President Obama argued Republicans are unwilling to negotiate a balanced deal to avoid the impending devastating budget cuts because they believe that "nothing is important enough to raise taxes on wealthy individuals or corporations."
Obama made the remarks during an interview with Reverend Al Sharpton on his radio show "Keepin' It Real" as part of his ongoing campaign to help explain the impending and unpopular sequestration budget cuts to Americans.
"At this point we continue to reach out to Republicans to say 'This is not going to be good for the economy, This is not going to be good for ordinary people,' but I don’t know if they’re going to move, and that’s what we’re gonna have to try to keep pushing for over the next seven, eight days so I think for the public just to know that this will have a serious effect on the overall economy," he said.
That impact will reach beyond the economy as well: furloughed government workers, cuts to head start, meat inspectors, and even airport employees.
He admitted he still does not know if Republicans can be swayed to put together a balanced deal. "Whether or not we can move republicans at this point to do the right thing is what we’re still trying to gauge."
But he clearly knows the vast majority of Americans are on his side on this issue. "This is a major argument obviously we’ve been having for the last three years," he said. "When you look at polling, 75% of the American people agree with me that the way to reduce our deficit sensibly is through a combination of spending cuts and tax revenue and if we spread that out over several years, it wouldn't have a bad impact on our economy.
He even argued his proposed cuts would ultimately help our economy, saying they would "strengthen our economy by putting us on a more stable financial footing."
The president talked at length about the civil rights movement and what Black History month means to him and his family, noting how "powerful" it is when his daughter read about civil rights heroes like Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses.
He honored Rosa Parks as well, talking about what a "powerful moment" it will be when "a seamstress joins some of the titans of our government in her rightful place as someone who helped bring about a more just America."
He also acknowledge how far the community still has to come, calling today "both the best of times and worst of times for large portions of the African-American community."
"I think if you work hard and you have opportunity and you’re able to take advantage of it, you know, the sky’s the limit for African-Americans in our country in a way that just wasn't true a generation ago," he said. "On the other hand the lingering effects of the great recession means there’s a whole lot of communities and a whole lot of people who are still out of work, still struggling."
"And that’s why some of the initiatives I talked about at the State of the Union are so important. We’ve got to make sure that as a society we’re creating ladders of opportunity for every child, not just a few."
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You can listen to Sharpton's full interview with Obama here.