Obama: Republicans must raise rates to create revenue

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

President Barack Obama and the White House on Tuesday continued to pressure Republicans to agree to raise tax rates on the nation's highest earners, saying a "fiscal cliff" deal is impossible without it.

Their "math doesn't work," the president, in his first post-election interview, told Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg TV. "We're going to have to have higher rates for the wealthiest Americans."

Obama said of the middle class that he "can't ask them to sacrifice and not ask anything of higher income folks," and once again claimed tax rates for families making $250,000 or more must be raised to increase revenue.

The president and Democrats are pushing to raise these rates as part of a deal to avoid automatic tax increases and spending cuts—also known as the fiscal cliff—set to go into effect Jan. 1. But Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, have indicated that increases are a non-starter.

Obama rejected Goldman's suggestion that sitting down to meet with Boehner will help accomplish a deal. "I don't think that the issue right now has to do with sitting in a room," he said.

The president later added that he's aware he won't achieve "100 percent" of his deficit deal, but said he's not willing to agree to revenue that's "vague and potentially comes out of the pockets of middle-class families," seniors and other vulnerable groups.

Judging from the White House's tone Tuesday, it appeared the Republican's counter-proposal offered Monday failed to move discussions forward. "It's magic beans and fairy dust," White House spokesman Jay Carney said at Tuesday's briefing. He said closing tax loopholes and a vague promise of tax reform does not indicate a clear source of revenue.

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Carney said rates must increase to accomplish this and chided Republicans for standing firm against them. "It's not good government for one party in Congress to refuse to acknowledge what a compromise has to include," Carney said. He continued to express confidence that a deal will be reached before the deadline.

The White House offered a plan last week that called for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue over 10 years—including a raise for top earners—and $400 billion in savings for entitlement programs.

The Republican counter-proposal on Monday included $300 billion in cuts to discretionary spending, $600 billion in "health savings," $200 billion in changes to the consumer price index and another $300 billion in mandatory spending.