Two days after Senate Republicans blocked consideration of the White House's "Buffett rule," a proposed tax increase on millionaires, President Obama used the rejection to rally supporters in swing-state Ohio and paint himself as a champion of the middle class.
"In this country, prosperity doesn't trickle down," the president told a crowd of about 400 on hand for a speech Wednesday at Lorain County Community College in Elyria. "Prosperity grows from the bottom up and it grows from a strong middle class out.
"I'm saying you make a million dollars a year ... you should at least pay the same percentage in income tax as middle-class families do," Mr. Obama said. "That helps us afford being able to say to the 98 percent of families who make $250,000 a year or less, 'Your taxes won't go up.' "
Senate Republicans on Monday blocked legislation that would have imposed a 30 percent minimum tax on millionaires, as Democrats failed to win the 60 votes needed in the 100-member Senate to move to a full debate and vote on the bill aimed at extracting more tax revenue from the wealthy.
Monday's vote and the issue of tax fairness are likely to resonate throughout the campaign.
Likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney, campaigning in North Carolina on Wednesday, said Mr. Obama is in over his head and swimming in the wrong direction when it comes to the economy.
In a scathing indictment of Mr. Obama's policies, the former Massachusetts governor said virtually nothing Mr. Obama has done in his time in the Oval Office has helped create jobs.
During his remarks in Ohio, the president continued to slam Republicans for supporting lower taxes across the board — especially for the wealthy — as a way to encourage investment and boost the economy.
"Right now we have two competing visions of our future, and the choice could not be clearer," he said. "Should we settle for an economy where a few people do really well and then a growing number are struggling to get by?"
Despite the president's rhetoric, a September report by the nonpartisan Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation shows that the wealthy, on average, already pay the most taxes at far higher rates than the middle class.
The report lists individual income tax rates by salary bracket, showing those making less than $200,000 paying no more than a 9.5 percent rate for individual income taxes while those making more than $1 million pay an average effective rate of 22.2 percent.
The report also shows that individuals who make from $100,000 to $200,000 pay a higher share of the country's taxes than any other bracket, 29.8 percent compared to 22.5 percent for those making more than a million dollars a year and 18.4 for all those making $100,000 and less.
Mr. Obama also took a swipe at Mr. Romney without naming him.
"I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth," Mr. Obama said as he defended his economic policies.
The reference to a privileged life played into the attempts by the Obama campaign to focus on Mr. Romney's background as a private equity fund manager and his status as a millionaire.
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