Obama: 'This Is Not Class Warfare;' It's Fairness for 'Millionaires and Billionaires'

September 19, 2011 - 2:15 PM
President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama gestures while speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama said in a Rose Garden speech on Monday that he was not engaging in "class warfare" by demanding increases in taxes on people he referred to three times as "millionaires and billionaires."

"During this past decade, profligate spending in Washington, tax cuts for multi-millionaires and billionaires, the cost of two wars, and the recession turned a record surplus into a yawning deficit, and that left us with a big pile of IOUs," Obama said at the beginning of his speech.

"And any reform should follow another simple principle: Middle-class families shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires," Obama said a moment later. "It’s hard to argue against that.  Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett.  There is no justification for it."

"Nobody wants to punish success in America," Obama said. "What’s great about this country is our belief that anyone can make it and everybody should be able to try--the idea that any one of us can open a business or have an idea and make us millionaires or billionaires. This is the land of opportunity. That’s great.  All I’m saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay our fair share in taxes to contribute to the nation that made our success possible."

"This is not class warfare.  It’s math," Obama said. "The money is going to have to come from someplace."

Obama sent his plan to increase taxes to the joint committee of 12 House and Senate members crafting a deficit reduction plan. Obama’s proposal is meant to reduce the deficit, while also paying for his $447 billion jobs proposal. Obama said for every $2 in spending cuts, there will be $1 in revenue. The plan reduces the deficit by $4.4 trillion, according to the White House. That includes $1.5 trillion in revenue from tax reform and $1.1 trillion in savings from drawing down troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations – tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don’t get,” Obama said. “And if tax reform doesn't get done, this plan asks the wealthiest Americans to go back to paying the same rates that they paid during the 1990s, before the Bush tax cuts.”

Some of the specifics offered in the plan released by the White House were. Doing away with the Bush-era tax cuts for single earners of $200,000 and households earning $250,000 would bring in $886 billion. Obama also wants to limit deductions for those making more than $250,000, which the White House said would bring in $410 billion. And closing loopholes would raise approximately $300 million. 

Obama addressed what he suspected critics would call the plan.

“I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher is class warfare,” he said. “I think it’s just the right the thing to do.”

Class warfare is exactly what Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, called it. He said the "class warfare coming from President Obama reflects a White House that continues to value rhetoric over results.”

“The President’s latest proposals are defined by the same job-killing tax hikes and short-sighted political plays that do nothing to inspire confidence and certainty among businesses and families,” Price said in a statement.

“He has already stacked the deck against American job creators with higher taxes, mandates, and a runway regulatory regime. House Republicans are advancing policies that will make it easier for the economy to grow and produce jobs.  The President’s tax hikes and regulations stand in the way of that growth,” he added.

Speaking to reporters, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner could only reference broad generalities of how wealthy individuals might pay less in taxes than most others, but he had no specific examples. He said generally millionaires making most of their money through wages and salary would pay more, but those earning much of their income through dividends and investment would pay less than middle class income earners.