Economy & Budget

Obama’s middle-class showmanship

Obama's middle-class showmanship
President Barack Obama with middle-class Americans Aug. 3 at the White House.

When he starts pulling out his middle class taxpayers, you know he’s going to play the ‘P.R. game.’

That’s how one of my colleagues in the White House press corps described the scene we were about to cover, as President Obama today made his latest public statement on the fiscal cliff crisis before a packed audience of “middle class taxpayers” gathered at the Old Executive Office Building Auditorium.

And my colleague was right.  In once again proclaiming his “top priority” was to “prevent the middle class tax hike hitting 98 per cent” of American taxpayers, the President was wildly cheered by his audience—most of whom were selected from people who had written the White House on its website.

“An agreement to prevent the middle class tax hike is in sight,” Mr. Obama said, almost as if to suggest he had played the pivotal role in reaching the much-rumored agreement with Republican leaders that would allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire on those making annual incomes of $400,00-500,000 dollars.

If anything is going to come out of the talks between the White House and Republican congressional leaders, Mr. Obama admitted, it would most likely be that extension of the lower tax rates on particular taxpayers, and not other issues involved in the fiscal controversy.  In his words, “my preference would have been…a bigger deal..a grand bargain,” but—and here, he warmed up to a familiar campaign mold—“with this Congress, it was a little too much to hope for at this time….So there’s more work to do.”

At a time when Republicans on Capitol Hill are increasing charging that Mr. Obama has been unwilling to take the initiative with his party and pursue major spending cuts in cherished programs, the President warned that cuts that begin automatically with the new year will impact strongly on the Defense Department and programs “such as Head Start”—the much-criticized inner-city teaching program that Mr, Obama and his spokesmen have long insisted is “off the table” as far as spending cuts are concerned.

He described the pending cuts as the product “of an ax instead of a scalpel” and said that such broad cuts as those that will take effect tomorrow “may not be the smartest cuts.”

But, he insisted if anyone felt he would never permit lawmakers to “shove spending down cuts down, eh….”—his pause leaving something to his audience’s imagination—“they have another thing coming.”

He concluded by reminding his audience that he would be spending New Year’s Eve in Washington, would like to come to some of their homes to celebrate the evening, but “I don’t want to spoil the party.”

HUMAN EVENTS Talks to Obama’s “Middle Class Taxpayers”

Before the President’s remarks on the fiscal cliff today, we talked to some of the “middle class taxpayers” who packed the auditorium at the OldExecutiveOfficeBuilding.  Their comments on the fiscal cliff and how to avoid it were most interesting.

Some of those we talked to were not at all committed to the President’s long-support tax increase on Americans who make $250,000 a year or more.

Neil Safeer, a retired business consultant from Pikesville, Maryland and wife Ellen, said they were invited by the White House “to make comments” on the situation involving the middle class and the fiscal cliff.

“I don’t know if [going over the cliff] will affect me—I didn’t figure it out,” Mr. Safeer told HUMAN EVENTS. But, he said, he felt strongly there had to be “a certain fairness” in the tax system and “we need to put it back to what it was when Bill Clinton was president and we prospered.”

As to whether he felt the Bush tax rates were unfair, however, Mr. Safeer replied: “I didn’t have any feelings about it.”

The self-described “capitalist” went on to tell us he thought that a $250,000 annual income was “low” for a tax hike and it should be “more like $400,000” before higher rates kick in.  But whatever the figure for higher tax rates, he said, “we need tax adjustment.”

“No one likes tax increases,” echoed Michan Boston, a native of WashingtonDC and owner of an events planning and catering service, “especially when the economy is not as robust as it used to be.”

So should, we asked, taxes go up on some Americans making higher incomes and if so, at what incomes should higher taxes begin?

“At his point, until I know exactly what the figure is [for just who would be taxed at a higher rate], I can’t say,” Miss Boston replied, “When I know exactly who is being taxed at a higher rate, then I can say how I see things.”

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office, Dec. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office, Dec. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 

 

 

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