Reporting from Washington — President Obama will use his State of the Union address Tuesday evening to make a renewed case for an overhaul of the tax reform, one of a host of "common sense" ideas advisors say he'll offer to shore up the American economy and tackle the growing deficit.
That message comes as Obama is also beginning in earnest to ask voters to give him another four years in Washington. And as he presses for what the White House calls "tax fairness," he was offered a new political weapon from a potential Republican rival, Mitt Romney.
The former Massachusetts governor's campaign on Tuesday detailed his income and tax burden for 2010 and an estimate for 2011. He had an effective tax rate of $13.9% in 2010 and 15.9% in 2011 on income of more than $20 million each year.
Senior White House advisor David Plouffe said in a round of interviews Tuesday morning that Romney's tax rate illustrates the "tax reform we need."
"We want to reward wealth and prosperity and success. But if we're going to move forward as a country, reduce our deficit, invest in things like manufacturing and education, how are we going to pay for it?" he said on NBC's "Today" show. "There's no question that we have a tax code that's far too complicated, far too complex. And when the middle class, the average middle-class worker is paying more in taxes than people who are making $50 [million], $60 million a year, we've got to change that."
It's a notion Obama has called the "Buffett Rule," that Warren Buffett should not be paying a lower tax rate than his secretary.
And to hammer that point home Tuesday night, Debbie Bosanek -- Buffett's secretary (well, likely one of several) -- will be sitting in the House gallery as a guest of the first lady.
Obama's speech is intended to serve as a bookend to the major speech he delivered in December in Kansas, where he said the American middle class is at a "make-or-break moment." He invoked a Republican predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, in railing against growing income inequality.
Plouffe, speaking on "CBS This Morning," said Obama's plan will include ideas that "traditionally have been embraced by members of both parties, that are common-sense ideas."
"Having the wealthy pay their fair share is something more and more Republicans are actually gravitating to to help solve our deficit problems and invest where we need to," he said. "There's no question that, as the American people look in that chamber tonight, they don't want a repeat of last year. And so even though this is an election year, we have to find every opportunity to make progress, not just on the economy as a whole, which is so important, but also specifically how do we strengthen the middle class?"
It is indeed an election year, and Obama's address to Congress -- his sixth overall -- is not expected to include the kind of laundry list of policy offerings that previous addresses did.
And he'll quickly take his message on the road with the traditional post-State of the Union barnstorming tour, which this year is a three-day itinerary of likely electoral battlegrounds in the fall.