He was about to dine with couples who paid $71,600 for the privilege, but that did not prevent President Obama from tweaking Mitt Romney at a Connecticut fundraiser today for tax policies that the president says would serve the rich at the expense of the poor.
“It’s like Robin Hood in reverse,” Obama told an audience at Stamford. “It’s Romney-hood.”
According to a pool report — the fundraiser was closed to the general press — the line generated laughter and applause at the Stamford Marriott. Obama was in Connecticut for two fundraisers for his re-election campaign.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes and Chris Murphy were among the hundreds in the ballroom, where the price of admission was $500.
The more expensive event was a dinner at the Westport home of movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Tickets cost $35,800 each.
The president was not the only politician employing populist rhetoric. Republicans spent the day drawing attention to the fact that the fundraiser caused the state to close a public beach in Westport, so it could be used as staging area for the president’s visit.
“It is the arrogance of power and crass partisanship to shut down Sherwood Isle at the height of the summer vacation season and dislodge all these families,” said House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk. “It is outrageous that the Democrats turn Sherwood Isle into a personal heliport for the president so that he can be ferried back and forth to hobnob with millionaires and billionaires for the day.”
Below are White House transcripts of the president’s remarks at both events.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Well, it is wonderful to be back in Connecticut. A couple of people I want to give a shout-out to — first of all, your outstanding Governor, Dan Malloy, is here. (Applause.) Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman is here. (Applause.) Senator Dick Blumenthal is here. (Applause.) A outstanding trio of Congressmen — Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, Chris Murphy. (Applause.) And please give it up for Ben Harper. (Applause.) We are so grateful to him.
It was my birthday this weekend. (Applause.) I was 51 years old. Michelle says I don’t look a day over 50. (Laughter.) She was pointing out, I think in the last week you’ve gotten more gray hair. (Laughter.) But that’s okay.
Obviously I know that all of you have been spending most of this week rooting for our unbelievable athletes in London. (Applause.) On the flight over here, I’ve got to admit I was spending most of my time watching U.S. women’s soccer. They won, by the way, 4 to 3 — (applause.) It was a tight game. And it’s just an extraordinary reminder of the fact that even when we’ve got political differences, when it comes to our love of this country and the incredible people who represent us, we are unified. And it’s a very gratifying feeling during the course of a political season, where sometimes the fact that we are unified around so many important things gets hidden.
But unless you’ve been able to hide from your television, or your cable is broke — (laughter) — you are aware that there is a pretty intense campaign going on right now. And it’s a healthy thing because that’s what our democracy is about. Sometimes it’s messy and folks get excited. But in this election in particular, the reason that there is such an intensity is because the choice that we face in November could not be bigger. Could not be bigger.
It’s not just a choice between two candidates or two political parties. More than any election in recent memory, it is a choice about two fundamentally different paths for our country. And the direction that we choose — the direction that you choose when you step into that ballot box in November — in that voting booth — I guess you shouldn’t step into the ballot box. (Laughter.) Step into the voting booth. That’s probably illegal. (Laughter.) The impact that you’ll have not just on our lives, but on our kids and our grandkids for decades to come is remarkable.
Now, four years ago, we came together — and it wasn’t just Democrats, we had independents and Republicans coming together to restore that basic bargain that made America an economic superpower, made us the most prosperous economy in the world. And it’s a bargain that says if you work hard in this country, then your work should be rewarded. It’s an idea that says if you put in enough effort, if you act responsibly, then you can find a job that pays the bills, and you can afford a home that you can call our own, and you can count on health care if you get sick, and put away a little bit for retirement, and most importantly, give your kids the kind of education that allows them to dream even bigger and do even better than you did.
That’s at the core of what America is about. That’s the American promise. And we understood that restoring it wouldn’t be easy. We had gone through a decade in which jobs were being shipped overseas and job growth was sluggish and incomes were falling even as the costs of health care and college and gas and groceries were going up. So we understood that it was going to take more than one year, or one term, or even one President to meet these challenges.
And that was before the middle class was hammered by the worst economic crisis in most of our lifetimes — a crisis that robbed many of our friends and neighbors of the security of a job, or their homes, or their savings. That crisis pushed the American Dream even further out of reach for too many working people.
But one of the great privileges of being President is you get to see Americans from every walk of life, and one consistent theme is we don’t buckle, we don’t break, we’re tougher than tough times. And so over the last three and a half years, we have devoted ourselves to bringing this country back to where it needs to be.
And we’re not there yet, but we created 4.5 million new jobs and 500,000 in manufacturing. (Applause.) An auto industry that was on its knees has come roaring back. We’ve said that we’ve got to make college more accessible, and been able to provide millions of more young people access to higher education. We made sure that in a country as remarkable as ours that nobody is going to go bankrupt when they get sick. (Applause.)
And through all these battles, through all these struggles, understanding that we’re not where we need to be, what we’ve constantly been able to affirm is that this economic crisis didn’t change our character. It didn’t change who we are. It didn’t change what made us great. It didn’t change our determination and our resilience.
And what also hasn’t changed is what we came together for in 2008. It’s just made our mission that much more urgent. We are here to build an economy where work pays off so that no matter what you look like or where you come from, you can make it here if you try. That’s what this campaign is about. (Applause.) That’s what this campaign is about, Connecticut, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States. (Applause.)
And we understand there are no quick fixes or easy solutions to these challenges, but we know that we have the capacity to meet them. We’ve got the best workers in the world. We’ve got the best entrepreneurs in the world. We have the best scientists and the best researchers in the world. We have the best universities and the best colleges in the world. We are a young nation, and we’ve got the greatest diversity of talent and ingenuity from every corner of the globe. (Applause.) So, no matter what the naysayers may say, no matter how dark the picture they try to paint, there’s not another country on Earth that wouldn’t gladly trade places with the United States of America. (Applause.)
So what’s standing in our way right now is not the lack of technical solutions to the deficit or to education or to energy. What’s standing in our way is our politics — the uncompromising view that says we should be going back to the old, top-down economics that got us into this mess in the first place. (Applause.)
And I don’t exaggerate when it comes to how my opponent and his allies in Congress view this economy. They believe — and this is the sum total of their economic package — that if we give more tax breaks to some of the wealthiest Americans, and we get rid of regulations that keep our air clean and our water clean and make sure consumers aren’t getting cheated and make sure insurance companies aren’t taking advantage of you, that somehow prosperity will rain down on everybody. That’s their theory. That’s the path they’re proposing. That’s where they will take us if we [sic] win. It is on Mr. Romney’s website. It is in the form of a bill that passed through the House of Representatives by this Republican Congress.
In fact, the entire centerpiece of Mitt Romney’s economic plan is a new $5 trillion tax cut. And we’ve known for a while that a lot of this tax cut would go to the wealthiest 1 percent of all households. But just last week, an independent, non-partisan organization crunched the numbers. They went through what would it mean to add a $5 trillion tax cut. Just to give you a sense of perspective here — our entire defense budget is about — it’s over $500 billion a year, but it’s less than $600 billion.
So you’re talking about each year, a tax cut that’s equivalent of our defense budget for the next 10 years. And what this policy center did was — it just ran the numbers — if you wanted to actually pay for that, what would that mean. And they determined that Governor Romney’s plan would effectively raise taxes on middle-class families with children by an average of $2,000 — to pay for this tax cut. Not to reduce the deficit. Not to invest in things that grow our economy, like education or roads or basic research. He’d ask the middle class to pay more in taxes so that he could give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: It’s like Robin Hood in reverse. (Laughter.) It’s Romney Hood. (Applause.)
And if this sounds like an idea that’s difficult to explain or sell to the American people, you’d be right. (Laughter.) So there were all kinds of different gymnastics being performed by the Romney campaign last week. They have tried to sell us this trickle-down, tax cut fairy dust before. And guess what — it does not work. It didn’t work then; it won’t work now. It’s not a plan to create jobs. It’s not a plan to reduce our deficit. And it is not a plan to move our economy forward.
We do not need — I do not need a tax cut. We need tax cuts for working Americans. We need tax cuts for families who are trying to raise kids, and keep them healthy, and send them to college, and keep a roof over their heads.
So that’s the choice in this election. That’s what this is about. That’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States. (Applause.)
See, I’ve got a different plan for America. Four years ago, I promised to cut middle-class taxes — that’s exactly what I’ve done, by a total of about $3,600 for the typical family. (Applause.) So I want to keep taxes exactly where they are for the first $250,000 of everybody’s income. If your family makes under $250,000 — like 98 percent of Americans do — you will not see your income taxes increase by a single dime next year.
And if you’re fortunate enough — as many of you are, as I am — to be in the other 2 percent, you still keep the tax cut on the first $250,000 of your income. All we’re asking is that, after that, you contribute a little bit more so we can pay down our deficit and invest in things like education that will help us grow. (Applause.)
And by the way, we’re going to make sure that government does its part. Government is going to have to cut away the spending that we don’t need. We’ve already cut a trillion dollars’ worth of spending that wasn’t necessary, and we can find more. Members of Congress here are committed to doing that. We can’t waste taxpayer dollars. But we’re not going to pay for a massive new tax cut for folks who don’t need it by gutting investments that have always kept the middle class strong.
We’re going to have to make sure that college is affordable. We’ve got to make sure that we’re rebuilding our infrastructure. We’ve got to make sure that we’re investing in science and technology in this competitive 21st century economy. We’ve got to make sure that Medicare is there for our seniors after they’ve worked hard all their lives. And we can do all that simply by having folks like me go back to the rates that we paid under Bill Clinton. And if you remember, that was when the economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and a whole lot of millionaires to boot. (Applause.)
The interesting thing when you look at our economic history is, when a construction worker has got some money in his pocket, he goes out and buys a new car. When a teacher is getting paid a decent wage, that means they can maybe take their family to a restaurant once in a while. And when the middle class is doing well, then business is doing well, and those at the top do well. Everybody does well. That’s what we believe in — an economy that grows from the middle class out and the bottom up. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for a second term as President. (Applause.)
But, look, we’re going to have — that’s just on tax policy and fiscal issues. There are going to be contrasts throughout this election. When the American auto industry was on the brink of collapse, more than 1 million jobs on the line, Governor Romney said, let’s “let Detroit go bankrupt.” I refused to turn back on a great American industry and its workers. We bet on America’s workers. Three years later, the American auto industry has come roaring back. (Applause.)
So I want to make sure that this happens not just in the auto industry; let’s replicate that. There are manufacturing opportunities — advanced manufacturing, high-tech manufacturing opportunities all across America, because I want those jobs here — not in China, not in Germany. I want them in Connecticut. I want them in the United States of America. (Applause.)
And so Governor Romney extolls his experience in the private sector, investing in companies that have been called “pioneers” of outsourcing. I believe in insourcing. I want to give — I want to take away tax breaks for companies shipping jobs overseas. Let’s give them to companies that are investing right here in Connecticut, investing in American workers. (Applause.)
I said in 2008 I wanted to end the war in Iraq — we ended it. (Applause.) I said we’d go after bin Laden — we got him. (Applause.) I said that we would blunt the Taliban’s momentum, and now we can begin transitioning our troops home. And so, after a decade of war, I think it’s time to do some nation-building here at home. (Applause.)
Our freedom was secured because of the courage and selflessness of our men and women in the United States armed forces. I want to make sure that they don’t have to scramble for a job when they come home. I want to make sure that we’re investing in a Veterans Job Corps that can give them a chance to go back to work. I want to make sure that they’re getting the services that they need. We can take half the savings that we spent on war, and let’s use it to do some nation-building here in the United States of America. Let’s rebuild America — rebuilding schools, rebuilding roads, hiring our veterans, making sure they get the care that they have earned. That’s the choice in this election. (Applause.)
Because Mr. Romney has got a different idea — he said me ending the war in Iraq was “tragic.” (Laughter.) I disagree. (Laughter.) That’s the choice in this election.
Connecticut, I’m running to make sure that America once again is a leader in educating our kids and training our workers. I want to help our schools hire and reward the best teachers, especially in math and science. (Applause.) Let’s give 2 million more Americans the chance to go to community colleges and get the skills that local businesses are looking for right now. We’ve already done a lot to make millions of young people in a better place to be able to go to college, but I want to also work to help colleges and universities bring the cost of tuition down once and for all. Higher education cannot be a luxury; it is a economic necessity that every American should be able to afford. (Applause.)
When it comes to the housing market, Mr. Romney says just let foreclosures bottom out. I don’t think that’s a solution — I think that’s the problem. I want to give every American homeowner the opportunity to take advantage of historically low rates and refinance their homes, save $3,000, use that money to recirculate in the economy. (Applause.) That will help the entire economy grow and improve the housing market.
I’m running because I continue to believe that no American should go broke because they get sick. Health care was the right thing to do. The Supreme Court has spoken. We are implementing it now. (Applause.) That’s a choice in this election.
I believe it was the right thing to do to end “don’t ask, don’t tell.” You shouldn’t have to hide who you love to serve the country that you love. (Applause.) That’s a choice in this election.
I don’t believe that it is Congress’s job to take away the decisions around women’s health. I think women should be in charge of their own health care. That’s a choice in this election. (Applause.)
So all these things, Connecticut — whether it’s bringing manufacturing and construction jobs back, or protecting your health care, or making sure our children get the best education they deserve, or making sure that veterans get the care that they have earned — all these things that help make up a middle-class life, they all tie together. They’re all central to the idea that made this country great — the promise that if you work hard, you can get ahead. The same promise our parents and our grandparents passed down to us. And now it’s our responsibility to make sure that our children and grandchildren can enjoy that same American Dream.
And over the course of the next three months, the other side is going to spend more money than we have ever seen on ads that basically say the same thing you’ve been hearing for months. They know their economics theory won’t sell, so their ads are going to say the same thing over and over again, which is: The economy is not where it needs to be and it’s Obama’s fault. I mean, there will be variations on the theme, but it’s basically — (laughter) — that’s basically their message.
And I’m not exaggerating. Their strategists admit it. They say, you know, we’re not going to put out any plans. We’re just going to see if this works. (Laughter.) Now, that may be a plan to win the election, but that’s not a plan to create jobs. That’s not a plan to grow the economy or revive the middle class.
They don’t have that plan. I do. (Applause.) So, Connecticut, let me say this. When you’re talking to your friends and your neighbors, and they’re saying, well, I don’t know, I’m not sure — you just tell them, look, if you believe that a plan to just cut taxes and eliminate regulations is going to make our economy stronger, even if it means gutting investments in education or infrastructure or science, if you want an America that essentially sets our sights lower, then by all means send these folks to Washington for the next few years.
THE PRESIDENT: But you need to ask your friends and your neighbors, you need to ask them wouldn’t you be better off if we kept fighting for the things that always made us strong — (applause) — if we fight to make sure more of our students can afford to go to college? Won’t we be better off if we kept developing new sources of American energy? Won’t we be better off if we invest in manufacturing and we’re selling goods around the world stamped with three proud words: Made in America? Five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, won’t we be better off if we had the courage to keep working and to keep fighting and moving forward — understanding that it’s not easy — change has never been easy. I told you in 2008, it wasn’t easy. And I told you I’m not a perfect man. I told you I wouldn’t be a perfect President. But I always said that I’d tell you what I thought and where I stood. And, most of all, I told you I would wake up every single day, fighting as hard as I knew how to make your lives a little bit better. (Applause.)
And, Connecticut, I have kept that promise. I’ve kept that promise, because I still believe in you. And if you still believe in me, and you’re willing to stand with me, and knock on some doors for me, make some phone calls with me, work hard and organize and mobilize with me for the next three months, we will finish what we started in 2008, and we will show the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. (Applause.) Well, it is wonderful to be here. And there are just a couple of people I want to acknowledge. First of all, obviously Harvey and Georgina have just been great friends and have done so much for us — not just in this election, but in the previous one. A couple of other people who I want to mention — your Governor, Dan Malloy, is here, who’s doing outstanding work here in Connecticut. (Applause.)
I want to thank Anne Hathaway for taking the time to host us. She’s spectacular. (Laughter.) And I did get a chance to see Batman. (Laughter.) And she was the best thing in it. (Laughter.) That’s just my personal opinion. Aaron Sorkin, who writes the way every Democrat in Washington wished they spoke. (Laughter and applause.) Aaron, thank you.
And Joanne Woodward — what a treat this is. Joanne and Paul were not only I think what was best about American film, but also just embodied the American spirit in so many ways. And their love story and the way they took so many people under their wing and helped so many people I think made them something more important than just folks in film. And for her to be here, what a great treat that is. So thank you so much for taking the time. (Applause.) Thank you.
Now, you know, in these kind of intimate settings, I usually don’t make a long speech because what I want to do is have a conversation. And so let me just say a few things at the top.
I’ll give you a sense of the kind of season we’re in. Jim Messina, my campaign manager, tells this story. He was at an event like this, and there was a young couple; they had a four-year-old boy, cute as can be. And during this campaign event, there was a picture of me there. And so the parents, very proudly, prompt the son, “Who is that?” And he says, “That’s Barack Obama.” And they say, “Well, and what does Barack Obama do?” And he thinks for a second, and he says, “Barack Obama approves this message.” (Laughter and applause.)
Now, that speaks to the state of affairs in politics today. (Laughter.) Unless you have — you don’t have a TV set or your cable is busted, you’re seeing an awful lot of stuff about politics. And the reason I think there’s so much intensity is because we’ve got a choice that is as stark and as critical as any that we’ve seen in my lifetime — in some ways, more important than 2008.
In 2008, we came together — and it wasn’t just Democrats, it was independents and some Republicans — because we recognized that for over a decade the core idea at the heart of this country was at risk — the idea that if you work hard, that hard work is rewarded; that you can make it here if you try, regardless of what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is.
And for a decade, we had seen job growth slow and we had seen jobs moving overseas, and we had seen people working harder and harder but coming up with less because the costs were going up a lot faster than their wages and their incomes. And this all culminated in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
We have spent three and a half years, a little over three and a half years now, trying to make sure that this country gets back on its feet. And because of the extraordinary resilience of the American people, we have seen signs of recovery — 4.5 million new jobs, half a million new manufacturing jobs, an auto industry that is reinvigorated.
But we didn’t work this hard in 2008 just to get back to where we were in 2007. Our notion was that we needed to rebuild a country where the foundations for people who were willing to act responsibly were there for them either to feel security in the middle class or to climb into the middle class — and maybe do even better. And that means making sure that we have an education system that works — which is why we’ve initiated more aggressive education reform across the country than any President in a very long time; and the reason that we put so much emphasis on making college more affordable for young people.
It meant health care, because in a country this wealthy, we shouldn’t go bankrupt when we get sick. And the Affordable Care Act means that 30 million people will have health insurance, but it also means that people who already have health insurance have a little more security.
We did an event just before we came here, and there was a woman who clearly is doing fine and is well-insured, but she personally thanked me for the health care bill because she said, my husband just got cancer and we weren’t sure whether we were going to hit that $1 million limit on our insurance policy. Well, that limit is no longer allowed under the Affordable Care Act — which means they may not lose their house because of an illness. (Applause.)
It means making investments in science and research that are what made us an economic superpower. It means having a tax code that’s fair so that we bring down our deficit not on the backs of folks who are struggling, but we ask those of us who are — who’ve been incredibly blessed by this country to do a little bit more, understanding that when folks in the middle and the bottom are doing well, everybody does well and the economy grows.
It means a foreign policy that recognizes the force of our example and our ideals and our capacity to engage with countries diplomatically is a complement to our incredible military power. And it’s not a sign of weakness to say that we are going to reach out around the world and engage people.
So we’ve had a lot of work to do over the last three and a half years, and we’re not done. We’re just — we’ve gotten on track, but these gains are reversible. And you’ve got the other party and the other candidate who don’t just want to reverse the gains that we’ve made over the last three and a half years, but in many ways want to reverse gains we’ve made over the last 40, 0r 50, or 60 years.
When you look at their budget, and they say that they want to initiate a $5 trillion tax cut on top of the Bush tax cut, what that functionally means is that either you blow up the deficit by another $5 trillion — which they say is irresponsible — or you’re going to have to eliminate funding for education, for infrastructure, for basic science and research. Medicare is going to be a voucher system, which means that seniors may end up paying thousands of dollars more for care that they were counting on.
When Mitt Romney says he wants to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood I think he means it. When he says that Arizona is a model for how we should deal with immigration, I think that fundamentally misunderstands that we’re a nation of laws but also a nation of immigrants.
So on a whole host of issues, you’ve got very stark differences. And the good news is that you guys are the tie-breaker. You and the American people. And when you walk into that ballot box — or don’t walk into the ballot box. That’s the second time I’ve said this today. (Laughter.) When you walk into the voting booth — it’s illegal, I’m sure, to walk into a ballot box. (Laughter.) When you cast your ballot, you will have the opportunity to determine the course of this country’s direction not just tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now, but probably for decades to come.
And the great privilege of being President is you interact with people from every walk of life, from every corner of the country. And what you discover is the faith that I brought into this office in the American people — their core decency and their values and their resilience and their fundamental fairness — they have never disappointed me. And I’m confident that they won’t this time either, despite the fact that we’ve got all these negative ads raining down on our heads, and super PACs running around with folks writing $10 million checks — because when the American people focus and are paying attention, their instincts are sound and they know what makes this country great.
That’s what we’re going to be fighting for, and we’ve got 90 days to do it. So I hope you guys are onboard. Thank you very much. (Applause.)