WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama challenged thenation'svested interests to a legislative duel Saturday, saying he willfight to change health care, energy and education in dramatic waysthat will upset the status quo.
"The system we have now might work for the powerful andwell-connected interests that have run Washington for far toolong," Obama said in his weekly radio and video address. "But Idon't. I work for the American people."
He said the ambitious budget plan he presented Thursday willhelp millions of people, but only if Congress overcomes resistancefrom deep-pocket lobbies.
"I know these steps won't sit well with the special interestsand lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business,and I know they're gearing up for a fight," Obama said, usingtough-guy language reminiscent of his predecessor, George W. Bush."My message to them is this: So am I."
The bring-it-on tone underscored Obama's combative side as heprepares for a drawn-out battle over his tax and spendingproposals. Sometimes he uses more conciliatory language andstresses the need for bipartisanship. Often he favors lofty,inspirational phrases.
On Saturday, he was a full-throated populist, casting himself asthe people's champion confronting special interest groups that caremore about themselves and the wealthy than about the averageAmerican.
Some analysts say Obama's proposals are almost radical. But hesaid all of them were included in his campaign promises. "It isthe change the American people voted for in November," he said.
Nonetheless, he said, well-financed interest groups will fightback furiously.
Insurance companies will dislike having "to bid competitivelyto continue offering Medicare coverage, but that's how we'll helppreserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs," thepresident said. "I know that banks and big student lenders won'tlike the idea that we're ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, butthat's how we'll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make collegemore affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won't like usending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that's how we'll helpfund a renewable energy economy."
Passing the budget, even with a Democratic-controlled Congress,"won't be easy," Obama said. "Because it represents real anddramatic change, it also represents a threat to the status quo inWashington."
Obama also promoted his economic proposals in a video message toa group meeting in Los Angeles on "the state of the black union."
"We have done more in these past 30 days to bring aboutprogressive change than we have in the past many years," thepresident in remarks the White House released in advance. "We areclosing the gap between the nation we are and the nation we can beby implementing policies that will speed our recovery and build afoundation for lasting prosperity and opportunity."
Congressional Republicans continued to bash Obama's spendingproposals and his projection of a $1.75 trillion deficit this year.
Almost every day brings another "multibillion-dollar governmentspending plan being proposed or even worse, passed," said Sen.Richard Burr, R-N.C., who gave the GOP's weekly address.
He said Obama is pushing "the single largest increase infederal spending in the history of the United States, while drivingthe deficit to levels that were once thought impossible."