Pausing between $10,000-a-plate fundraisers for his re-election campaign, President Obama called on Congress in a highly partisan speech Tuesday to approve a tax increase on the wealthy to pay for programs for the middle class.
“In this country, prosperity has never trickled-down from the wealthy few,” Mr. Obama said at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. “Prosperity has always come from the bottom up, from a strong and growing middle class.”
Hammering away at a top theme of his re-election bid, the president complained that the share of national income going to the top 1 percent of wage earners has climbed to a level “we haven’t seen since the 1920s.” Yet he said the wealthiest Americans are paying tax rates that are among the lowest in the past 50 years.
“That´s wrong. That’s not fair,” Mr. Obama said. “And so we’ve got to choose which direction we want this country to go. Here in America, we help each other get ahead.”
Republicans said the president is giving voters a head-fake by fomenting class envy to distract them from his weak economic record.
“With no record to run on, he’s back in Florida, campaigning on fear, division and class warfare,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
The president packed his 30-minute speech in the midst of three fundraisers in the battleground state, prompting complaints by Republicans that Mr. Obama was fleecing taxpayers for campaign travel.
“It is a shame that taxpayers are paying for what is strictly a campaign fundraising trip,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican. “It’s pretty obvious he threw [the speech] in there in order to get the taxpayers to pay for this very expensive trip.”
In an address that sounded like a campaign stump speech, the president skewered the Republican budget approved by the House last week, which includes $4.6 trillion in tax cuts over a decade, saying the GOP was “doubling down on these old, broken-down theories” of trickle-down economics. He claimed that Republican budget cuts, if spread out evenly across all departments, would result in 10 million college students having their financial aid cut by an average of $1,000 annually.
“Tens of thousands of researchers and teachers and students, could lose their jobs,” Mr. Obama said to boos.
He said Republicans didn’t specify cuts in their budget “because they knew people wouldn’t accept them.”
“This is not an exaggeration,” said of his claims. “This is math. We did the math.”
Although he spoke to the college audience about redistributing wealth, Mr. Obama failed to mention his so-called “Buffett rule” tax increase to the wealthy donors at the first high-end fundraiser he attended Tuesday in Florida, where couples paid $15,000 to see him. At that event, the president accused Republicans of seeking to extend tax cuts for people who “don’t need ‘em and weren’t asking for ‘em.”
There’s virtually no chance that Mr. Obama’s proposal, which would tax income over $1 million at a minimum rate of 30 percent, will become law this year. But Democrats want to put Senate Republicans on record about the measure in an election-year test vote set for Monday, the day before the IRS deadline for filing 2012 tax returns.
And the Obama campaign wants to remind voters that Mitt Romney, who solidified his status Tuesday as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee with the withdrawal of Rick Santorum from the race, paid an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent in 2010 on $21.9 million of income. The rule is named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who is fond of saying that he ought to pay a higher tax rate than his secretary.