In an effort to give voters confidence in a Democrat-led Congress, President Barack Obama drove home his party’s support of the middle class and small business Wednesday, September 8 in a speech about the future of the American economy, job growth, and tax cuts for small businesses.
With the November 2 elections coming up, Obama has focused in the last week on the nation’s sickly jobs market in an effort to win favor with voters, especially those who are unemployed. On September 3, the Labor Department reported that the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 9.6% in August from 9.5% in July. From May through August, the jobless rate has remained in the range of 9.5% to 9.7%.
“The middle class is still treading water” despite the nation’s modest economic recovery and growing market stability, Obama said in a speech during a visit to Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio. “For years, our tax code has actually given billions of dollars in tax breaks that encourage companies to create jobs and profits in other countries. I want to change that.”
Obama said he wanted to let the tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush — in 2001 and 2003 — to expire at the end of 2010, but just for individuals earning more than $200,000 annually or couples earning more than $250,000. Keeping those cuts in place would benefit 97-98% of Americans, Obama said. The changes would affect dividend and capital gains rates as well.
In a speech that was as much about electioneering as public policy, Obama lambasted Republican House Leader John Boehner and his party numerous times.
“So let me be clear to Mr. Boehner and everybody else: We should not hold middle-class tax cuts hostage any longer,” Obama said. “We are ready, this week, if they want, to give tax cuts to every American making $250,000 or less. Now, for any income over this amount, the tax rates would just go back to what they were under President Clinton.”
Obama accused the Republicans of blocking legislation that they themselves had proposed during the Bush administration because Obama was now for it.