Just about anyone in the White House press corps could have predicted at least one portion of the brief remarks President Obama made at the White House on Sunday evening. In giving his blessing to the compromise package on the debt ceiling emerging from the Senate, Obama seemed almost certain to once again voice his strong support of a tax increase on America’s highest wage earners—even though that option died on its way to the final debt-ceiling package, thanks to the insistence of House Republicans on no new taxes.
And Mr. Obama did not disappoint, to say the least.
“Now, I’ve said from the beginning that the ultimate solution to our deficit problem must be balanced,” he told reporters and a national television audience from the James Brady Briefing Room. “Despite what some Republicans have argued, I believe that we have to ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share by giving up tax breaks and special deductions.”
In virtually every one of his appearances before the White House press corps and in addresses to the nation during the debate over raising the debt ceiling, this has been the theme the President has underscored: that the 2% of Americans who have the highest incomes need to pay a greater share of taxes. At times, he has variously called them “corporate jet owners” or “authors of best-selling books,” although the loss of tax deductions he speaks of would have applied to Americans who make more than $250,000 a year—not exactly the typical income for an owner of corporate aircraft.
By raising the talk of higher taxes on the “rich” last night, Obama strongly hinted that he is still committed to it and we haven’t heard the last about “revenue increases,” and “tax reform.” As he put it, “Now, is this the deal I would have preferred? No. I believe that we could have made the tough choices required—on entitlement reform and tax reform—right now, rather than through a special congressional committee process.”
Translation: Whether it’s through the forthcoming congressional committee process prescribed in the debt-ceiling package or on the campaign trail, the voters will be hearing more about who should be paying their “fair share.”
As brief as they were, Obama’s remarks were made one day after a Page One story in the New York Times by White House correspondent Jackie Calmes reported that Obama’s “rightward drift” in the budget debate may have created a “rift” in the Democratic party with its left-of-center base.
If that is the case, then the President was clearly moving to remedy this with his remarks Sunday night.