President Barack Obama told Virginia shipyard workers today that the sequester dispute could sink plans for construction of a new U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.
The $9 billion aircraft carrier would likely be built in Virginia by some of the workers listening to his warning.
The new threat was part of a long list of horribles — fewer jobs, job-training opportunities, vaccinations or preschool slots — that Obama claimed would happen if the GOP doesn’t end the sequester by raising taxes.
After suggesting the carrier could be sunk by budgetary battles, Obama called on the shipyard workers to lobby the GOP legislators to stop the budget savings.
He also disavowed GOP proposals to devise less-painful trims to the $3.8 trillion annual budgets.
“When you’re cutting $85 billion in seven months, which represents over a 10 percent cut in the defense budget … there’s no smart way to do that,” he claimed.
Cuts, he said, would force him to decide “do I close funding for the disabled kids or the poor kids, do I close this Navy yard or some other one.”
Families who are forced to cut their budget, he added, don’t say “we’ll stop feeding the little guy here.”
GOP leaders and staffers refuted Obama’s strident claims, and demanded that he prod Senate Democrats to pass a bill with alternative spending cuts.
“We need the president to lead and get off the campaign trail,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said during a press conference shortly after Obama finished his midday speech in the Newport News shipyard.
Under pressure from Obama, the federal government’s debt has risen from $11 trillion in 2009 to $16 trillion in January 2013. The debt expected to reach at least $18.5 trillion by January 2017.
That debt amounts to almost $60,000 per American.
Obama needs to “stop scaring people and work with us,” said Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a vice-chair of the House Republican caucus. “Find me an American family … who hasn’t already cut over 2 percent from their budget at home,” she said in reference to the sequester, which is expected to trim $42 billion from federal spending of roughly $3.8 trillion in 2013.
Many GOP leaders and staffers believe the president is trying to maximize the political pain from the budget trims to force the GOP to raise taxes prior to the 2014 mid-term elections.
“He’s essentially putting government workers on strike in order to pressure Republicans to back down on the cuts,” said a Senate Republican aide.
The workers “are being used as pawns in the president’s smash mouth political strategy to push his big government agenda [and] it is sad he would put people’s ability to provide for their families in jeopardy like that,” he added.
Despite the confident speech and the applause from the mostly African-American audience, Obama is not popular in the shipyard, whose existence depends on U.S. Navy shipbuilding contracts.
“Obama is not seen in Newport News as any sort of savior but rather as the leader of a dysfunctional government that is playing havoc with people’s lives,” said a Feb. 25 Washington Post article, headlined “In Newport News shipyard looming budget cuts create anxiety and anger.”
“‘I don’t think the president ought to come down here,’ said Lynn Hester, 55, whose son-in-law is a Navy veteran. ‘I think the president and the Senate and the Congress have let us down. I think they’ve let down the American people,’” the Post reported.