little bit more in taxes. You know, we could balance our deficit just by cutting our way out of our problem. But that would mean that senior citizens would pay a lot more for Medicare. It would mean that young people who are currently going to college might not get the same financial aid. And my attitude is: They need more help than I do, and that's why we need a balanced approach.
AMA: Mr. President, regarding the past election, were you surprised that a lot more Cuban-Americans voted for you than in the previous election and to what do you attribute that?
PBO: Well, I obviously am very pleased to have won Florida although I do want to get the results sooner next time. So that's something I want -
AMA: But the Cuban American vote.
PBO: -- Yes, we have seen a steady increase in support for the -- in the Cuban-American community since 2008. I think the outreach that we've done, some of the steps we've taken, for example, to allow remittances back to Cuba while still holding a firm line that we have to make sure that political prisoners are freed and that freedom of speech and religion takes place inside of Cuba. I think that that approach, that practical common-sense approach to a Cuba policy is something that the Cuban-Americans definitely care about. And I also think the Cuban-American community understands, the same way most Americans understand, that we're a nation of immigrants, that we should embrace our diversities, that we should pass comprehensive immigration reform, that we should make sure that our economic policy is focused on middle-class families, and not just those at the very top. So a lot of the issues that are important to all Americans are also important to Cuban-Americans.
AMA: One issue that Cuban-Americans are worried about is, they believe that you favor a socialist model for our country. Cubans and Venezuelans especially because of what they have gone through. What do you think of that?
PBO: I don't know that there are a lot of Cubans or Venezuelans, Americans who believe that. The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican. I mean, what I believe in is a tax system that is fair. I don't think government can solve every problem. I think that we should make sure that we're helping young people go to school. We should make sure that our government is building good roads and bridges and hospitals and airports so that we have a good infrastructure. I do believe that it makes sense that everyone in America, as rich as this country is, shouldn't go bankrupt because someone gets sick, so the things I believe in are essentially the same things your viewers believe in.
AMA: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is in Cuba, had surgery and has already named a successor. What message do you have for the Venezuelan people, in Venezuela and Miami, regarding the future of their country without Chavez possibly?
PBO: The most important thing is to remember that the future of Venezuela should be in the hands of the Venezuelan people. We've seen from Chavez in the past authoritarian policies, suppression of dissent. I won't speculate on what the medical condition is, but what our policy is constantly designed to do is to make sure that you have the voices of ordinary Venezuelans expressing themselves that they have freedom, that they're able to if they're working hard to succeed in that country, and we would want to see a strong relationship between our two countries, but we're not going to change policies that prioritize making sure that there's freedom in Venezuela.
AMA: Also, Mr. President, why reach out to the local media. I’m from a local TV station in Miami, why reach out to us?
PBO: One thing that I found is so important during the course of the campaign is that the conversation here in Washington isn't the same as the conversation out in the country. The people are worried about paying their bills, about paying their mortgage, about the quality of their schools, about getting their kids to college, big potholes in roads, flooding, making sure that we have safe streets. And so when I -- whenever I talk to local stations where what I find is the ability to reach more Americans, and in resolving issues like the fiscal cliff here, it's so important that members of Congress hear from people back home. So I'm hoping that if one thing comes out of this -- this interview, I'm hoping that people will watch me and say, "You know what? I want to reach out to my member of Congress and say, 'Compromise. Let's go ahead and get this thing solved. Let's think about the country first and not politics first.'"