Obama Backtracking: Open to Taxes for Middle Class

Friday, 12 Feb 2010 08:32 AM

By Dave Eberhart

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Backtracking on a firm and fast campaign promise, President Barack Obama now says he is “agnostic” about raising taxes on households making under $250,000 a year, including the idea in the general tool bag needed to lower the nation’s crippling deficit.

In an interview with Bloomberg Business Week that hit newsstands Friday, Obama declared that a presidential budget commission needs all options of the table, including tax increases and cuts in such programs as Social Security and Medicare.

“The whole point of it is to make sure that all ideas are on the table,” Obama said. “So what I want to do is to be completely agnostic, in terms of solutions.”

Obama pledged repeatedly during the 2008 campaign to exempt households earning less than $250,000 a year from tax increases.

Over the course of time, the White House press secretary Robert Gibbs re-emphasized the president’s pledge, including when White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner were mulling new taxes on the middle class last summer.

Obama also stated in the Bloomberg interview that he believes that limiting the agenda of any bipartisan advisory commission would cripple it from the start.

“What I can’t do is to set the thing up where a whole bunch of things are off the table,” Obama said. “Some would say we can’t look at entitlements. There are going to be some that say we can’t look at taxes, and pretty soon, you just can’t solve the problem.”

The Bloomberg report noted that the middle class would be the likely target of tax increases, because the administration’s budget already has targeted Americans making more than $200,000 with its proposed $970 billion tax increase over the next decade.

That increase is a product of not extending former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy beyond 2010.

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