Testy Obama fires back at Democrats over tax deal

WASHINGTON Tue Dec 7, 2010 4:56pm EST

1 of 8. President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during his news conference in the Brady Press Room of the White House in Washington, December 7, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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Obama reaches deal on taxes

Mon, Dec 6 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A testy President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed frustration at his own Democrats for attacking him over his tax-cut deal with Republicans, who he called uncompromising "hostage takers."

Obama found himself in an unusual position a day after sealing a major tax-cut agreement -- praised by Republican opponents and denounced by liberal Democrats who felt he violated a pledge that helped get him elected in 2008.

Liberals accused him of caving to Republican demands by agreeing to extend all the Bush-era tax cuts, even those for wealthier Americans, instead of their preference for limiting the tax cuts to families making less than $250,000 a year.

Obama's tax-cut deal could be seen as a move toward the political center after November 2 elections in which Democrats suffered huge losses.

He said he could have spent months arguing the Democrats' position but that it would have risked further damage to the economy.

Obama leveled some of his toughest criticism to date at the left wing of the Democratic Party, saying his critics were taking a "sanctimonious" position that would not have helped solve problems.

His voice rose and he sounded exasperated when he said if he had refused to compromise, "People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people."

The country was founded on the principle of compromise, Obama said, and he singled out one leading critic, The New York Times editorial page, saying "The New York Times editorial page does not permeate across all of America. Neither does the Wall Street Journal editorial page."


Obama, fresh from days of negotiations with Republicans who would not budget on the tax-cut issue, had equally harsh words for his political opponents for wanting tax cuts for the wealthy that he believes are too expensive.

"Let me say that on the Republican side, this is their holy grail, these tax cuts for the wealthy," Obama said.

And he made clear he was conflicted about agreeing to the deal with them. "I think it's tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers," said the president.

Incoming House Speaker John Boehner will soon have responsibilities to governor, said Obama. "You can't just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb-thrower."

Obama needs to regain the confidence of independent voters to help him win re-election in 2012. Independents frustrated at the pace of the economic recovery abandoned Democrats in droves in the November elections, handing control of the House to Republicans and giving them greater numbers in the Senate.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday found the number of Americans who believed the country was headed in the right direction fell 4 percentage points since late October, from 33 percent to 29 percent.

Obama said he was eager to debate the issue of tax cuts for the wealthy over the coming months, meaning it will be a topic for discussion in the 2012 campaign.

And he said Republicans should not consider him a pushover for an agreement that he believes was necessary to make sure middle-class Americans do not see a tax increase on January 1.

"I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I'm itching for a fight on a whole range of issues. I suspect they will find I am. And I think the American people will be on my side on a whole bunch of these fights," he said.

(Additional reporting by Ross Colvin; Editing by David Storey)

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Comments (169)
hashercs wrote:
I pounded a lot of doors for him in my neighborhood, but what a disappointment, our President. Extending tax cuts (decreasing government revenue) and unemployment benefits (increasing costs). Now, we’ll be even deeper in debt. Next up, his support in repealing health care reform?

Dec 06, 2010 7:46pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ginchinchili wrote:
This was one compromise too many. It’s now clear that Obama just doesn’t have the spine to be president and this will guarantee that he’ll be a one term president. I will never vote Republican because of what they’ve done to America’s Middle Class, but neither will I vote for Obama in the next election.

I know there will be those who argue that if we don’t support Obama we’ll get a Republican and that will be worse, but Obama has made it clear that he’s no better than the other politicians and is really only beholden to the wealthiest Americans. Obama has turned his back on his base and in doing so has destroyed any chance he might have had to win a second term. So since all the big money will be going to Sarah Palin, or whatever puppet Republican wins the nomination, and that will guarantee a Republican victory, so we might as well make the best use of the election by running someone who truly represents the Middle Class. We can at least make a statement. That’s all we can hope to do. We won’t be able to get a weak, out-spent Obama reelected.

Though it deeply bothers me that Obama has capitulated once again to the Republicans, what’s even more troubling is that this tax cut for the wealthy is detrimental to our nation’s best interests. These tax cuts won’t create jobs. Do people really believe that when business owners get a little extra money in their pocket they’re going to use it to create a job? Jobs are created through supply and demand. The only jobs they’ll be creating will be for China or India.

And someone needs to remind Obama and the Republicans that we have a debt problem and the problem will not be tackled without some tax increases. All serious economists agree with that; spending cuts and tax increases. We have to get beyond this stupid idea that the more the federal government cuts taxes, the more money the government will take in. If that was true the deficit would have shrunk under George Bush. Instead it exploded to record highs. Obama and the Republicans are hurting the country; that’s the bottom line.

And as if that isn’t bad enough, a large majority of Americans are against keeping the tax cuts for America’s affluent. Why is the majority being ignored so that the federal government can do something detrimental to our country?

I did not support Obama during the primary because I felt he didn’t have enough experience. It appears that I’ve been proven right. There is 2% of the American public who our government defines as “we the people”. The other 98% is here to facilitate the wealthy in the gathering of their wealth, at our expense. Welcome to the age of American feudalism.

It’s time for a true, honest-to-god revolt, because that’s the only way things are going to change. And I don’t mean a tea party.

Dec 06, 2010 8:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Fishrl wrote:
Krugman is right, but I have to wonder if this is the only way Obama could get an extension on UI benefits for 2 million people. If so, it’s the most ransom ever paid. And the Republicans are guilty of a most despicable crime.

Dec 06, 2010 8:14pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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