WASHINGTON — As House Speaker John Boehner is causing concern among his fellow Republicans with talk of compromise on “increased revenues” (Washington speak for “higher taxes”), President Barack Obama made it clear Friday afternoon he was taking no prisoners on what has been his premier goal in a fiscal package: namely, raising taxes on Americans who make $250,000 or more a year.
Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and speaking in the White House East Room before a packed audience of middle-school students, a just re-elected Obama said it was time now for “action, not politics as usual.”
But, after proclaiming “jobs and growth” and his “plan to put folks back to work,” Obama got down to what was his bottom line when the U.S. reached the fiscal cliff last year and what it is now.
“[W]e can???t just cut our way to prosperity,” he said, “If we???re serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue — and that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes. That???s how we did it in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president.”
As he did in late 2010 before acquiescing on maintaining the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, the president spoke of compromise. But, unlike two years ago, Obama signaled he was not going to compromise this time.
“I???m open to compromise [and] I???m open to new ideas,” he said, but quickly added that “I refuse to accept any approach that isn???t balanced. I am not going to ask students and seniors and middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit while people like me, making over $250,000, aren???t asked to pay a dime more in taxes. I’m not going to do that.”
The middle-school students, and the teachers joining them, applauded wildly.
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Obama’s tougher talk obviously carries fresh meaning and packs more of a punch this time because of Speaker Boehner’s less determined rhetoric. The president said as much, as he told his audience he “was encouraged to hear Speaker Boehner agree that tax revenue has to be part of this equation — so I look forward to hearing his ideas when I see him next week.” Leaders of both parties from Congress have been requested by the president to attend a summit, along with business and labor leaders, at the White House.
As he did in 2010, the president also held open the possibility of Congress extending the tax cuts on those Americans making less than $250,000 before Jan. 1 and then debating an extension on those making more. Last time, Republicans in Congress made it clear that they were not going that way because they never believed the White House would ever consider a subsequent extension of lower taxes for those making $250,000 or more.
This time, that is not as obvious.