News Column

Obama Warns Against Giving Middle Class a Lump of Coal

Nov. 30, 2012

Thomas Fitzgerald

President Obama used his Friday visit to a Montgomery County toy factory to warn that Republicans in Congress were on the verge of giving millions of Americans a "lump of coal ... a Scrooge Christmas" by not acting to renew the lower Bush-era tax rates for those making less than $250,000 a year.

He said that is because of the automatic tax increases that will take effect in January, along with automatic budget cuts, if the White House and Congress cannot agree on a fiscal plan. Obama wants to let tax rates go up to Clinton-era levels for wealthy taxpayers; GOP congressional leaders say they want no rate increases.

The visit was part of the president's campaign-style effort to rally public support for his proposals aimed at avoiding the fiscal cliff. With a backdrop of K'Nex and other toys, he urged about 350 people at the Rodon Group factory in Hatfield to put pressure on their representatives in Washington via phone calls, emails and tweets. "I've been keeping my own naughty and nice list for Washington," he said, referring to members of Congress. "Keep an eye on who gets K'Nex sets and who doesn't."

Obama said Republicans should extend existing Bush-era tax rates for households earning $250,000 or less, while allowing increases to kick in for the wealthy. He said both sides need to "get out of our comfort zones" to reach an agreement.

The president toured the Rodon facility, maker of K'Nex toys and other fun childhood products such as Tinkertoy and Lincoln Logs. His first stop was a tool room where two precision grinding machines make the steel molds used to manufacturer the multicolored plastic K'Nex pieces. He was accompanied by Chairman and K'Nex co-inventor Joel Glickman, Vice chairman and General Counsel Robert Glickman, and CEO Michael Araten.

The humming of the machinery and clicking of cameras made it impossible to hear much of his brief conversation. The president asked a question about "market share" and did a quick shadow-boxing gesture. He asked a question about how the company made the pitch to win the rights to use Angry Birds in its products.

Next, Obama went to a machine that creates the plastic red tops for the K'Nex set tubs. Finally, he saw an injection molding machine that makes the flexible chains for the K'Nex roller coaster.

Obama seemed intrigued by the complex, bright orange coaster that had been assembled for his inspection beside the machine. "This is spectacular here," he said. "How does that [inaudible]?" A worker pointed out the gear mechanism. The president laughed and seemed to indicate he would be just fine with staying for awhile to play with the toy.

Source: (c)2012 The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by MCT Information Services

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