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President Obama, Marco Rubio face off on tax cuts

In their radio addresses Saturday, Obama and newly-elected US Senator Marco Rubio argued their points on the Bush tax cuts. There doesn't seem to be room for compromise.

By Staff writer / November 6, 2010

Florida Sen.-elect Marco Rubio (R) holds a press conference in Coral Gables, Fla. Wednesday Nov. 3, 2010. In the GOP's radio address Saturday, Rubio said the Bush tax cuts should be continued.

Jeffrey M. Boan/AP

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Now that the dust is settling from the midterm elections, President Obama and the newly-dominant congressional Republicans are jockeying for position on the way forward.

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For both, it’s laser-like attention to the economy – jobs and taxes. Will it include much in the way of compromise between the White House and Congress? Maybe, but not very much according to initial pronouncements from both sides.

On his 10-day trip to Asia (no doubt a welcome opportunity to get out of Washington), President Obama is emphasizing the opportunities to increase jobs at home by working to open up markets abroad.

“The primary purpose is to take a bunch of US companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia, in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and we can create jobs here in the United States of America,” Obama said during a Cabinet meeting Thursday.

In a New York Times op-ed column Saturday, Obama elaborated:

“We want to be known not just for what we consume, but for what we produce. And the more we export abroad, the more jobs we create in America. In fact, every $1 billion we export supports more than 5,000 jobs at home. It is for this reason that I set a goal of doubling America’s exports in the next five years.”

Nobody can argue with that. The desire for a more robust employment picture crosses partisan political boundaries, as it did in the elections.

Taxes are another matter, and here post-election lines in the sand are being drawn.

In his weekly radio-Internet address, Obama held firm to his position on extending the Bush tax cuts set to expire in January.

“All of us want certainty for middle-class Americans. None of us want them to wake up on January 1st with a higher tax bill. That’s why I believe we should permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for all families making less than $250,000 a year. That’s 98 percent of the American people,” he said. “But … I don’t see how we can afford to borrow an additional $700 billion from other countries to make all the Bush tax cuts permanent, even for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. We’d be digging ourselves into an even deeper fiscal hole and passing the burden on to our children.”

For its rebuttal, the GOP did not choose one of its old guard – say, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, he of sour demeanor and a self-acknowledged top priority of running Obama out of the White House in 2012.

Instead, it was Marco Rubio, the young and charismatic newly-elected US Senator from Florida already being mentioned as presidential material.

As he did the night he won his Senate race, Rubio warned that “Republicans would be mistaken if we misread these results as simply an embrace of the Republican Party.”

“This Election is a second chance,” he said. “A second chance for Republicans to be what we said we were going to be.”

But it was clear that Rubio – and the party leaders who chose him to carry their message – were waving no olive branch in the direction of the Obama administration.

“The past two years provided a frightening glimpse at what could become of our great nation if we continue down the current path: wasteful spending, a growing debt and a government reaching ever further into our lives, even into our health care decisions,” he said. “It is nothing short of a path to ruin …”

And, he said, “This means preventing a massive tax increase scheduled to hit every American taxpayer at the end of the year. It means repealing and replacing the disastrous health care bill. It means simplifying our tax code, and tackling a debt that is pushing us to the brink of our own Greece-like day of reckoning.”

Rubio’s warning – and threat to the White House – sounds almost apocalyptic, as if the election campaign continues. Which, in a way, it does.

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