President Obama (R) speaks about extending middle class tax cuts and the fiscal cliff alongside Tiffany Santana (2nd R), Richard Santana (L), and Jimmie Massenburg (2nd L) at their home in Falls Church, Virginia, on December 6, 2012. Tiffany Santana, a high school English teacher, had previously contacted Obama about how an increase in her taxes would affect her family. / SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
President Obama today sat down with a Virginia family who said that if the Bush-era tax rates aren't extended for the middle class, they'd have to give up the equivalent of a month's rent.
"They're keeping it together, they're working hard, they're meeting their responsibilities," Mr. Obama said, while sitting around the kitchen table with Tiffany Santana and her family in their Falls Church, Virginia home. "For them to be burdened unnecessarily because Democrats and Republicans aren't coming together to solve those problems gives you a sense of the costs on personal terms."
Letting tax rates go up next year, the president said, would be "bad for our economy and it puts us back in a downward spiral." The expiration of the Bush-era tax rates are part of the so-called "fiscal cliff," a series of tax increases and spending cuts set to kick in next year that economists say would send the nation into another recession. While the president is negotiating with Republicans over an economic package to avert the "cliff," he's calling on Congress to start by extending the current tax rates for all income under $250,000.
The White House started a public campaign to press Congress on the issue, focusing on the fact that if the current tax rates expire, a typical middle class family of four would see its taxes rise by $2,200. Using the Twitter hashtag #my2k and other forms of social media, the White House urged middle-class Americans share what a tax increase would mean to them.
More 370,000 Americans responded, including Tiffany Santana, a high school English teacher. So Mr. Obama today visited Santana and her family. Santana lives with her seven-year-old son, her husband (who works at a local Toyota dealership), her mother (a child care provider), and her father (a postal worker).
"I think we're definitely a 21st century middle class family," Santana said in a video the White House produced. "Real everyday people know what $2,000 means to their lives... For me [it] would be paying a month's rent -- something very tangible, something that we need."
Mr. Obama said he remained "optimistic" that a deal is in the cards, but maintained that a "modest" rate increase on the top two percent must be part of the final equation.
"We're in the midst of the Christmas season, I think the American people are counting on this getting solved, the closer it gets to the brink the more stressed they're going to be," he said. "Businesses are making decisions right now about investments and hiring, and if they don't have confidence that we could get this thing done, then they're going to start pulling back and we could have a rocky time in our economy over the next several months or even next year."