Obama denies GOP’s class warfare charge over tax plan
CHANDLER (ARIZONA) US President Barack Obama on Wednesday denied Republican claims he was waging class warfare as he set out to sell his call for tax hikes on the rich in states crucial to his re-election bid.
Hours after his combative and populist State of the Union address, Obama appeared first in Iowa, the cradle of the 2008 campaign which swept him to the White House, and then in Arizona, launching a three-day, fivestate tour.
Obama hopes to convince voters that his vision of a remodelled economy — where everybody, not just the wealthy, gets “a fair shot” — merits handing him a second term in November’s election.
He argued that those who earn one million dollars a year should pay at least 30 percent in taxes, decrying loopholes which offer rich Americans, like his possible Republican foe Mitt Romney, a much lower rate on investment income.
“I hear a lot of folks running around calling this class warfare,” Obama said at a factory in mid-western Iowa.
“This is not class warfare,” Obama said, citing legendary financier Warren Buffett’s argument that he should pay a higher tax rate on his vast fortune than his own staff pay on their annual income.
“Asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary is common sense,” Obama said, warning Americans must decide whether to build an equitable economy, fund education and the military or let the rich evade fair taxes.
“We cannot do both. You have got to choose,” Obama said, hammering out his core election message while seeking to defuse Republican claims he is vilifying the rich in a bid to mine envy over their success.
“We don’t begrudge success in America. We aspire to it,” Obama said, speaking in front of a banner that read “An America built to last.” Previous attempts by Obama to raise taxes on the rich, or to rescind tax cuts on higher earners passed by former president George W
Bush have failed.
So his strategy appears as much an election gambit to portray Republicans as obstructive stooges of the rich at a time of deep income inequality, as evidence of a genuine hope he can reform the tax code this year.
Republicans responded angrily to Obama’s State of the Union message.
“I think it was a great campaign speech, obviously stoking the class warfare issue,” Senator John McCain, who lost to Obama in the 2008 election, told CNN on Wednesday.
House Speaker John Boehner also faulted Obama’s speech, signalling that many of the president’s ideas for job creation and to boost education and manufacturing would likely go nowhere.
“Last night was just another campaign speech,” Boehner said on the Laura Ingraham radio show.
“He wants to take no responsibility for his policies that have failed and made no reference last night to really stepping into the game and legislating.” Later, Obama flew to Arizona, and was involved in what appeared to be a sharp exchange with the southwestern state’s Republican governor Jan Brewer.
In line with protocol, Brewer met the president at the foot of the stairs to Air Force One and the pair were soon in an animated conversation, with Brewer pointing her finger at the US commander- in-chief.
She handed the president a letter which she said contained an invitation for him to meet with her, but Obama apparently complained about her treatment of him in her book Scorpions for Breakfast.
“The president said he’d be glad to meet with her again, but did note that after their last meeting, a cordial discussion in the Oval Office, the governor inaccurately described the meeting in her book,” a White House official said.
Obama and Brewer have had a difficult relationship since his administration decided to sue her state over a controversial immigration law.
The president was due to sleep in another key swing state, Nevada, on Wednesday, before flying on to Colorado and Michigan before he returns to Washington on Friday.
All five states, or a combination of several of the battlegrounds, could help provide a pathway for Obama to secure a second White House term, despite his approval ratings of below 50 percent and a tough economic environment.