Defiant Obama defends tax cuts, eyes 2012
WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has come out fighting, urging Democratic allies to back a hard-won compromise deal on tax cuts and putting Republicans foes on notice ahead of the 2012 elections.
In face of criticism from many on the left of the Democratic Party, Obama passionately defended the deal that will see tax breaks extended for the wealthiest Americans saying his critics had to take a long-term view.
"I'm as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I've been for years. In the long run, we simply can't afford them. And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them," Obama vowed at a White House press conference.
Analysts have said the tax breaks will add some 900 billion dollars over two years to the already massive US national debt. Obama defiantly warned Republicans he would turn the 2012 presidential elections, when he is expected to seek a second four-year term, into a referendum on their differing economic visions.
"On the Republican side, this is their holy grail. These tax cuts for the wealthy. This... seems to be their central economic doctrine," Obama said, pledging to fight any move to make tax breaks for the wealthy permanent.
The US president brokered a deal Monday on keeping tax cuts for all following weeks of political wrangling after major Republican gains in November's congressional polls limited his room for maneuver. In return, Republicans agreed to a 13month extension of jobless benefits set to expire on December 31, and which would have seen millions lose their meagre incomes as unemployment hovers just below 10 percent. The deal has been met with a frosty reception from some Democratic lawmakers, who would have preferred to see any blame for failing to reach a deal fall on Republicans.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the agreement was "only a framework" and vowed to work with the White House and Republicans to address "wide-ranging" concerns among his rank-and-file.
"It's something that's not done yet. Let's make that clear. We're working through all this," he told reporters.
But Obama argued that doing nothing was not an option and taking a "purist position" meant the American people would be the losers.
"If we don't get my option through the Senate right now and we do nothing, then on January 1st of this 2011, the average family is going to see their taxes go up about 3,000 dollars," he warned.
"At any given juncture, there are going to be times where my preferred option, what I'm absolutely positive is right, I can't get done," the US president said, stabbing his finger for emphasis.
"And so then my question is, does it make sense for me to tack a little bit this way or tack a little bit that way because I'm keeping my eye on the long term and the long fight." In one of his most fiery speeches for some time, Obama said the deal achieved his goal of avoiding a tax hike on the middle class amid the sputtering economic recovery. -Afp
SEOUL: South Korean farmers take part in a rally to protest against the South Korean Free Trade agreement (FTA) with the USA at Seoul Railway Station on Wednesday. -Reuters