MELBOURNE, Florida - President Barack Obama said in an interview partly broadcast Sunday that he would be "more than happy to work with the Republicans" to trim the swelling national debt — as long as they drop their opposition to raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
"You can't reduce the deficit unless you take a balanced approach that says, 'We've got to make government leaner and more efficient,'" the president told CBS's Scott Pelley. "But we've also got to ask people --like me or Gov. Romney, who have done better than anybody else over the course of the last decade, and whose taxes are just about lower than they've been in the last 50 years - to do a little bit more."
Obama said he would be willing to make "some adjustments to Medicare and Medicaid that would strengthen the programs." "The way to do that is to keep health care costs low. It's not to 'voucherize' programs so that suddenly seniors are the ones who are finding their expenses much higher."
That was a reference to Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan. The Republicans have proposed a plan that would transform Medicare by giving the elderly voucher-style payments they could use to purchase health insurance. They say it would rein in runaway health care costs. But Democrats — and the impartial Congressional Budget Office — say it would eventually shift much of the burden of health care costs to the elderly.
"President Obama's latest false attacks are a sign of desperation," Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. Williams charged that Obama had "robbed" Medicare of $716 billion to pay for the health care law popularly known as Obamacare. (Obama's approach does not directly affect benefits — it reduces reimbursements to health care providers and insurance companies.)
Obama is attacking Romney on Medicare because "he can't talk about his record of crushing the middle class and failing to turn the economy around," said Williams.
Obama was to pursue that attack as he wrapped up a two-day bus tour in Florida. (The photo above was snapped as Obama prepared to eat with seniors at the Ossorio Bakery and Cafe while campaigning in Cocoa, Florida.)