A lot of what is going on in Congress and the White House is political positioning. For instance, do House Republicans REALLY think they can repeal Obama care (as Dan Quayle would say “No. N-o-e: No.”). And does President Barack Obama REALLY think GOPers will go along with extend tax cuts to those making less than $250,000 but not to those making more money?
President Barack Obama called Monday for Congress to pass a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for people earning less than $250,000 a year.
“I believe prosperity comes from an economy that’s built on a strong and growing middle class,” Obama said at the White House, with people described as working Americans standing behind him.
In addition, an Obama campaign official said the president’s re-election team will “amplify the president’s message on middle-class tax cuts” by hosting a series of events in battleground states all week across the country.
In Las Vegas, for example, local elected officials will discuss Obama’s efforts to fight for the middle class, the campaign official said. In Colorado, Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, Colorado Democratic Party Chair Rick Palacio and state Sen. Gail Schwartz will hold a news conference to discuss the contrasting economic visions of Obama and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The Obama campaign seeks to frame the November contest as a race between the president’s policies intended to help restore middle class opportunity versus Romney’s policies that it says would primarily benefit corporations and wealthy Americans.
A Romney campaign official criticized Obama’s planned announcement as more bad policy from the president in the wake of the weak June jobs report.
“President Obama’s response to even more bad economic news is a massive tax increase,” said Andrea Saul, the Romney campaign’s spokeswoman. “It just proves again that the president doesn’t have a clue how to get America working again and help the middle class.”
Unlike Obama, Saul continued, Romney “understands that the last thing we need to do in this economy is raise taxes on anyone.”
“In many ways the fate of the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans will be decided by the outcome of the election,” Obama said in remarks delivered at the White House. “My opponent will fight to keep them in place, and I will fight to end them. But that argument shouldn’t threaten you. It shouldn’t threaten the 98 percent of Americans who just want to know that their taxes won’t go up next year.”
Obama’s renewed focus on paring down the highest-income portions of the Bush tax cuts advances several White House priorities from a political, economic and negotiating perspective.
The president’s re-election message right now is almost singularly focused on disqualifying Romney in the eyes of voters by portraying him as rich, out of touch and determined to help out fellow millionaires at the expense of average Americans. Obama’s newest announcement puts Romney, who supports a full extension of the Bush tax cuts and additional tax breaks that independent analyses claim would benefit the wealthy, in a tight spot. The Romneys paid about 13.9 percent in taxes in 2010, much lower than many middle-income Americans, and Democrats are eager to use their opponent’s biography as a cudgel against Republicans arguing that the economy will suffer if the rich have to pay more.
Obama hammered at this angle repeatedly in his White House address, arguing that Republican claims that putting more money in the pockets of rich would stimulate the economy had already been tried unsuccessfully under President Bush.
The side that most convincingly positions itself — and negatively positions the other — wins.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.