Obama: 'American People are With Me' on Higher Taxes for Wealthy
President Obama today called for the Bush-era tax cuts to be extended except for upper-income earners -- not anything he hasn't said before, but a carefully timed statement to set up a campaign-season congressional battle.
"It's not a lack of plans, it's not a lack of ideas. It's a stalemate in this town," Obama said. "Nowhere is this stalemate more pronounced than on the issue of taxes."
With risers behind him in the East Room, packed with supporters, Obama said the GOP believes "prosperity comes from the top down."
"I disagree. I think they're wrong," he said, calling for no more top-down economics. "The wealthy got wealthier, but most Americans struggle."
"I believe it's time to let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans -- folks like myself -- to expire," Obama said. "I might feel differently if we were still in surplus."
He said he was "not proposing anything radical here," but promoting a return to Clinton-era rates.
"The American people are with me on this," Obama said. "Poll after poll shows that is the case."
The president said his proposal would help 97 percent of small-business owners. "We all say we agree we should extend tax cuts for 98 percent of the American people," he said. "Let's agree to do what we agree on."
He said that "in many ways" the fate of the tax cuts for all income brackets will be decided by the next election. "My opponent will fight to keep them in place, I will fight to end them," Obama said.
Obama urged Congress to pass the extension of middle-class tax cuts now, then next year "when things have calmed down a bit" they can talk comprehensive tax-code reform.