In Winston-Salem, NC, today President Obama tried to hoist himself above the fray in the debate over the soon-to-expire lower Bush tax rates.
“It’s been about a month now since the midterms,” he told an audience at Forsyth Technical Community College, “and in Washington much of the chatter is still about the political implications of those elections – what they mean for Democrats and Republicans, and already we are hearing what that means for the next election. I came to North Caroline because I believe right now there are bigger issues at stake than politics. These issues call on us to respond not as partisans but as Americans.”
With that template, the president discussed his pending compromise on extending the Bush tax cuts.
The economic recovery is “simply not happening fast enough,” he said, and one short term fix “to accelerate job creation and economic growth” is to prevent “the middle class tax increase that is currently scheduled for January 1st.”
“Right now, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are working through some differences to try to get this done,” the president said. “There are some serious debates that are still taking place. Republicans want to make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. I have argued that we can't afford it right now. But what I've also said is we've got to find consensus here because a middle-class tax hike would be very tough not only on working families, it would also be a drag on our economy at this moment”
The president said, “We've got to make sure that we're coming up with a solution, even if it's not a hundred percent of what I want or what the Republicans want. There's no reason that ordinary Americans should see their taxes go up next year.” He said Washington DC “unemployment insurance for workers who've lost their jobs through no fault of their own. That is a priority.” He said such an extension would be “not only the right thing to do” but “the smart thing to do because if millions of Americans who are getting unemployment benefits stop spending money, that slows down businesses. That slows down hiring. It slows down our recovery.”
The president’s remarks made it sound as if both Democrats and Republicans are giving something up.
The reality is a bit more complicated.1) The president’s long-signaled willingness to continue the lower Bush tax rates on income above $200,000 for an individual/$250,000 for a family is going against a fairly significant campaign pledge, and 2) Many Republicans don’t necessarily oppose what their side is “compromising” on — extending unemployment insurance – they just want the extension offset by spending cuts elsewhere.