Obama hammers GOP over "radical vision"

President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks at The Associated Press luncheon during the ASNE Convention, Tuesday, April 3, 2012, in Washington.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks at The Associated Press luncheon during the ASNE Convention, Tuesday, April 3, 2012, in Washington.
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Updated: 3:02 p.m. ET

(CBS News) -- Launching a broad argument for his re-election, President Obama on Tuesday painted a stark contrast between his vision for America's future and what he cast as the "radical" vision of the GOP, arguing that America is experiencing a "make-or-break moment," and that the choice between the two parties has never before been so "unambiguously clear."

Mr. Obama, in remarks before top editors at the Associated Press' annual luncheon, criticized Republicans for pursuing the same "trickle down" economic policies that he argued "nearly destroyed" America's financial system.

Echoing the populist theme of his State of the Union speech in January, Mr. Obama said that all Americans, regardless of class, should get a "fair shot" at success, and that everyone should be playing "by the same rules."

On the same day that voters in Maryland, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. will head to the polls to vote in their respective Republican presidential primaries, Mr. Obama lambasted his GOP rivals for touting economic policies he dismissed as "laughable," and which he argued have proven disastrous in light of the 2008 financial crisis.

"We have been having the same argument with folks who keep pedaling some version of trickle-down economics," Mr. Obama said."They keep telling us that if we convert more of our investments in education and research and health care into tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, our economy will grow stronger... We're told that when the wealthy become even wealthier, and corporations are allowed to maximize their profits by whatever means necessary, it's good for America."

"The problem for advocates of this theory is that we've tried their approach on a massive scale. The results of their experiment are there for all to see," Mr. Obama said.

The president singled out GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney over his support for Paul Ryan's controversial 2013 Republican budget plan, and contended that the Republican party has become so conservative that if President Ronald Reagan was running for president today, he "could not get through a Republican primary."

"Ronald Reagan, who as I recall was not accused of being a tax-and-spend socialist, understood repeatedly that when the deficit started to get out of control that for him to make a deal he would have to propose both spending cuts and tax increases," Mr. Obama said. "He did it multiple times. He could not get through a Republican primary today."

The president delivered scathing criticism of the budget plan, which he criticized as a "Trojan horse disguised as deficit reduction plans" and a Republican attempt to "impose a radical vision" on America.

That plan, Mr. Obama argued, is "so far to the right" that it makes Newt Gingrich's 1990s-era Contract with America "look like the New Deal."

"It is thinly veiled social Darwinism," Mr. Obama said, of the proposal. "It is a prescription for decline."

The plan, Mr. Obama argued following a point-by-point examination, is "antithetical" to American values.

"It's antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everybody who's willing to work for it, a place where prosperity doesn't trickle down from the top but grows outward from the heart of the middle class," he said.

The budget plan, which Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled late last month, calls for steep spending limits and dramatic changes to Medicare. It has almost no chance of passing through the Democratic-controlled Senate, but it has swiftly set up an ideological battle between the left and the right over budget priorities as the 2012 election nears.

Asked about his remarks in an interview with CBS News' Chip Reid on Tuesday, Ryan contended that Mr. Obama's criticism of his plan sounded less like a Commander in Chief than a "campaigner in chief."

"What we've become accustomed to with the President, unfortunately and regrettably, is that instead of offering real solutions to fix this country's problems, he offers these baseless partisan attacks," Ryan said.

The Romney campaign also responded to the president's speech, saying in a statement that Mr. Obama's "own budget blueprints" was to blame for the nation's deficit.

"If President Obama is assigning blame for the country's debt and deficits, he should look no further than his own budget blueprints," said Andrea Saul, spokesperson for the Romney campaign. "After piling on trillions of dollars in new debt in his first three years in office, the last thing President Obama is qualified to lecture on is responsible federal spending."