White House Pushes Back at Orszag, Defends Eliminating Bush Tax Cuts for Rich

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated the Obama administration's opposition to extending tax cuts for America's highest earners this afternoon, after former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, at left, suggested a two year extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts.

Orszag, who left the Obama administration in July, wrote in an op-ed in today's New York Times that raising taxes would "crimp consumer spending, further depressing the already inadequate demand for what firms are capable of producing at full tilt." He suggested the administration extend all the Bush tax cuts for two years before ending them altogether in order to lower the deficit. This includes ending the tax cuts for middle and lower-income people that the Obama administration wants to extend permanently.

In his press briefing this afternoon, Gibbs responded to Orszag's comments, emphasizing that while the White House is committed to extending tax cuts for middle and low-income Americans, it stands firm in its belief that maintaining similar breaks for the nation's highest earners is fiscally unsustainable.

"Our viewpoint on this is that we should and must pass legislation that extends the tax cuts for middle-class families," he said. "But we cannot afford, in this environment to -- in our budgetary and fiscal environment to extend the tax cuts for those that make more than $250,000 a year."

"I don't think the president believes that we are a $100,000 tax cut from a millionaire away from an economy that works for families that are making $40,000 a year," Gibbs said.

Gibbs said he does not recall Orszag having voiced these opinions during his tenure in the White House. "I obviously was not in every meeting that Peter was in," he said. "I did not hear him make this argument. He may have made this argument at some meetings. I certainly don't recall it, but that's not to say that he didn't."

When asked if Orszag was a frequent voice of opposition while serving as OMB director, Gibbs resisted characterizing Orszag's behavior in terms of "one neat box."

"I wouldn't want to generalize about anybody here," he said. "I think, probably, like a number of people that work here, if you walked into any meeting, people have opinions that may or may not vary with those that are in the room."