Setting the stage for a debate likely to define the fall election, President Obama on Tuesday plans to accuse Republicans of trying to impose a “radical vision” on the nation through a budget plan that would create a form of “social Darwinism” by pitting the poor against the wealthy.

President Barack Obama speaks at the White House in Washington on Monday, April 2, 2012. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

In a speech to an organization of newspaper editors, Obama will assail the budget approved by the Republican-led House last week, which would cut $5.3 trillion over the next decade through deep cuts in entitlements and agency spending.

That plan, drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), faces likely defeat in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But Republicans have sought to use the legislation as a marker to frame the parties’ election-year debate on fiscal issues.

Obama, in his remarks, aims to further accentuate the differences between the parties, using the Ryan plan as a metaphor for a GOP vision for a country that is “antithetical to our entire history” as a land that promises the path to upward mobility for the middle class.

“It’s a Trojan Horse. Disguised as deficit reduction plan, it’s really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It’s nothing but thinly-veiled Social Darwinism,” Obama will say, according to prepared remarks released by the White House. “It’s a prescription for decline.”

Obama has used the phrase “social Darwinism” before, employing it to describe his predecessor George W. Bush’s policies when Obama campaigned to replace him in 2008.

On Monday, White House aides billed the speech as the third in a series of major addresses Obama has used to lay out a populist agenda that calls for government to play an active role in helping build a more equitable society.

The speech to the American Society of News Editors conference in Washington follows the president’s address to ordinary Americans in Osawatomie, Kan., in December, where he invoked the progressive populism of Theodore Roosevelt, and his State of the Union report before Congress in January, where he called for an “economy built to last.” As he did in those two speeches, Obama will sketch out competing visions — one based on a financial structure that helped lead to the Great Recession in 2008 and another that promotes economic growth by focusing on strengthening the middle class.

“In this country, broad-based prosperity has never trickled down from the success of a wealthy few. It has always come from the success of a strong and growing middle class,” Obama intends to say, according to the prepared text. “That’s why studies have shown that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.”

Yet the president also will be mindful not to let Republicans seize the mantle as the party that is serious about long-term deficit reduction. Though the president has pushed for new spending on infrastructure and education, the White House recognizes that the public has been skeptical of ballooning debt.

Obama will blame the deficit primarily on what happened under his predecessor George W. Bush’s watch: “two wars, two massive tax cuts and an unprecedented financial crisis.”

But the president will insist the debt “will have to be paid down.”

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