Obama shared the stage with Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who asked questions of his own before allowing a Facebook employee to pose one. Zuckerberg then read questions submitted by users of Facebook who watched the event through a live online stream.
The president’s at-times combative answers contrasted with the jocular mood of the event. “Even though it’s Facebook, no poking the president,” chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg joked, referring to a Facebook feature. When Obama said wealthy taxpayers such as Zuckerberg and himself should pay their share, the youthful Facebook CEO quipped, “I’m cool with that,” to an outburst of laughter and applause from the audience of high-tech executives, Democratic politicians and Facebook employees.
Obama touted his plans to solve the nation’s fiscal problems by reducing the deficit through spending cuts in areas such as defense. He said he would bring down the nation’s deficit by $4 trillion over a decade, with $2 trillion of that from such spending cuts.
But he remained in disagreement with Republicans that social services such as Medicare and Medicaid should be cut while the government attempts to shore up its fiscal woes.
“Nothing is easier than solving problems on the backs of people who are poor, powerless, or people who don’t have lobbyists or clout,” Obama said.
His appearance at Facebook’s headquarters was the first stop of a West Coast tour to talk up his deficit reduction plan and raise money for his reelection campaign — as well as appeal to the millions of young voters who use the social networking site and were crucial to his election in 2008. (The Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham sits on the board of Facebook.)
The president left the Facebook event for two fundraisers in San Francisco, one at the Masonic Center, open to the paying public, and the other, more exclusive, at the home of Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff, which had a $38,500 entry fee.
The purpose of the trip, which moves on to Reno, Nev., and then Los Angeles on Thursday, is to continue the political drumbeat of the president’s deficit-reduction plan and opposition to Republicans, who are launching similar attacks. Obama was scheduled to attend six fundraisers in the hope of kick-starting the collection of record donations for his run next year.
Republicans said in response that his California speaking tour offered only vague promises.
“House Republicans are the only ones with a detailed plan to preserve Medicare and Medicaid, create jobs and put us on a path to paying down the debt,” said a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). “By comparison, the president has offered little more than campaign speeches. Solving these challenges will require a greater degree of seriousness than the White House has thus far demonstrated.”