One day after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, bluntly stated that Republicans and Democrats are "almost nowhere" in their scramble to strike a deal before reaching the so-called "fiscal cliff" at year's end, President Obama slammed the GOP for holding "middle class tax cuts hostage" and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, charged that Mr. Obama's proposal is "a classic bait and switch."
Congress "can give families like yours a sense of security going into the New Year," the president argued in his weekly address, by acting now on "what we all agree on" - extending the Bush-era tax rates for Americans making less than $250,000 a year. If that doesn't happen, he said, "a typical middle class family of four will see their income taxes rise by $2,200."
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Thursday presented Republicans with Mr. Obama's "balanced approach" to dealing with the series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to go into effect Jan. 1, which he says will draw a net $1.6 trillion in revenue by allowing the current tax cuts to expire for the wealthiest two percent of Americans and overhauling the tax code.
"It's unacceptable for some Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage simply because they refuse to let tax rates go up on the wealthiest Americans," the president said, a familiar sentiment that has framed his weekly addresses now for months. Promising to "sign this bill as soon as Congress sends it my way," he said, "with the issue behind us, we'll have more time to work out a plan to bring down our deficits in a balanced way - including by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more, so we can still invest in the things that make our nation strong, like education and research."
But in remarks echoing Republicans' general consensus, Hatch argued lawmakers looking for a long-term solution to bringing down the nation's debt will "never get there with the unserious plan the president proposed this week." The "disastrous Thelma and Louise strategy" being promoted by the other side, Hatch said, is a "bait and switch" and "would take us over the cliff, putting millions of middle-class families, small businesses, and our already weak economy in further jeopardy."
"The president has said he wants a so-called balanced approach to solve this crisis," the Utah senator continued. "But what he proposed this week was a classic bait and switch on the American people - a tax increase double the size of what he campaigned on, billions of dollars in new stimulus spending and an unlimited, unchecked authority to borrow from the Chinese. Maybe I missed it, but I don't recall him asking for any of that during the presidential campaign."
Mr. Obama's push to let the current tax rates expire for some Americans, Hatch said, would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and nearly a million businesses. It's also "a strange turn of events," he added, "considering that in 2010 the president and 40 Senate Democrats supported extending these very tax rates, citing our sluggish economy, which was even stronger then than it is today."
A more viable option, Hatch said, is focusing on shoring up Medicare and Medicaid in sweeping entitlement reforms. Democrats "want more and more of the American people's tax dollars to spend without putting in place any meaningful and responsible reforms to the biggest government programs on the books," he said. "That just doesn't make sense."