"I decided not to bring Bo today," President Obama said this morning as he prepared to speak about taxes.
And why was he not bringing the family’s new six-month-old Portuguese Water Dog?
"Because he stepped on my economic speech yesterday," the president joked.
With that, the president talked about tax day, making the argument that April 15th will be less painful for most Americans because of his actions.
"I know that April 15th isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite date on the calendar," he said as he stood in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, flanked by nine American taxpayers. "But it is an important opportunity for those of us in Washington to consider our responsibilities to the people who sent us here and who pay the bills. And I’ve brought some friends of mine who sent me here and pay the bills."
With approximately 250 protestors rallying against big government and taxes across the street at LaFayette Park, the president ran through six points he wanted to underline on tax day.
"First, we’ve passed a broad and sweeping tax cut for 95 percent of American workers," he said. "This tax cut will reach 120 million families and put $120 billion directly into their pockets, and it includes the most American workers ever to get a tax cut."
Other steps include helping small businesses by allowing them to offset their losses during this downturn against the income they’ve earned over the last five years; simplifying the student loan process and offering a $2,500 tax credit for all four years of college; providing a tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time home buyers; working to end tax breaks to companies "that stash profits or ship jobs overseas," and letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest two percent.
The president also pledged to "simplify a monstrous tax code that is far too complicated for most Americans to understand, but just complicated enough for the insiders who know how to game the system." He mentioned that earlier this year, he asked adviser Paul Volcker and the Presidential Economic Recovery Advisory Board to review how to simplify the tax code.
"We will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests," President Obama pledged. "And we’ll make it easier, quicker and less expensive for you to file a return, so that April 15th is not a date that is approached with dread every year."
Asked if the White House had any specific response to the tea party protests, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated the tax cuts the president had mentioned, including the Making Work Pay tax credit, the first-time homebuyer tax credit, an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, and an increase in the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
President Obama has pledged — and Gibbs today reiterated the pledge — that he wouldn’t raise taxes on anyone who makes under $200,000 a year as an individual, or $250,000 as a family. How, Gibbs was asked, does that square with President Obama raising cigarette taxes, as he did when he signed the State’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.
"People make a decision to smoke," Gibbs said. "People get on airlines and pay taxes to land a plane at O’Hare or in Washington. Those people also got a tax cut. I don’t know how much they smoke. I guess that depends on the individual consumption with nicotine habits involved in those at tea parties around the country. Maybe on a rainy day such as today, one might light up a few more times in hopes of surviving the drizzle."
Another reporter asked Gibbs if the "tea parties reflect a genuine grass-roots sentiment out there in the country of frustration with the president’s tax policies, or is it something contrived?"
Gibbs suggested that the reporter "speak to the organizers, I guess, on … whether they’re contrived … If you’re one of the 95 percent of working families in this country I think it’s that earns less than $200,000 a year, you’ve seen a tax cut. That’s not contrived. Those are facts. … I’ll let the organizers of whatever these are speak to their motivations. I think they can be reasonably assured, though, maybe they fall outside the window of making a quarter of a million dollars a year."