Obama reaches out to black leaders, says tax-cut deal good for African Americans

Congress sent President Obama sweeping legislation late Thursday night to avoid a Jan. 1 spike in income taxes for millions and renew jobless benefits for victims of the worst recession in 80 years.
By Peter Wallsten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 17, 2010; 12:53 PM

As President Obama prepared to sign his $858 billion tax deal Friday, White House aides moved quickly to soothe the anger among liberal constituency groups that bitterly opposed the measure.

An e-mail distributed to black leaders declared the package a "major victory for African-Americans," arguing that a series of middle-class tax cuts will give "targeted" aid to minorities.

The White House also invited one of its key African American surrogates, the Rev. Al Sharpton, to Friday afternoon's bill signing and scheduled a private meeting with top labor union leaders who had railed against extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy.

Such efforts underscore the delicate political dance being performed by Obama and his aides as they look toward his 2012 reelection campaign. The tax deal could help rebuild his support among crucial independents and white working-class voters, but any move to the middle risks further alienating an already restive left.

Polls show African Americans remain steadfastly loyal to Obama, but he needs that group to remain enthusiastic and turn out in big numbers to win in key battlegrounds such as Pennsylvania and Florida.

The outreach to African Americans came after broad opposition to the tax deal from members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Black lawmakers argued the bill would ultimately hurt the poor because the costs threatened to cut into social safety-net programs.

The White House e-mail Friday morning included a three-page fact sheet titled "The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010: A Win for African-American Families."

"An estimated 2.2 million African American families will benefit from the expansion in the [earned income tax credit] and [child tax credit] that are extended in this agreement," the White House fact sheet says. "These credits help roughly 4.7 million African American children or almost half (44%) of all African American children."

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