When asked at the presser whether he’d draw a line in the sand on the Bush tax cuts, President Obama tried to sound conciliatory. If members of Congress come up with an alternative that raises revenue without hurting middle-class families, “I’m not just going to slam the door in their face. I want to hear ideas from everyone,” he said, adding that he was “less concerned about red lines, per se.” 

But despite his softer rhetoric, Obama made no concessions on his demand for higher taxes on the top 2 percent. He argued that the majority of the American voters supported his position on taxes, which he campaigned strongly on. “I’m concerned about not finding us in a situation where the wealthy aren’t paying more or aren’t paying as much as they should,” he said.

He added, moreover, it would be “very difficult to see how we make up that trillion dollars” of revenue that would be lost if the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy were extended. Outside economists have confirmed as much: It’s not easy to use deductions and exemptions for the wealthy to generate much tax revenue without hitting the middle class or going after tax breaks like the employer deduction for health care that many lawmakers believe are off-limits.