President Obama speaks about tax legislation facing Congress at the Eisenhower… (Win McNamee / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON – President Obama turned quickly away from the jobs numbers to a more convenient political topic Friday, suggesting that Republicans have their “priorities skewed” for a plan he says would ask the middle class to pay more in taxes so the wealthy can pay less.
Obama was surrounded by a group of people the White House said were middle-class individuals for what was technically an official White House event, rather than a campaign speech. But the message was a similar one – just replace Mitt Romney with Republicans in Congress as the foil.
Briefly touching on the newly released July unemployment data, the president said the nation has now added 4.5 million jobs over two and a half years, and more than a million this year alone. But for those still out of work, Obama acknowledged there was more to do, “not only to reclaim all the jobs that were lost during the recession, but also to reclaim the kind of financial security that too many Americans have felt was slipping away from them for too long.”
“We’re not going to get to where we need to be if we go back to the policies that helped to create this mess in the first place. And the last thing that we should be doing is asking middle-class families who are still struggling to recover from this recession to pay more in taxes,” Obama said.
Obama chided House Republicans for rejecting a measure approved by the Senate to preserve lower tax rates only on the first $250,000 of income for individuals, allowing rates for further income to return to pre-2001 levels.
The president even engaged in a bit of tax code 101, reminding that under such a plan “even somebody who makes more than $250,000 is still getting a tax break on their first $250,000.”
A day earlier, Obama, during campaign events in Florida and Virginia, hit Romney, the likely GOP nominee, for a tax plan that he said would leave middle-class taxpayers paying more to allow new tax breaks for the wealthy. The Romney campaign called the study Obama based his claim on skewed, and Romney himself said that his tax plan would actually lower rates across the board.
On Friday, though, Obama pressed the argument again, though without naming Romney.
“I just think we’ve got our priorities skewed if the notion is that we give tax breaks to folks who don't need them and to help pay for that we tax folks who are already struggling to get by. That's not how you grow an economy,” he said.
He then urged Congress to at least extend lower rates for the middle class – the one step both parties do agree needs to be done.
“We’re gonna have plenty to argue about in the next three months,” he said, before adding with a hint of optimism: “And probably in the next five years.”