Obama seeks to shield middle class

Written by Agencies | Washington | Updated: Nov 19 2012, 01:59am hrs
Asks Congress to extend tax benefits to the middle class, find ways to cut deficit and strengthen economy

A day after his constructive meeting with Congressional leaders on finding ways to reduce deficit and strengthen the economy, US president Barack Obama on Friday asked the Congress to act now and extend the middle class tax benefits. In his weekly address, Obama said Congress should act now on one thing that everyone agrees on ensuring that taxes do not go up on 98% of all Americans and 97% of small businesses at the end of the year.

On Friday I sat down with Congressional leaders to discuss how we can reduce our deficit in a way that strengthens our economy and protects our middle class. It was a constructive meeting. And everyone agreed that while we may have our differences, we need to come together, find solutions and take action as soon as possible, he said.

Obama said that four years after the worst economic crisis, the American economy is growing again and creating jobs. But we have much more to do. Our task now is to build on that progress. Because this nation only succeeds when weve got a growing, thriving middle class, he said. That's what drives me. Thats what I campaigned on for the past year. That's what will guide me in our work over the next four years. And Im willing to work with anyone of any party to move this country forward, he said. Because soon, we face a very clear deadline that requires us to make some big decisions on jobs and taxes, on investments and deficits. Both parties voted to set this deadline. I believe both parties can work together to make these decisions in a balanced and responsible way

When it comes to taxes, for example, there are two pathways available, Obama said. One says, if Congress fails to act by the end of the year, then everybodys taxes automatically go up, including the 98% of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year. Our economy cant afford that right now... And nobody wants that to happen.

The other path is for Congress to pass a law right away to prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of anyones income. That means all Americans, including the wealthiest Americans, get a tax cut. And 98% of Americans, and 97%of all small business owners, wont see their income taxes go up a single dime, he said.

The Senate has already passed a bill like this, he noted. Democrats in the House are ready to pass one, too. All we need is for Republicans in the House to come on board. We shouldnt hold the middle class hostage while Congress debates tax cuts for the wealthy, he said. Lets begin our work by actually doing what we all agree on. Lets keep taxes low for the middle class. And let's get it done soon, so we can give families and businesses some good news going into the holiday season, he said, adding that these challenges will not be easy to solve.

Republican and Democratic congressional leaders emerged from the meeting with president Barack Obama on Friday pledging to find common ground on taxes and spending that would allow them to avert a looming fiscal cliff that could send the economy back into recession. The top lawmakers spoke to reporters as a group for the first time in more than a year in what aides said was a joint decision to project a message of unity.

Each side at least signalled a willingness to put on the table issues dear to the two parties for decades. The two Democrats, Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the House of Representatives, said they recognised the need to curb spending.

Starting January 2, about $600 billion worth of tax increases and spending reductions, including $109 billion in cuts to domestic and defense programs, will begin to kick in if Congress cannot decide how to replace them with less extreme deficit-reduction measures.