No tax hike for middle class: White House

WASHINGTON Mon Aug 3, 2009 3:36pm EDT

President Barack Obama walks across Pennsylvania Avenue back to the White House after hosting a Cabinet meeting at Blair House in Washington, July 31, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

President Barack Obama walks across Pennsylvania Avenue back to the White House after hosting a Cabinet meeting at Blair House in Washington, July 31, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will keep his promise not to raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year, the White House said Monday, rebutting comments by administration officials that indicated otherwise.

"The president has made a very clear commitment to not raise taxes on middle-class families," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a regular briefing.

"Let me be precise. The president's clear commitment is not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 a year," he said.

Obama's top economic advisers left the door open to such a tax increase over the weekend with comments that seemed to contradict the tax pledges Obama made on the 2008 presidential campaign trail.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Sunday declined to rule out a tax hike as a way to help slash record deficits and White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers, while reiterating Obama's intent not to penalize the middle class, said "it's never a good idea to absolutely rule things out."

But Summers said later in Sunday's morning television news shows that Geithner was not laying the groundwork for tax increases, and added that none of the White House proposals would burden the middle class.

Gibbs said Obama's position on the issue had not changed.

"I think the president has been clear on this. The first thing that we can do -- the most important thing that we can do right now is get our economy growing again," he said.

"We're going to have to make some decisions down the road on some of the president's legislative priorities and some of the things that Congress wants to do, to evaluate how we move back toward -- on a path toward fiscal sustainability."

The White House also repeated its prediction that job losses in the U.S. economy would continue to mount, and Gibbs said that fact would be reflected in unemployment figures set to be released Friday.

"I don't think there's anybody that doesn't believe that we're going to see several hundred thousand more jobs lost in this economy," Gibbs said, adding that unless something unforeseen occurred, Friday's report would show the unemployment rate ticking up.

Even with positive economic news last week that second quarter GDP contracted only at a modest rate, the White House has warned that ending the flow of job losses would take time.

FILED UNDER: