In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said a series of harmful budget cuts have taken effect because Republicans in Congress refused to compromise to close tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans, and hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs or have their pay cut as a result.
The president called on Congress to replace the cuts with a "balanced approach" that reduces the deficit while making "smart investments" to grow the U.S. economy.
"On Friday, I met with leaders of both parties in Congress to try and find a way forward in light of the severe budget cuts -- known in Washington as 'the sequester' -- that have already started to inflict pain on communities across the country.
"These cuts are not smart. They will hurt our economy and cost us jobs. And Congress can turn them off at any time -- as soon as both sides are willing to compromise," Obama said.
"As a nation, we've already fought back from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, and we'll get through this, too. But at a time when our businesses are finally gaining some traction, hiring new workers, bringing jobs back to America -- the last thing Washington should do is to get in their way. That's what these cuts to education, research, and defense will do. It's unnecessary. And at a time when too many of our friends and neighbors are still looking for work, it's inexcusable.
"Beginning this week, businesses that work with the military will have to lay folks off. Communities near military bases will take a serious blow. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who serve their country -- Border Patrol agents, FBI agents, civilians who work for the Defense Department -- will see their wages cut and their hours reduced.
"This will cause a ripple effect across the economy. Businesses will suffer because customers will have less money to spend. The longer these cuts remain in place, the greater the damage. Economists estimate they could eventually cost us more than 750,000 jobs and slow our economy by over one-half of one percent.
Obama said "none of this is necessary" and blamed Republicans for choosing this outcome over closing "a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit."
"Just this week, they decided that protecting special interest tax breaks for the well-off and well-connected is more important than protecting our military and middle-class families from these cuts. ...
"Now, I know there are Republicans in Congress who would actually rather see tax loopholes closed than let these cuts go through. And I know there are Democrats who'd rather do smart entitlement reform than let these cuts go through. There's a caucus of common sense. And I'm going to keep reaching out to them to fix this for good.
"Because the American people are weary of perpetual partisanship and brinksmanship. This is America, and in America, we don't careen from one manufactured crisis to another. We make smart choices. We plan. We prioritize. So I'm going to push through this paralysis and keep fighting for the real challenges facing middle-class families. I'm going to keep pushing for high-quality preschool for every family that wants it, and make sure the minimum wage becomes a wage you can live on. I'm going to keep pushing to fix our immigration system, repair our transportation system, and keep our children safe from gun violence," Obama said.