Three weeks after winning reelection, President Obama is returning to the campaign trail. But instead of stumping for himself, he’s pushing for tax hikes on the wealthy, in the name of deficit reduction.
The president’s trip Friday to a toy factory in suburban Philadelphia will cap a week of outreach to various constituencies on issues around the “fiscal cliff” –the broad tax increases and spending cuts that kick in with the new year if Congress doesn’t act.
On Tuesday, Mr. Obama met at the White House with small-business owners from across the country, and his economists released a report saying a tax increase on the middle class would harm small businesses. On Wednesday, the president hosts two events – one with middle-class Americans, another with business leaders. The point of all three meetings is to highlight how these groups would be affected by an expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts.
Congressional Republicans have decided they can play the game, too. On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican congressional leaders meet with business leaders. Next week, House majority whip Kevin McCarthy will host a meeting of small-business owners at the Capitol, his office announced.
Republicans say many small-business owners would be hurt by Obama’s plan for a tax increase on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans – those making more than $250,000 a year.
Still, there’s no competing with the presidential bully pulpit and the media coverage it brings.
“We already know the president's a very good campaigner.... What we don't know is if he has the leadership qualities to lead his party to a bipartisan agreement on big issues," Senator McConnell said. "The people he needs to be talking to are members of his own party so he can convince them of the need to act."
At his daily briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney rejected McConnell’s criticism, saying it is “vitally important” that Americans actively engage in the debate over how best to deal with the nation’s fiscal challenges.
“I think the election was pretty conclusive in terms of which path a majority of the American people want to take” on fiscal issues, Mr. Carney said. “That is, a balanced approach, one that includes not just spending cuts, not just entitlement reforms and savings, but revenue.”
Progressive activists with MoveOn.org Political Action are also getting into the act. The group announced that on Wednesday, tens of thousands of members will deliver letters to state and district offices of every senator and House member in the country, calling for the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest top 2 percent and for “no cuts whatsoever” to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.
A CNN/ORC poll released Monday showed the risks for Republicans if the nation goes over the fiscal cliff on Jan. 1. Some 45 percent of Americans would blame congressional Republicans if the tax increases and spending cuts go into effect, while 34 percent say they would blame Obama. Still, almost half of Americans say the president isn’t doing enough to reach a deal with the Republicans, and 7 in 10 want him to compromise, CNN reports.
If the US goes over the fiscal cliff, the global economy could go into recession, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in a report Tuesday.