“I want folks to get rich in this country. It’s wonderful when people are successful. That’s part of the American dream,” Obama told the enthusiastic crowd. “But we have to understand the share of our national income going to the top 1 percent has climbed to levels we have not seen since the 1920s. The folks benefiting from this are paying taxes at the lowest rates in 50 years. That’s wrong. That’s not fair. We have to choose the direction this country will be going in.”
The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday on the proposal, inspired by billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has said it is unfair that he is able to use tax loopholes to pay a lower effective rate than his secretary.
Although the legislation is probably doomed in the Republican-led House even if it succeeds in the Senate, the White House believes that the bill appeals to the public’s sense of economic fairness, a theme that Obama has sought to accentuate as he ramps up his reelection campaign in a sluggish economy.
The Obama campaign has been eager to paint the president as a champion of the middle class and cast his prospective GOP challenger, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who earned a personal fortune as manager of a private-equity firm, as out of touch with ordinary Americans. Romney paid an effective tax rate of 14 percent on earnings of $42 million in 2010 and 2011, according to his tax returns.
Obama did not mention Romney by name in his remarks but did refer to him obliquely when he said “some running for a certain office who shall not be named” were doubling down on the same kind of financial policies — tax cuts for the wealthy, lax regulations — that contributed to the Great Recession.
As he did in a speech to the American Society of News Editors last week, Obama blistered the Republican House’s budget, which proposes to slash entitlements and agency spending to cut more than $5 trillion from the national debt over the next decade. The president insisted that the country must take a more balanced approach that includes investments in education, energy and health care.
“In this country, prosperity has never trickled down from the wealthy few; prosperity has always come from the bottom up,” Obama said. “This is not about a few people doing well. We want people to do well, but it is about giving everybody the chance to do well. That’s what the American dream is about.”
Republicans charged that the White House is playing pure politics, engaging in “class warfare” with the rule to win middle-class votes. They said the legislation would raise $47 billion in revenue, barely making a dent in helping pay down the burgeoning national debt of $15.6 trillion.