President Obama used his press conference in order to set a trap for House Republicans that will leave them in a lose/lose situation on the Bush tax cuts.
President Obama was asked about caving on Bush tax cuts in 2010, and why Republicans and the American people should believe him that he won’t cave again. Obama answered that the economy was in a different situation two years ago. He mentioned the unemployment tax and payroll tax cut extensions, but as he said back then this was a one time only proposition. We cannot afford to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy but we can make sure middle class taxes don’t go up. Obama prodded Republicans again to immediately pass tax cuts for 98% of individuals and 97% of small businesses. The president said we have to look at entitlements. Obama said, “When it comes to the top 2% what I am not going to do is extend a tax cut for folks who don’t need it.” The president added that we can’t afford to spend $1 trillion on tax cut for the rich, and the math doesn’t add up when it comes to just closing loopholes. Obama said that the issue was debated extensively during the election, and the majority of Americans agreed with him. The president said he wanted a big deal, a comprehensive deal.
Later on, Obama was asked if the Clinton tax rates are the bottom line, and if there would be no deal if tax rates did not go back to Clinton era levels. The president answered, “I am open to new ideas.” He continued, “If Republicans or Democrats have new ideas to raise revenue, reduce the deficit, protect the middle class, I am not going to slam the door in their face.” The president recognized that we will have to compromise, but what he won’t do is have a process that is vague that will sort of, kind of raise revenue. Obama said he does not want to find the country in a situation where the wealthy don’t pay as much as they should, and middle class folks are bearing the burden.
The president made it clear that he wants the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy gone. As far as raising revenue, the president repeatedly said that he is open to new ideas from all sides.
Some on the left hear this kind of talk and immediately freak out, but this is a strategic move on the part of the White House. By opening the door to new ideas from all sides, the president is putting the ball in the House Republicans’ court. He is forcing them get serious about cutting a deal. Obama’s offer isn’t a display of weakness.
The president is setting a trap.
He understands the results of the election. The American people want moderation and compromise. Obama is setting the GOP up to either give the American people what they want, or be held responsible for a deal not being reached. Obama repeatedly mentioned the middle class, and said that he has a middle class mandate.
Obama has been beating House Republicans for a year by defending the middle class. The president defeated Mitt Romney by being a champion for the middle class, and now he is setting up the same dynamic and daring House Republicans to defend the rich. This is a familiar strategy from Obama, and it works.
If Republicans refuse to budge on taxing the rich, they will fall right into the president’s trap. House Republicans are in a lose/lose situation. If they defend the rich, all taxes will go up on the middle class. Should Republicans sacrifice the 98% for tax cuts for the rich, Obama warned that they could jeopardize the 2012 shopping season. Republicans will lose with their base if they cut the deal that Obama wants, and they will also lose if they sacrifice the middle class in order to defend the rich.
This isn’t 2010 anymore. Obama doesn’t have to run for reelection, and the president is poised to press his advantage to the max.