President Barack Obama took his call for tax hikes on the richest Americans to Tiffany on Thursday—not the fabled jewelry store, but a high school English teacher and her middle-class family living in the Washington, D.C., suburbs.
Obama took his motorcade to Falls Church, Va., to sit down with Tiffany Santana and her husband, Richard, who works at an area Toyota dealership. Also present were Tiffany's parents: Velma Massenburg, a child care provider, and Jimmie Massenburg, a postal worker.
At the kitchen table in the ground-floor apartment the Santanas share with their 6-year-old son, Noah, the president sounded his familiar clarion call to extend Bush-era tax cuts that chiefly benefit the middle class while raising rates on higher incomes. Obama has warned he will not sign legislation that does not raise rates on the richest Americans—a step Republicans have thus far rejected.
"It's very important that we get this done now, that we don't wait," Obama said to the Santanas. "We're in the midst of the Christmas season; I think the American people are counting on this getting solved. The closer it gets to the brink, the more stressed they're going to be.
"They're keeping it together, they're working hard, they're meeting their responsibilities," Obama continued. "For them to be burdened unnecessarily because Democrats and Republicans aren't coming together to solve this problem gives you a sense of the costs involved in very personal terms."Failure to reach a deal would send the country over the so-called fiscal cliff, a package of tax hikes and deep spending cuts that threaten to plunge the economy into a new recession. The White House estimates that a typical middle-class family might pay $2,200 more to Uncle Sam.
"That translates into $200 billion of less consumer spending next year" overall, the president said. "And that's bad for businesses large and small. It's bad for our economy. It means less folks are being hired, and we can be back in a downward spiral instead of the kind of virtuous cycle that we want to see."
The White House picked Santana from the thousands of families that have shared on its website what the fiscal cliff would mean for them—and released a video showing the family discussing the potential impact. (Details are courtesy of pool reporter Allison Sherry of the Denver Post's Washington Bureau.)
"The message that I think we all want to send to members of Congress is this is a solvable problem," Obama said.
Locked in seemingly stalled negotiations with Republicans opposed to the tax hike, the president has been waging an aggressive PR war to keep the public on his side in the dispute. In addition to his brief foray into Falls Church, the president will sit down for an interview with People magazine just days after doing one with Bloomberg TV. And the White House has been active online as well, emailing supporters to keep them engaged after the hard-fought 2012 presidential campaign and promoting a Twitter hashtag, #My2K, for users to weigh in.
Obama wants to let Bush-era tax cuts expire for individuals making more than $200,000 and families pulling in more than $250,000. He argues that the alternative is cuts to programs that the White House regards as fostering economic growth—things like college loan programs and infrastructure investments. Republicans have refused to let income tax rates on the wealthiest rise back to Clinton-era levels, warning that this will hurt some small businesses and take investment cash out of the economy.