- Obama on Monday said ‘It’s time to let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, folks like myself, expire.’
By Toby Harnden
PUBLISHED: 14:46 EST, 9 July 2012 | UPDATED: 15:50 EST, 9 July 2012
A poll conducted for The Hill newspaper by Pulse Opinion Research found that 68 per cent of likely voters feel that Obama has substantially transformed the United States since he took office in January 2009.
But while 35 per cent believe the change he has brought is for the better, 56 per cent viewed Obama’s change negatively. Even one in five Democrats believed change had been for the worse.
The poll underlined the task Obama faces in winning a second term, despite dissatisfaction among a number of Republicans about Mitt Romney being their candidate and about the way his campaign is being run.
Obama’s difficulties were increased significantly by tepid jobs numbers for June that were released on Friday. They showed that unemployment remained at 8.2 per cent last month, when just 80,000 net jobs were added nationally.
In an attempt to shift the focus away from the grim employment and economic picture, the Obama campaign hammered Romney all weekend for investing in a Swiss bank account and an offshore account in Bermuda.
Today, Obama sought to bolster this image of Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat by unveiling a new proposal that the Bush tax cuts should be extended for a year for those earning under $250,000 per annum.
This leaves Romney and the Republicans, who believe that no taxes should be raised, having to defend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and potentially in the position of blocking middle-class tax cuts.
‘Most people agree we should not raise taxes on middle-class families or small businesses – not when so many people are trying to get by,’ Obama said in an East Room statement, which he delivered while surrounded by ordinary Americans he says would benefit from the initiative being enacted.
He charged that Republicans believed that tax cuts for the rich and ‘top-down economics’ were the way forward. ‘I disagree. I think they’re wrong.
‘I think our prosperity comes from an economy built on a strong and growing middle class. . . . It’s time to let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, folks like myself, expire.’
The Bush tax cuts are due to expire for all Americans at the end of this year. Obama previously promised to extend tax cuts only for those at the lower end of the scale but capitulated in a deal with Congress and extended them for everyone.
Republicans hit back that Obama’s approach would harm small-business owners. A House of Representatives vote on whether to extend all the tax cuts is scheduled for July 23rd.
Obama said that 98 per cent of the public and 97 per cent of small-business owners, would fall under the $250,000-per-year threshold.
Although Obama stopped short of threatening a veto, his spokesman Jay Carney said that he would block it – meaning that Obama would be preventing the extension of the very tax cuts he championed today.
‘He would not support it, Carney said. ‘He would not sign that bill.’
John Boehner, Speaker of the House, said: ‘President Obama is still asleep at the switch when it comes to our economy and jobs. In the wake of another weak jobs report, the president is doubling down on his quixotic call for the same small-business tax hikes that have been routinely rejected by the House and Senate.’
Andrea Saul, Romney’s spokeswoman, said Obama’s proposal was a ‘a massive tax increase’ that ‘just proves again that the president doesn’t have a clue how to get America working again’
White House Press Secretary Carney said at his daily briefing that Obama would veto any bill that extends the tax cuts for all income levels, arguing that eliminating the tax breaks for wealthier Americans, who don’t need the money, would help pay down the deficit.
Obama has long advocated repealing the tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 but congressional Democrats have proposed instead to make the threshold $1million a year.
The Romney campaign has accused Obama of dividing Americans and waging class warfare by repeatedly focussing on Romney’s vast personal wealth, previously estimated at up to $250million but potentially more than that.
When asked on CNN whether Romney had broken the law, Robert Gibbs, former White House spokesman and now an Obama campaign adviser, said: ‘Well, we don’t know.’
‘The one thing he could do … to clear up whether or not he’s done anything illegal – whether he’s shielding his income from taxes in Bermuda or Switzerland – is to do what every other presidential candidate’s done, and that’s to release a series of years of their own tax returns.
‘This is a guy whose slogan is Believe in America and it should be Business in Bermuda. That’s what Mitt Romney’s all about.’
Saul described this as an ‘unseemly and disgusting’ character attacks.
Despite a barrage of negative ads from the Obama campaign largely about Romney’s wealth, the presidential race remains essentially tied. A USA Today poll of battleground states found that Obama leads Romney by 47 to 45 points among registered voters in a dozen swing states.
Some Republican strategists are concerned, however, that the Obama campaign is successfully ‘defining’ Romney as a too wealthy to relate to ordinary Americans and as a businessman who exploited American workers to rake in profits for his company Bain Capital.
The Romney campaign, which raised a staggering $106million in June compared to $71million for Obama, calculates that Americans are too fixated on the economy and the impact of the incumbent’s policies to be distracted by the Democratic focus on Romney’s wealth.