Little change in "fiscal cliff" talks - or talking points

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A day after House Speaker John Boehner said the White House "wasted another week" in the negotiations over the "fiscal cliff", both President Obama and the Republican Party, are repeating their arguments today over one major sticking point: taxes.

In his weekly address, Mr. Obama said there is still some wiggle room on what Democrats are willing to give in negotiations over how to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff" at year's end. But increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, he stressed, is "one principle I won't compromise on."

Under the White House's proposal to generate revenue by allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire January 1 for the top two percent of earners in America, "everyone would enjoy some peace of mind," the president argued. He pointed out that "even the wealthiest Americans would get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of their income."

Currently, progress on a deal is stalled due to the split Congress's disagreement over whether to extend the cuts for all Americans or only those making less than $250,000 a year. Republicans have criticized the president's "unserious" plan for not cutting spending deeply enough; Mr. Obama returned the favor in his remarks, calling the GOP's proposal "an unbalanced plan that actually lowers rates for the wealthiest Americans.

"If we want to protect the middle class," he continued, "then the math just doesn't work."

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden suggested the tax rate to be imposed on the wealthiest Americans is "theoretically" negotiable from the 39.6 level it was during Bill Clinton's presidency. The president made no mention of the tax rate, which he and Democratic leaders in Congress have been pushing, but mentioned other areas where he's willing to walk toward the middle.

"We can and should do more than just extend middle class tax cuts," Mr. Obama said. "I stand ready to work with Republicans on a plan that spurs economic growth, creates jobs and reduces our deficit - a plan that gives both sides some of what they want. I'm willing to find ways to bring down the cost of health care without hurting seniors and other Americans who depend on it. And I'm willing to make more entitlement spending cuts on top of the $1 trillion dollars in cuts I signed into law last year."

Last month's election results, the president reasoned, showed that "a clear majority of Americans - Democrats, Republicans, and independents - agreed with a balanced approach that asks something from everyone, but a little more from those who can most afford it. It's the only way to put our economy on a sustainable path without asking even more from the middle class. And it's the only kind of plan I'm willing to sign."

Delivering the Republican response, though, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. - a hero of the hands-off government tea party movement - tried to make the GOP's case that tax hikes, even on the wealthiest Americans, are not the answer to reining in the deficit.

"Our goal should be to generate new revenue by creating new taxpayers, not new taxes," he said, arguing that closing loopholes in the tax code would free up revenue.

"Tax increases will not solve our $16 trillion debt; only economic growth and a reform of entitlement programs will help control the debt." But the middle class that is so vital to growing the economy, Rubio lamented, is struggling to find and keep jobs because a "growing opportunity gap has developed between the dreams of millions of Americans and the opportunities for them to actually realize them."

Describing his defense as "personal" because of his parents' journey from poor immigrants to the middle class, Rubio concluded: "The emergence of a strong, 21st century American middle class is the answer to our most pressing challenges."

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