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Obama asks GOP to keep middle-class taxes low for Christmas

November 30, 2012|By Christi Parsons

HATFIELD, Pa. – President Obama cast himself in the role of Santa Claus during a visit to a toy factory  Friday, suggesting that Republican lawmakers should get only a lump of coal in their stockings if they don’t work with him this month to extend tax cuts for the middle class.

“I’ve been keeping my own naughty-and-nice list for Washington,” Obama told a crowd gathered on the factory floor of the Rodon Group facility, flanked by elaborate roller coasters and Ferris wheels built of Tinkertoys and K’Nex building toys. There will be some members of Congress who deserve toys this holiday season, he suggested, “and some who don’t.”

Obama didn’t leave the metaphor without conjuring up the image of Vice President Joe Biden in the White House playing with K’Nex, but the president’s message was more than evident by that point: If Republicans don’t extend the middle-class tax cuts, they’ll ruin the holiday.

Republican lawmakers, who say the president’s refusal to extend the cuts for taxpayers earning more than $250,000 will hurt small-business owners, countered with their own business spokesperson.

In a video released by the GOP whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), Jerry Gorski, the head of Gorski Engineering in Collegeville, Pa., sits in a corner office and says his firm's work was down 40% in the recession. “And now our company has figured out how to survive in this economy and the first thing we want to do with any income I have is tax it? That’s uncertainty,” said Gorski, who voted for Mitt Romney.

But Obama continues to insist, as he did again Friday, that he won't extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers, including the 3% of small-business owners in those tax brackets.

In Hatfield, Rodon President Michael Araten said that, if he had to choose, he would be more worried about the loss of the middle-class tax cuts than those for the wealthy.

The expiration of the middle-class tax cuts would cost the average family $2,000 next year, according to White House economists, and Araten said that would harm demand for his products.

“That’s going to have an effect on discretionary spending,” said Araten. “That’s going to have a much greater effect than the incremental percent more I might pay in my taxes” if the upper-income tax cuts go away.

Araten, a registered Democrat who voted for Obama, said the White House contacted the company a few weeks ago to see if they could visit.

The workshops and floors of the factory provided a vivid backdrop for the president’s event. As he spoke to about 350 employees and Democrats from the area, he stood near a giant American flag made of K’Nex and several elaborate toys made from the company’s building pieces.

The company has expanded its domestic operations in recent years, and the president cited Rodon officials as an example of an employer creating jobs in the U.S.

A dent in demand would hurt factories like Rodon's as well as retailers all over the country, Obama said.

"That’s sort of like the lump of coal you get for Christmas," he said. "That’s a Scrooge Christmas."

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

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