President Barack Obama Friday charged that his Republican opponent for the White House and the GOP opposition in Congress are not truly serious about reducing the nation's deficit.
Obama, speaking on a campaign swing through Virginia, said that the present debate about extending tax cuts first enacted under President George W. Bush highlights the inconsistency of Republicans who claim to be focused on reducing the deficit.
Obama favors extending the tax cuts for those earning less than $250,000 per year while letting the tax cuts for top income earners expire at the end of the year.
Republicans, however, have labeled Obama's proposal a plan to raise taxes on small businesses and job creators.
In Virginia, Obama first outlined his proposal to ensure that 98 percent of Americans don't see their taxes increase.
"My attitude was working people were the ones who were hurt most severely by the crisis and, by the way, if they got a tax break, they were most likely to spend that money for necessities and put it back into circulation, and that would do the most for the economy," he said. "The way the law is set up right now, if we do nothing, on January 1st, everybody's taxes go up."
He added, "Now is not the time to raise taxes on the middle class. The economy is still fragile. We're still digging ourselves out of this hole. … Let's say to that 98 percent, your taxes will not go up."
Obama also noted that even those in the higher income tax brackets would still see some benefit from extending those tax increases because the higher tax rates would only impact money they earned above $250,000.
"The holdup is we've got a disagreement on the top 2 percent. The top 2 percent, folks like me, we don't need a tax break," Obama said. "We already benefited from most of the tax cuts over the last decade, so we don't need it, we're least likely to spend it. It's least likely to give a boost to the economy."
He added, "Now, the Republicans disagree with me on this. Mr. Romney disagrees with me on this. And my attitude is, well, that's fine, but let's not hold middle-class folks hostage."
Obama said he welcomed the debate on whether to extend tax cuts for the top income earners, but argued that Congress should act now in the area on which both parties agree.
"In the meantime, let's go ahead and help middle-class families right now," he said. "And so far I have not gotten an okay from the other side on that. And that tells me I guess they're not that serious about deficit reduction."
He added, "If you say you want to bring down the deficit but you're not willing to let tax cuts lapse for the top 2 percent, it tells me you're not serious about deficit reduction."
More than a disagreement on a narrow policy point, Obama said the tax debate highlights the broader philosophical divide between himself and his Republican opponent.
"I believe if the small business person and the teacher, and the construction worker, and the firefighter, and all those folks who put in a hard day's work every day -- if they're doing well, then everybody does well," he said. "That's my vision for America, and that's why I'm running for a second term as President of the United States."
Obama said that his opponents would likely focus on just a single argument, that he had not improved the economy swiftly enough.
"They don't want to talk about what they're going to do; they just want to talk about what hasn't gotten done," he said. "That may be a way to try to win an election, but it's not a plan to create jobs. It's not a plan to strengthen the middle class."
He added, "If you're willing to stand up with me, and knock on doors with me, and make phone calls, and get out and organize, then we'll finish what we started in 2008, and we'll remind the world just why it is that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth."
by RTT Staff Writer
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