(MoneyWatch) In a meeting with CBS MoneyWatch.com and writers from other financial websites in Washington Wednesday, President Obama made the case for his economic agenda, expanded on his ideas for lowering the deficit, and swung back at Mitt Romney's suggestion that the president was "out of touch."
After his primary night sweep Tuesday,. In response, Obama harkened back to his pre-Washington days. The president said that he and Michelle were still paying off student loans nine years after he graduated, and recalled "scraping together the downpayment," for their first home.
"When Michelle and I first met, the car I was driving I think I'd bought for 500 dollars, and it had a big rust spot that I think allowed you to see the road on the passenger side," he recalled. "Our personal finances - having to worry about bills at the end of the month or gas prices or what have you -- weren't really stable until recently. So in a sense I would say Michelle and I have had a quintessentially middle-class or working-class upbringing."
After a pause, he added, "And I would say that's in contrast to some of the presidential candidates who are out there. As for who is in touch and who's not with ordinary folks ... I have no problem with that comparison."
The president was an unannounced speaker at what the administration billed as the White House personal finance online summit. About 18 journalists were invited to talk to Obama's financial advisers and communications department.
In response to a question from MoneyWatch about the nation's growing long-term debt, the president said that the bulk of deficit reduction -- beyond current proposals -- is going to have to come from taxes and trimming healthcare costs. He said his administration had already taken significant steps to bring spending down.
"It's not as if we haven't been doing anything for the last year and a half," he said. Obama said that his budget calls for $1 trillion in deficit reductions over the next 10 years, and that last year's debt ceiling deal provides for another $1 trillion in automatic cuts in January 2013.
Republicans say that Obama's budget spends too much and taxes too much, and fails to make the tough choices to ensure that entitlement programs -- namely Medicare and Social Security -- remain solvent.
"There's not much more room for deficit reduction on the discretionary spending side," he said. "So the entire ball of wax at this point is getting revenue back to levels that are consistent with the kind of government we've had in the 20th Century." Throughout an afternoon of presentations, the president and his aides stressed their argument that taxes on high-earners are at historically low levels.