Obama: Slow economy should be call for Congress to act
(CBS News) President Obama on Friday called the latest jobs report a sign of progress but said the marginal pace of economic growth should be a catalyst for Congress to act quickly to ensure middle-class Americans won't see their taxes go up next year.
Without mentioning that the unemployment rate rose from 8.2 percent in June to 8.3 percent in July, Mr. Obama noted that 172,000 private sector jobs were added to the economy last month (9,000 government jobs were lost, meaning there was a net gain of 163,000 jobs). He said that amounts to 4.5 million jobs created in the last 29 months and 1.1 million so far this year.
However, Mr. Obama said, "We've still got too many folks out there who are looking for work." In addition to creating more jobs, the president said the nation needs to "reclaim the kind of financial security too many Americans felt was slipping away from them for too long."
"We are not going to get there... if we go back to the policies that helped create this mess in the first place," Mr. Obama said. "The last thing we should be doing is asking middle class families who are still struggling to recover from this recession to pay more taxes."
The president urged Congress to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for the middle class, even if it needs more time to fight over whether to extend the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
"Frankly, that issue is probably not going to be resolved until after November," Mr. Obama said with respect to the debate over extending the current tax rates for income over $250,000. "In the meantime, say we all agree on extending tax cuts for middle class families.... Let's keep taxes low for 98 percent of Americans, and we can argue over the other 2 percent."
Last week, the Democratic-led Senate passed a year-long extension of the tax cuts for all Americans, except for people earning more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000. Then this week, the GOP-led House rejected that plan and instead passed a plan to extend all of the tax breaks.
Mr. Obama today, with middle-class Americans standing behind him, accused House Republicans of holding the middle-class tax cuts "hostage."
"They want to give millionaires and billionaires and folks like me tax cuts that we don't need and that the country can't afford, even if middle class families have to pick up the tab for it," he said.
Without citing his political opponent by name, the president also referenced Mitt Romney's budget proposal and a recently-released study, which concluded the middle class would see their taxes go up under Romney's plan while taxes would go down for the wealthy.
"I just think we've got our priorities skewed if the notion is that we give tax breaks to folks who don't need them and to help pay for that, we tax folks who are already struggling to get by," he said. "That's not only top-down economics, that's upside-down economics."
In spite of Mr. Obama's calls for action, Congress won't be able to act on the tax legislation until September, after its five-week recess.
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