U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged
Americans to pressure Congress to avert looming austerity measures as
part of a publicity effort around the so-called fiscal cliff.
"There is no reason why taxes on middle-class families should go up. It would be bad for the economy. It would be bad for those families. In fact, it would be bad for the world economy," Obama said before a cabinet meeting at the White House.
"And so I think it's very important that we get that resolved. And I am very open to a fair and balanced approach to reduce our deficit and provide the kind of certainty that businesses and consumers need so that we can keep this recovery going."
Unless Republicans and Democrats agree on an alternative, the economy will be hit by a $600-billion double whammy of budget cuts and tax increases starting January 1.
Obama had earlier hosted a group of citizens at the White House to call on constituents to pressure lawmakers, and has been reaching out to supporters using email and social media. Obama has met with business leaders and will travel Friday to a toy factory in Pennsylvania to stress the potential economic harm of a combination of federal spending cuts and income tax hikes.
Obama's approach has drawn criticism for being too heavy on election-style campaigning without enough focus on actual negotiation with Republican lawmakers. White House reporters this week grilled Obama spokesman Jay Carney about the strategy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday: "Rather than sitting down with lawmakers of both parties and working out an agreement, he's back out on the campaign trail, presumably with the same old talking points we're all familiar with."
The biggest sticking point is Democratic insistence that the highest earners face higher marginal income tax rates, while middle and lower-income earners should continue to benefit from Bush-era tax cuts. Republicans want to keep the tax cuts across the board.
Obama said Wednesday that because both sides agreed the middle class should not face tax hikes that lawmakers should proceed with action on that matter, but that the highest earners should be taxed at higher rates on income above 250,000 dollars.
Another conflict point is Republican insistence that government entitlement programmes, such as Social Security and medical insurance for the poor and elderly, be reformed, which left-leaning Democrats have opposed.
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