(CBS News) Casting himself as a friend to the middle class, President Obama in his weekly address called on Republicans and Democrats to "at least agree to do what we all agree on" and extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for American families making less than $250,000 a year.
"That's what compromise is all about," Mr. Obama said, making a nearly four-minute case for his tax plan over the GOP's "trickle down" approach that, he said, operates from the belief that "if we spend trillions more on tax cuts for the wealthy, it'll somehow create jobs."
Suggesting "the only place [Republicans and Democrats] disagree is whether we keep giving tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent of Americans," the president said his path, by requiring the top two percent to pay "a little more" in income taxes exceeding the $250,000 threshold, would spare 98 percent of families from seeing any spike in income taxes.
"In other words, the wealthiest few Americans will go back to the income tax rates they were paying under Bill Clinton," the president said. "And if you remember, that was when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history - and millionaires were doing pretty well."
But the priority for both parties in Washington, the president said, is to enact what they largely agree on and extend the Bush tax cuts (set to expire Jan. 1) for those individuals making less than $200,000 and families bringing in less than $250,000.
"Let's not hold the vast majority of Americans and our entire economy hostage while we debate the merits of another tax cut for the wealthy," Mr. Obama said. "Let's skip the unnecessary drama, the needless delays and all the partisan posturing and let's just do the right thing."
In something of an audition for Mitt Romney's running mate spot, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman - a leading contender on many speculators' veepstakes lists - delivered the Republicans' weekly address, and had a different take on the president's tax record.
Condemning it as an "unaffordable health care spending law," Portman said the Affordable Care Act, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, will "do something President Obama promised he would never do: hit millions of middle class Americans with a massive tax increase."
"Raising taxes on employers and the middle class, growing government at the expense of free enterprise, piling on new regulations that increase the cost of doing business - these burdens make it harder, not easier, to create jobs in America," Portman said of the president's policies.