Before my colleagues in the White House Press Corps and I were escorted to the East Room for President Obama’s news conference today, our conversation focused almost exclusively on just what he might say that was newsworthy at his first solo session with reporters in three months. Would Obama put something on the table he could negotiate with House Republicans over in return for their vote to lift the debt ceiling in August? Would he address the stormy situation in Greece and the possibility that Athens would default on its International Monetary Fund bailout package (which U.S. tax dollars helped underwrite)? Or would he take the opportunity to change his position and support gay marriage, as was widely rumored this morning?
The President did insist his support of action in Libya did not violate the War Powers Resolution, repeated his now-familiar warning about what a failure to lift the debt ceiling would mean, and told the Wall Street Journal about his position on gay marriage: “I’ll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one. That won’t be today!”
But if there was any news that came out of today’s televised conclave, it was that, with the 2012 campaign season upon him, Obama is ratcheting up the rhetoric of class warfare. In so doing, he once again made it clear he wants to lift the tax cuts on America’s highest wage earners that he backed down from last December.
And, in what was probably the most-talked-about remark to come out of the East Room today, the President invoked what is sure to be a catchphrase for him and fellow Democrats to describe those he hopes to make pay higher taxes: “corporate jet owners.”
(This reporter counted Obama using the epithet six times, a strong sign that we will be hearing a lot of invective heaped on “corporate jet owners” as he seeks reelection).
Insisting that “we can’t reduce our deficit without broad support,” the President likened higher taxes paid by top wage-earners to his “difficult conversations with the Pentagon” about cuts in its budget, and his own efforts to “reduce the cost of Medicare and Medicaid.” He even dusted off Republicans “not in office”—by name, former Senators Pete Domenici (N.M.) and Al Simpson (Wyo.)—who have endorsed the idea of higher taxes paid by the highest wage-earners.
“You can’t reduced the deficit without having some revenue in,” exclaimed Obama, never mentioning that there are probably just as many Republicans not in office—say, former Senators Bill Armstrong (Colo.) and Gordon Humphrey (N.H.)—who would argue that raising taxes on top job creators limits their ability to keep building private-sector employment and thus reduces revenue.
It would not hurt for “corporate jet owners” to pay higher taxes, he added, because “they are enjoying the lowest tax rates since before I was born ” and “they can still ride on their corporate jets.”
This reporter can’t speak for all of his colleagues, but for him, it brought back vivid memories of the President’s “snap” session with reporters Dec. 7 of last year. That was when he grudgingly accepted tax cuts for all Americans and was giving in to Republicans because, while he did not believe in “negotiating with hostage takers,” one does so “when the hostage is threatened with harm.”
That phrase didn’t catch on, but, who knows? After today, “corporate jet owners” just might.