Amid ongoing closed-door talks between Republicans and Democrats over a compromise to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," President Obama today headed to Michigan as part of a continued effort to rally the public around his plan, which would raise taxes on the top two percent of American households.
With less than a month to go before the U.S. is slated to go over the "cliff" -- a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to start kicking in early next year -- the president is increasingly turning to campaign-style tactics as a means to achieve his legislative goals in the face of GOP opposition: Today's visit to Michigan marked another of several recent rallies aimed at ginning up public support for his plan, and Obama supporters received distinctly campaign-like emails today encouraging them to "reach out to fellow Obama supporters and make sure they contact their Republican representative" on the issue.
Outwardly, little progress appears to have been made in the negotiations, given that neither side has yet agreed to budge on the key sticking point: Whether or not the Bush-era tax cuts should be extended for the top two percent of Americans. But there are some signs of possible movement. Mr. Obama met with Boehner yesterday at the White House, and White House spokesperson Jay Carney says the "lines of communication remain open" following that meeting.
"The president does believe that we can reach an agreement," Carney told reporters today in a briefing on Air Force One as the president traveled to Michigan.
Visiting Daimler's diesel engine producer Detroit Diesel today, Mr. Obama underscored that the company's recent success -- Mr. Obama announced a new $120 million investment that will result in "115 good new union jobs" -- as evidence that his own policies from the last four years are working.
"I placed my bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity," Mr. Obama said. "I'd make that same bet any day of the week. Three and a half years later, that bet is paying off... The American auto industry is back."
But he warned that any recent economic progress could be hampered if Congress "doesn't act soon" to pass a bill to deal with the "cliff," and that middle-class families will be stuck with a tax hike starting in the new year, when a package of Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire.
"If Congress doesn't act soon, meaning in the next few weeks, starting on January 1st everybody's going to see their incomes taxes go up," he told the crowd. "A typical middle-class family of four will see an income tax hike of around $2,200. How many of you can afford to pay another $2,200 in taxes?"
"I didn't think so," he said, after someone in the audience cried out, "Not me!"
Mr. Obama, as he has done repeatedly in the past several weeks, proceeded to outline his own "balanced" plan, which includes extending the Bush-era reductions for 98 percent of Americans while raising them on income of $250,000 or more.
"We can solve this problem. All Congress needs to do is pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody's income," he said. "When you put it all together, what you need is a package that keeps taxes where they are for middle class families, we make some tough spending cuts on things that we don't need, and then we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a slightly higher tax rate."
On that principle, he stressed, "I won't compromise."
"I'm not going to have a situation where the wealthiest among us, including folks like me, get to keep all our tax breaks, and then we're asking students to pay higher student loans," he said. "Or, you know, suddenly, you know, a school doesn't have school books because the school district couldn't afford it. Or some family that has a disabled kid isn't getting help that they need through Medicaid. We're not going to do that, we're not going to make that trade-off. That's not going to help us to grow."
Whether and to what extent Boehner will agree to that position remains the primary point of political interest in the negotiations. So far, both the White House and the speaker's office remain mum on the question.
"Discussions with the White House are taking place, but we have no detail to share about the substance of those conversations," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said today in a statement. "The Republican offer made last week remains the Republican offer, and we continue to wait for the president to identify the spending cuts he's willing to make as part of the 'balanced' approach he promised the American people."