Who’s ‘middle class’? Republicans push Obama to extend Bush tax cuts

Jon Ward Contributor
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President Obama left for a 10-day trip to southeast Asia Friday with a statement on the most recent jobs report that gave no indication he is willing to compromise on his intent to let the Bush tax cuts expire for high earners.

Obama, calling the addition of 151,000 jobs in October, said that growth is still “not good enough” and needs to happen at a “faster pace.”

Part of enhancing growth, he said, “certainly includes keeping tax rates low for middle-class families and extending unemployment benefits to help those hardest hit by the downturn while generating more demand in the economy.”

He made no mention of backing off his view that families making $250,000 or more should see their taxes go up when the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 under former President George W. Bush expire at the end of this calendar year.

But Democrats have begun to push the idea that they will redefine “middle class” to mean those making less than $500,000, or even $1,000,000.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs signaled Thursday that the administration is open to some sort of compromise.

“I don’t want to do the negotiations here, but we’re certainly open to listening to their position, talking about it and working together to find a compromise that moves this issue forward,” Gibbs said. “Our biggest concern is if this Congress does not act by the end of the year, taxes for middle-class families is going to go up. We can’t, and we shouldn’t, let that happen.”

House Minority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, made clear Friday that Republicans are interpreting talk of compromise as support for extending cuts in all tax brackets.

“We need to end the uncertainty that continues to hang over the private sector, and that starts with ensuring that no one faces a tax increase in this economy,” Cantor said. “I am encouraged that the White House now seems to acknowledge that raising taxes in this environment will only make things more difficult for struggling small business people, families and investors.”

“In the spirit of working together and listening to the people, I hope that when Congress returns in 10 days we will pass legislation that ensures that no one faces a tax increase,” Cantor said.

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