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Transcript: President Barack Obama

The president’s remarks and Q&A session with AARP members

President Barack Obama: Now, my opponents have pledged to repeal these savings and benefits in their first day on the job, which means billions in new profits for insurance companies, but also would mean immediately increased costs for seniors and would bankrupt the Medicare trust fund in just four years. And what would they replace it with? Their plan replaces guaranteed Medicare benefits with a voucher that wouldn’t keep up with costs.

And when they tell you that their plan lets you keep your doctor, they’re leaving out one thing — and that’s the facts. A new study says that under their plan, if just 5 percent of seniors switch to private plans, 40 percent of doctors who currently take Medicare would stop accepting it. So think about that. Millions of seniors would be forced to change doctors.

I don’t consider this approach bold or particularly courageous, I just think it’s a bad idea. No American should ever spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and the dignity that they have earned.

Now, we do have to reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’re going to do it by reducing the costs of care — not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more while we’re giving millionaires and billionaires a massive new tax cut.

And when it comes to Social Security, we’ve got to keep the promise of Social Security by taking responsible steps to strengthen it, not by turning it over to Wall Street. The last time the other side was in charge, my opponent’s running mate wrote a bill that would have privatized Social Security. And after what happened on Wall Street just four years ago, does anybody actually think that’s a good idea?

Most seniors rely on Social Security for most of their income. It keeps 20 million Americans out of poverty each and every year. And while it’s not the cause of today’s deficits, we do need to strengthen the program for the coming decades. And that means folks on both sides need to come together around a balanced plan.

My opponent claims that to pay for a new $5 trillion tax cut skewed towards the very top, he’d just close tax loopholes for the very wealthy. But independent experts say there’s no way to do that without also cutting deductions that the middle class relies on, and that includes taxing things like Social Security benefits. And this could mean higher taxes for seniors on Social Security, including taxing benefits for seniors who make less than $32,000 a year for the first time ever. Nearly 30 million seniors could see their taxes go up by hundreds of dollars.

So I want you all to know at AARP I’m not going to let that happen. My plan calls for both parties to come together and take responsible steps to preserve Social Security for the long run. And we’ll do it in a way that ensures a lifetime of hard work is rewarded with dignity and security for generations to come.

So you guys have a big choice in this election and these are the paths — the two paths our country can take. We can spend trillions of dollars on tax cuts targeted towards the wealthiest Americans, which could result in cuts to benefits that you’ve worked a lifetime to earn. Or we can take a balanced approach to invest in the middle class and strengthen Medicare and Social Security for you and your children and your grandchildren. That’s the choice in this election and that’s why I’m asking for your vote.

So thanks so much, AARP, for having me. And with that, Jane, I’m ready to take some questions.

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