During his first news conference following the election, President Obama emphasized that his tax proposals would not touch on the vast majority of small businesses and renewed his call for targeted immigration reform for highly-skilled foreigners.
“I am a believer that if you’ve got a Ph.D in physics or computer science who wants to stay here and start a business here, we shouldn’t make it harder for them to stay here,” Obama told members of the press in the White House on Wednesday. “We should try to encourage him to contribute to this society.”
A number of studies have shown that the country’s strict immigration laws are making it increasingly difficult for foreign-born students with advanced degress to work or create businesses in the United States. Economists fear that could hold back the economic recovery, especially as American-trained, foreign-born students return home and launch new firms that compete with U.S. companies.
Though most of the questions he faced surrounded the Benghazi attack and the more recent scandal surrounding former CIA Director David Petraeus, Obama also addressed the nation’s continued economic woes and the looming fiscal cliff.
Responding to a question concerning his committment to let tax breaks expire for the wealthy but extend them for the middle class, the president emphasized that his proposals would accelerate job creation and business growth by ensuring that “97 percent of small businesses are not going to see their taxes go up,” citing estimates from the Treasury Department.
“If we get that in place, we are actually removing half of the fiscal cliff,” Obama said. “Half of the danger to our economy is removed by that single step.”
The president’s firm stance on eliminating breaks for high-income earners represents one of the biggest hurdles for the ongoing deficit-reduction negotiations in Washington. Republicans have pushed for extending the cuts for all tax brackets, including the wealthy, who they say employ a disproportionately high number of small business workers.
So who has the upper hand? Obama clearly believes his decisive victory in the election gives him an advantage when it comes to negotiating the nation’s path to recovery.
“If there was one thing that everybody understood was a big difference between myself and Mr. Romney, it was, when it comes to how we reduce our deficit, I argued for a balanced, responsible approach, and part of that included making sure that the wealthiest Americans pay a little bit more,” the president said. “I think every voter out there understood that. That was an important debate, and the majority of voters agreed with me.”
Follow J.D. Harrison and On Small Business on Twitter.