At an online town hall meeting Monday, President Obama called on a wealthy audience member who had a question that was music to the president’s ears: “Would you please raise my taxes?”
On a three-day West Coast swing, Mr. Obama took time out from million-dollar fundraisers to participate in the event hosted by the social networking website LinkedIn in Mountain View, Calif. As the meeting was being streamed online, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner asked the president to pick an audience member for the next question.
“You kind of put me on the spot here,” Mr. Obama said. Then the president called on “the guy in the glasses, right in the back.”
Whether the guy in the glasses was truly chosen at random, he turned out to be Douglas Edwards, a former Google executive who became a millionaire when the company went public in 2004. And his question was tailor-made for Mr. Obama’s efforts to raise taxes on wealthier Americans as part of his overall plan for deficit reduction and job creation.
“I’m unemployed by choice,” Mr. Edwards told the president. “My question is, would you please raise my taxes?”
The audience laughed, then applauded.
Mr. Obama thanked him for his “sentiment,” but not before launching into a dissertation of several minutes on the need for higher taxes.
“So often the tax debate gets framed as class warfare,” Mr. Obama said. “We benefited from somebody, somewhere, making an investment in us. And I don’t care who you are, that’s true of all of us.”
The president’s plan, which is getting a cool reception in Congress, would raise $1.5 trillion in new revenue, including about $800 billion over 10 years from repealing the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000.
“We’re not talking about going to punitive rates that would somehow inhibit you from wanting to be part of a startup or work hard to be successful,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re talking about going back to the rates that existed as recently as in the ‘90s, when, as I recall, Silicon Valley was doing pretty good. And it turns out that during that period, the rich got richer. The middle class expanded. People rose out of poverty because everybody was doing well. It’s a question of how can we afford to continue to make the investments that are going to propel America forward.”
The president praised Mr. Edwards for “the fact that you recognize we’re in this thing together, we’re not on our own. And those of us who have been successful, we’ve always got to remember that.”
Mr. Edwards, a former journalist who wrote a book about his tenure at Google entitled “I’m Feeling Lucky,” has donated more than $230,000 to Democratic candidates or Democratic groups in the past three election cycles. He gave $30,400 each in 2010 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He gave the maximum allowable donations to the campaigns of Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Martha Coakley, who was defeated by Sen. Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican.
Mr. Edwards gave Mr. Obama only $250 in 2008, according to a search of campaign finance records.