Rates will go up: White House takes harder line on taxes

As if to make it clear to those who were anticipating some flexibility on whether President Obama would insist on raising tax rates on the highest income earners, the White House today came down hard in favor of the proposed tax increase.

“Rates will go up,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at the White House Thursday afternoon, “They have to go up.” He added that this should be obvious from the recent presidential election race to anyone who, in his words, “was not in a coma.”

The Obama administration’s drawing a line in the sand on raising tax rates came a day after deficit reduction panel co-chairman Erskine Bowles suggested to reporters that there might be flexibility on this issue from the president. As Bowles said, “I didn’t sense it, I heard it–not just from the team, but from the president.” A few hours later, responding to Bowles’ remarks, Carney did say that Obama “will not sign an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.” But, at the same press session, Carney also said “the president made clear that he is not wedded to every detail of his plan.???

Carney obviously said that the president was “wedded” to raising tax rates on top income earners no matter what Bowles sensed or heard. This point was underscored more than once by the president’s top spokesman, who also said that the view that “rates would never go up,” held by some Republicans “is not plausible anymore.”

Carney’s remarks came as the president was having lunch with his former Republican opponent Mitt Romney. Asked by CNN News correspondent Jessica Yellin if Obama is “offering Gov. Romney a job,” Carney replied that the two did not have an agenda over lunch “that includes that kind of offer.”