U.S. President Barack Obama headed to the country's industrial heartland Monday to press his case for increasing taxes on America's wealthiest households as a way to help avert an end-of-year crisis over government financial policies.
Mr. Obama, the Democrat newly elected to another four-year term, gave a campaign-style speech to auto workers in Michigan. The president is looking for more support for his plan to end the threat of what Washington is calling a “fiscal cliff” — $600 billion in mandated spending cuts and tax increases affecting almost all U.S. workers that are set to take effect January 1.
The White House wants to end a tax break for the wealthiest taxpayers — those making more than $250,000 a year — while keeping the tax break for those earning less. He said the country's economic fortunes have been built on the well-being of its working class.
“Our economic success has never come from the top down. It comes from the middle out. It comes from the bottom up. It comes from folks like you working hard.”
Mr. Obama's Republican opponents in Congress have mostly balked at raising taxes on anyone, no matter their income. But some Republicans have started to say the tax hikes may be necessary to reach a compromise, as long as Mr. Obama cuts spending on popular health care programs for the elderly and poor.
The president met Sunday at the White House with the leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, in their first face-to-face meeting about the fiscal cliff issues since mid-November. Neither side described any details of the meeting, but said the lines of communication remain open.
Economists say that if the automatic spending cuts and higher taxes take effect, it could plunge the U.S. economy, the world's largest, into its second recession in three years.