Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama Asks to Extend Tax Cuts Middle Class Cuts, Not All, Should Be Preserved, He Says

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Obama Asks to Extend Tax Cuts Middle Class Cuts, Not All, Should Be Preserved, He Says

Article excerpt

President Barack Obama prodded Republicans in Congress to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for people making less than $250,000 a year in the face of lagging economic numbers and GOP determination to preserve the lower rates for all taxpayers.

In his White House remarks Monday, Mr. Obama cast himself as a defender of the middle class, continuing a theme he had emphasized last week while campaigning in Ohio and Pittsburgh. But the upbeat message of that bus tour had to compete with last Friday's jobs report, which found the unemployment rate mired at 8.2 percent.

Citing the persistently high jobless numbers, congressional Republicans offered predictable opposition to the proposal while, from a very different perspective, a prominent liberal critic of the administration said such initiatives were unlikely to gain any political traction in the absence of more positive news on the unemployment front.

"The job numbers overwhelm everything else," said Robert Reich, who was labor secretary in the Clinton administration. "They offer the best and clearest indicator to average people of how the economy is doing and where it is headed."

Monday's call from the president echoed his previous position on the future of the Bush-era tax rates just as the Republicans' response renewed their defense of lower rates for more affluent taxpayers.

In a transcript of a radio interview Monday, distributed by his campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney said of the Obama plan, "That will be another kick in the gut to the middle class of America," arguing that it would hobble "job creators."

"How will these small-business tax hikes create jobs?" House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, demanded in a statement issued by his office. "Even Democratic congressional leaders and [former] President [Bill] Clinton have turned their back on this proposal"

The statement referred to the calls from some congressional Democrats to extend the tax cuts to incomes as high as $1 million and Mr. Clinton's recent statement endorsing at least a temporary across-the-board extension, a move that would preserve the compromise that the Obama administration forged with congressional Republicans in 2010.

Mr. Obama anticipated such criticisms in his statement, making the case that tax cuts for the wealthy do not have the same stimulative effect on the economy as lower taxes for middle-income taxpayers who are more likely to spend rather than save the extra income. He noted that his administration had cut taxes for small businesses 18 times, and contended that 97 percent of small business would not see higher rates under his plan. In his regular briefing later Monday, press secretary Jay Carney said the president would veto legislation that exempted wealthier taxpayers from higher rates.

Mr. Obama argued that since he and the House majority agreed on the need to extend the rates for most taxpayers, they should move on that front and resolve their dispute on higher earners after the politically clarifying impact of the November election. …

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