President Obama calls on Congress to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class
WASHINGTON -- President Obama called on Congress Monday to extend Bush-era tax cuts for middle-class families making less than $250,000 a year, but not for the wealthiest Americans --pitting himself against Republicans who would like the extension to apply to everyone.
Obama spoke from the East Room of the White House following Friday’s disappointing jobs report in an effort to reframe a tight election against presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
“Our biggest challenge right now isn’t just to reclaim all the jobs we lost to the recession, it’s to reclaim the security so many middle-class Americans have lost in the last decade,” said Obama, flanked by middle-class families and small-business owners. “What’s holding us back from meeting these challenges … it is a stalemate in this town, in Washington, about two very different views about which direction to go in as a country.”
Nowhere is that more pronounced than on the issue of taxes, said Obama, hammering home his campaign’s original message of tax fairness and protecting and strengthening the middle class.
“That’s why I believe it’s time to let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, folks like myself, to expire,” Obama said. “And by the way, I might feel differently -- it’s not like I like to pay taxes -- if we were still in surplus.”
But given the national deficit, the country can not afford to extend the tax cuts for everyone, a move Obama said would cost $1 trillion over the next decade.
If Congress fails to act, Obama said, the 98 percent of American families who make less than $250,000 a year would see their taxes go up by about $2,200 starting in January 2013 -- a “big blow to working families” and a “drag on the entire economy.”
Romney’s campaign characterized Obama’s announcement as a bid to raise taxes following the worst job creation quarter in two years.
“President Obama’s response to even more bad economic news is a massive tax increase,” said Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman. “It just proves again that the president doesn’t have a clue how to get America working again and help the middle class. . . . Unlike President Obama, Governor Romney understands that the last thing we need to do in this economy is raise taxes on anyone.”
Obama said Congress should immediately pass the middle-class tax cut extension because it’s one area both Republicans and Democrats agree on -- and save the debate over tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans for after the election.
“Let’s agree to do what we agree on,” Obama said. “Let’s not hold the vast majority of Americans and our entire economy hostage while we debate the merits of another tax cut for the wealthy . . . Right now our priority has to be giving middle-class families and small businesses the security they deserve.”Tracy Jan can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeTracyJan.