Top Obama adviser: Tax system ‘rigged in favor of very wealthy’

President Obama's senior campaign strategist David Axelrod defended the president's economic record on Tuesday and said reforming a tax system “rigged in favor of the very wealthy” would be an administration priority.

During an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Axelrod was asked by the panel to respond to a new poll from ABC News and The Washington Post that showed that voters favored Mitt Romney over the president on key economic questions — a troubling sign for the president on what will likely be the key issue of the 2012 election. But Axelrod expressed confidence in the president's ability to frame the debate to his favor.

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"It is the most important issue," Axelrod acknowledged. "We're going to have a big debate about the economy. That big debate is going to be, who's going to promote an economy in which the middle class can grow? In which hard work is rewarded, responsibility is rewarded, everybody plays by the same rules, from Main Street to Wall Street? And the question is which of these two candidates is more likely to promote that kind of economy." 

The senior Obama adviser went on to say that a big part of the president's push would be vocal support for the so-called Buffett Rule, which would raise taxes on millionaires' investment income to match the rates they would pay for personal income. 

"We have a tax system that is rigged against the average person, rigged in favor of the very wealthy, and we need to fix that. This Buffett Rule will address that, and most Americans, I think, would agree with it," Axelrod said. 


Axelrod also hammered GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney and said Obama would draw a contrast between his economic successes and Romney’s policies, which he contended had been tried and shown to fail during the George W. Bush administration. 

"Of course there are questions about the economy; the question is whether the answer is to go back to the same policies that got us here in the first place, and when you listen to Mitt Romney, that's what he's prescribing — tax cuts for the very wealthy, cut Wall Street loose to write its own rules … We've tested that proposition; it's an abject failure," Axelrod said. 

The president's campaign strategist went on to dismiss arguments that Democrats in the Senate had not passed a budget as "meaningless political theater" and accuse Republicans of being "inflexible" on the subject of potential tax increases. 

"We cannot spend another trillion dollars in the next 10 years on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and address our deficits and deal with the challenges we need to deal with," Axelrod said.

Axelrod also took a shot at House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) Medicare reform proposal, saying it would undermine the program's core goals. 

"The answer is to strengthen the program and not phase it out and essentially turn it into a voucher program," Axelrod. 

In a more lighthearted discussion, the campaign strategist was pressed on whether it was keeping with the president's pledge to stick to "big ideas" when the campaign made fun of Mitt Romney's garage elevator or the anecdote of him strapping his dog to his car roof. Axelrod was evasive, but did manage to repeatedly reference, again, the story about the Romney family dog. 

"I was asked about it directly," Axelrod said with a smirk.