Obama defends new taxes: ‘This is not class warfare, it’s math’

President Obama defended his proposals to raise taxes on the wealthy Monday and promised to veto any deficit-reduction plan from Congress that cuts entitlement programs but doesn’t raise taxes on the wealthy.

“We are not going to have a one-sided deal that hurts the folks that are most vulnerable,” Obama said in Rose Garden comments where he formally announced his own recommendations to the 12-member supercommittee charged with finding deficit cuts.

Obama’s $3 trillion deficit-cutting plan includes $1.5 trillion in tax hikes on the wealthy, including the elimination of Bush-era tax rates on households with annual income above $250,000.

ADVERTISEMENT
The president criticized Republicans for insisting no taxes can be raised, and said it would not be possible to improve the nation’s fiscal standing without new taxes on the wealthy.

He rejected criticism that his proposals amount to class warfare, saying that after a decade of unchecked spending, every American has to pitch in and pay their fair share. Otherwise, Obama said, the U.S. will try to cut programs for the middle-class and the poor while protecting tax cuts for the wealthy.

“This is not class warfare,” Obama said. “It's math.”

He also took direct aim at House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Republicans, saying Boehner's reduction deficit plans are “not smart.”


Obama said he was encouraged to hear Boehner say that a “my way or the highway” approach won’t work, but he was dismayed to hear the Speaker say that increased revenues should be off the table.

“So the Speaker says we can't have it my-way-or-the-highway, and then basically says my way or the highway,” Obama said. “That's not smart. It's not right.”

Boehner quickly responded to Obama's remarks in a statement that said the president's proposal was not a serious contribution to the debate on reducing deficits. He also criticized it for raising taxes on both small businesses and private capital, and suggested it amounted to class warfare. 

"Pitting one group of Americans against another is not leadership," Boehner's statement said. "This administration’s insistence on raising taxes on job creators and its reluctance to take the steps necessary to strengthen our entitlement programs are the reasons the president and I were not able to reach an agreement previously, and it is evident today that these barriers remain.” 

The tone of Obama’s proposals are the latest sign of his focus on the 2012 campaign. With Republicans drawing a red line on new taxes, many of the proposals are unlikely to move forward in Congress, but they do help the White House portray Republicans as protecting special interests and the wealthy.

Obama framed his remarks with indirect attacks on the Republican presidential field, noting that his plan would cut $2 in spending for every $1 in new revenues.

White House and campaign officials have repeatedly harkened back to the GOP presidential debate where the candidates said they would not agree to a deal that included $10 in cuts for every $1 in revenues.

The president also took aim at Republicans who sign pledges not to raise taxes, saying “the only pledge that really matters is the pledge we take to defend the Constitution.”

“They should be called out,” Obama said. “They should have to defend that unfairness.”

Harkening back to the July debt-ceiling debate and the aborted “grand bargain” he sought with Boehner, Obama put the blame on Republicans for failing to get the deal.

“Unfortunately, the Speaker walked away from a balanced package,” Obama said.

“What we agreed to instead wasn't all that grand. But it was a start.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Obama’s $3 trillion deficit-reduction plan includes money saved from ending the war in Iraq and drawing troops down in Afghanistan. Obama would also cut about $320 billion in Medicare and Medicaid, administration officials said Sunday night.

Obama will propose $248 billion in cuts and reforms to Medicare — 90 percent of which would come from reducing overpayments — and $72 billion in Medicaid and other healthcare programs, all over 10 years.

Administration officials said Obama will also propose tax reform to lower tax rates, while cutting loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. The tax reform proposals will raise revenue through increased taxes on the wealthy, reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion, the officials said.

Obama wants the tax code to be “consistent with the Buffett rule,” which states that the middle class should not pay a higher rate of taxes proportionate to their incomes than millionaires and billionaires like Warren Buffett, who has said he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.

To that end, administration officials said that tax reform and the estimated $800 billion that would be saved from rolling back the Bush tax cuts "would be sufficient to hit the $1.5 trillion target that we're setting.”

The rest of the tax savings would come from closing $300 billion worth of loopholes and ending about $400 billion in deductions for the wealthy, the officials said.

— This story was first posted at 11:49 a.m. and updated at 12:03 p.m.

More in Energy & Environment

Obama on climate change: ‘This is a problem now’

Read more »