Firmly sticking to its goal of raising taxes on high-earners, the White House on Monday used some of its strongest language to date in the ongoing “fiscal cliff” debate with Republicans, who contend President Obama is not negotiating in good faith.
The White House also all but claimed an election mandate for tax increases on high earners, with Mr. Carney arguing that Mr. Obama made no bones about his goal in speech after speech during the campaign.
“This should not be news to anyone who was not in a coma during the campaign season,” Mr. Carney said.
In order to achieve substantial deficit reduction, Mr. Carney argued, tax rates on high earners will have to go up.
“It is mathematically impossible to reach a balance … in a way that only closes loopholes and caps deductions,” Mr. Carney said. “It’s possible to do it if you stick the middle class and raise taxes on the middle class.”
Mr. Carney’s clear-cut statement came on a day in which both sides dug in and the talks to avert tax hikes on most Americans and across-the-board spending cuts appeared at a standstill despite a looming Dec. 31 deadline.
Republicans over the weekend argued that Mr. Obama was simply recycling his own previously rejected budget proposals and is not offering any new negotiating points or even the smallest concessions. While a handful of Republicans have begun to support the president’s plan to raise tax rates on households with annual incomes above $250,000, GOP leaders so far have rejected that threshold and have called for the closing of tax loopholes and some deductions to come up with savings.
Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform and the father of the group’s influential “no-new-taxes” pledge, also has urged Republicans to keep hitting Democrats and the White House on their reluctance to cut entitlement programs.
But Mr. Carney said that so far, Republicans haven’t made a counteroffer to Mr. Obama’s proposal and should lay out a detailed plan if they find Mr. Obama’s offer of a $1.6 trillion tax hike unworkable.
“If they have ideas that are different than ours … we can’t guess what they are,” he said. “They have to tell us.”
Mr. Carney also flatly rejected a so-called “doomsday” plan as “entirely unacceptable” even though the plan would follow a White House recommendation to extend middle-class tax rates while allowing rates on top earners to increase.
Under the doomsday scenario, House Republicans would allow Senate Democrats to pass a bill extending the Bush-era tax rates for incomes below $250,000 while increasing taxes on income above that level.
Republicans then would pass a bill that would not extend the debt ceiling or unemployment benefits, nor would it avoid $1.1 trillion in slated spending cuts to defense and domestic budgets set to begin next year.
Theoretically, the move would force the president back to the the negotiating table early next year and would give Republicans more leverage.
But Mr. Carney said the American people would not accept such a cynical move — especially after witnessing a similar posture during last summer’s budget debate.
“It is entirely unacceptable to have a repeat performance of what the American people watched in horror in the summer of 2011,” he said.
If Republicans go forward with the plan, he said, they would be “holding the economy hostage … in the name of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”