Obama Starts "Fiscal Cliff" Negotiations With Pitch to Raise $1.6 Trillion in Taxes on Corporations and the Rich
Daniel Strauss reports for The Hill:
President Obama is taking a tough opening stance in talks over deficit reduction, pushing Republicans to accept a plan that calls for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue over the next ten years, according to reports.
The figure is double the $800 billion last discussed by the White House and House Speaker Boehner (R-Ohio) during their 2011 negotiations on raising the debt-ceiling limit.
The president’s plan is based on his most recent budget proposal, which sought the $1.6 in new revenues by targeting the wealthy and corporations.
The president and congressional lawmakers are set to meet at the White House on Friday as both sides begin hammering out a deficit-cutting plan that helps the nation move past the “fiscal cliff” of rising tax rates and automatic spending cuts set to take effect in January 2013.
Both sides say they hope to avoid the fiscal cliff, but are at an impasse over taxes, with the president insisting that the wealthy pay more.
House Republicans on Wednesday were incredulous at the president's opening bid.
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and other senior Democrats on Tuesday said Obama would not be willing to maintain the Bush tax rates in exchange for a cap on deductions for households earning more than $250,000 a year, a leading Republican alternative.
“I don’t see how you do this without higher rates. I don’t think there’s any feasible, realistic way to do it,” Geithner said at a conference in Washington. “When you take a cold, hard look at the amount of resources you can raise from that top 2 percent of Americans through limiting deductions, you will find yourself disappointed relative to the magnitude of the revenue increases that we need.”
Democrats said Obama is likely to maintain a tough stance Friday, when Boehner and other congressional leaders are due to gather at the White House for their first face-to-face discussions about how to avoid the fiscal cliff. Fresh off a resounding electoral victory in which they kept the White House and picked up seats in the House and Senate, Democrats said there is no reason to compromise now on a central plank of the president’s platform.
“It was an intrinsic part of his campaign, and the public supports it. So what more do you want?” said Rep. Sander M. Levin(D-Mich.), the senior Democrat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
Progressive activists are now preparing to turn the firepower they marshaled to reelect the president against him if he looks like he’s backing down on his mandate, as they see it, to preserve the social safety net and raise taxes on the wealthy.
“Our members are really really fired up to fight alongside of him and fight Republicans who are holding the economy hostage,” Ilya Sheyman of MoveOn.org told Salon. “But at the same time, it is also true that we have a very clear bright line from our members on Social Security and Medicare. That’s the top priority for our membership and we’re staying fully mobilized.”
Hoping to avoid a fight, the White House invited the leaders of the biggest labor unions and major liberal groups to meet with the president today. “I’m really hoping that the president listens more than he talks at the meeting today and truly understands how fierce the opposition to these cuts would be,” said Alex Lawson, the executive director of the advocacy group Social Security Works. “I think that you would find a huge backlash.”
Led by the AFL-CIO, the progressives have presented a united front on two basic demands: No cuts to entitlement programs, and no reauthorization of the Bush tax cuts for higher income brackets. “If it’s bad for workers, it doesn’t matter to us who proposes it. We won’t be on board. We won’t be taken for granted,” Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO’s president recently told Salon’s Josh Eidelson.