By Kent Klein
President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign may be over, but his economic campaign continues. The president is appealing to business and labor leaders, lawmakers and the public to press Republicans in Congress to go along with his plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. In his successful re-election campaign, Obama made relentless calls to middle class Americans to support his program of higher taxes for the rich and continued tax cuts for everyone else.
“Our fight goes on because this nation cannot succeed without a growing and thriving middle class,” Obama said over and over again.
Since winning a second term on November 6, the president has been using a similar strategy to push for increased taxes for high income Americans while preserving the existing rate for the middle class. In a news conference this past Wednesday, Obama mentioned the middle class 21 times.
“We should not hold the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy. We should at least do what we agree on, and that is to keep middle class taxes lower.”
The president, along with the top Democrats and Republicans in Congress, have begun negotiations, hoping to avert what is being called the “fiscal cliff.”
The Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, is holding firm in his demand for an agreement to cut spending on some social programs, but says he is willing to compromise on taxes.
“To show our seriousness, we have put revenue on the table, as long as it is accompanied by significant spending cuts,” Boehner said.
To shrink the U.S. budget deficit, the White House wants an additional $1.6 trillion in revenues over 10 years, about twice what the president sought in the previous negotiations, in 2011. Under that agreement, deep government spending cuts would take effect and tax breaks would expire January 1, 2013.
Stan Collender works with clients in the financial industry at the Washington-based public relations firm Qorvis Communications. He says Obama’s re-election and the urgency of the impending fiscal cliff give the president a political advantage in the talks.
“The tax increases will go into effect automatically, and the spending cuts will go into effect automatically,” Collender said. “These are things the Republicans would like to stop, but the only way they can stop is by having legislation that the president will sign.”
Nonetheless, the president is taking no chances. He has hosted meetings with numerous influential Americans, seeking their support. The president is most interested in gaining the backing of major corporate executives, many of whom are Republicans, said Collender.
“The president would love to get the business community to say to the Republicans, ‘Look, we agree at this point that tax increases are needed. Let’s stop messing around with this, because you are going to hurt the economy, hurt our sales, hurt our stock prices,”’ he said.
Obama also met with labor leaders, such as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, whose support is more assured.
“We’re committed to making sure that the middle class and workers don’t end up paying the tab for a party that we didn’t get to go to,” Trumka said.
In addition, the president met with the leaders of civil rights organizations, such as the National Urban League and the National Council of La Raza, rallying their support.
And some of those who worked on the president’s reelection campaign are now pressuring lawmakers, mainly Republicans, to back the president’s tax proposal.
“I think we are all aware that we have some urgent business to do,” said Obama. Negotiations are set to resume the last week in November.