Politics
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) White House Press Secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  

White House: Millionaire tax isn’t enough

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Obama wants tax increases on the wealthy, regardless of whether the Democrats’ proposed millionaire tax becomes law, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday.

“The president’s position has not changed” since he called for increased tax rates on individuals earning more than $250,000 per year, and for adoption of the “Buffett Rule,” Carney said during his midday press conference.

Under the still-vague “Buffett Rule,” named for multi-billionaire investor Warren Buffett, the government would ensure wealthy people could not use current features of the tax code — such as the relatively low rate on capital gains income — to pay a lower tax rate than ordinary wage earners.

The Senate’s newly proposed 5.6 percent levy on taxpayers earning more than $1 million annually is “apples and oranges” to the president’s tax proposals, Carney said.

“Everyone [should] pay their fair share … it is simply a matter of making sensible choices,” he said.

Carney’s comments came a day after Obama said he was “comfortable” with the Democrats’ millionaire tax.

Democratic Senators from wealthy states have discarded Obama’s $250,000-cutoff proposal, instead pushing for a surtax on millionaires. This approach helpfully positions the White House to run a populist campaign against Wall Street while shielding most of president Obama’s upper-income supporters and donors in the professional and business sectors.

On Thursday, for example, New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer described families who earned $250,000 as “firmly” in the middle class. “They are not rich, and in large parts of the country, that kind of income does not get you a big home or lots of vacations or anything else that’s associated with wealth in America,” he said, according to the New York Post.

But this Senate proposal undercuts Obama’s more ambitious spending goals and his campaign strategy in middle-income states like Virginia, Ohio, Colorado and North Carolina.

In numerous speeches, Obama has portrayed himself as a the champion of middle-class Americans against the wealthy; he has also demanded higher tax rates to support increased government spending on education, research, Medicare and Social Security.

Carney’s reiteration of Obama’s more ambitious tax preferences was accompanied by his repetition of Obama’s campaign trail themes. “Rather than say, make senior citizens pay by turning the Medicare program into a voucher system, or by slashing spending … we believe that those who have benefited enormously in the last decade should pay a little emit more,” he said.

“The president believes there needs to be shared sacrifice as well as shared prosperity,” he said.

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