Fresh from his re-election, US President Barack Obama today said it was time “to get back to work” on the economy and pitched for raising taxes for the rich.
Obama, who has invited the Congressional leaders from both the parties next week to discuss and find a solution to the fiscal cliff, warned that in the absence of unanimity the country’s middle class would face a tax increase next year.
“Now that those of us on the campaign trail have had a chance to get a little sleep, it’s time to get back to work, and there is plenty of work to do. As I said on Tuesday night, the American people voted for action not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours,” said Obama.
Obama asserted that people have voted for the plans and ideas that his administration has advocated, and it was time to put them into practice.
“I’ve invited leaders of both parties to the White House next week so we can start to build consensus around the challenges that we can only solve together. And I also intend to bring in business and labour and civic leaders from all across the country here to Washington to get their ideas and input, as well,” he said.
Noting that the US economy is still recovering from the great recession, he said top priority has to be jobs and growth and priority should be rewarding small businesses and manufacturers “that create jobs here and not overseas”.
Given the impending fiscal cliff, Obama emphasised on the urgency to arrive at solutions as soon as possible.
“Because at the end of this year we face a series of deadlines that require us to make major decisions about how to pay our deficit down, decisions that will have a huge impact on both the economy and the middle class, both now and in the future,” he said.
“If we’re serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue. And that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes,” Obama said amidst a big round of applause from the selected audience invited to the East Room of the White House for his first speech in this building following his re-election.
He said this was the policy adopted by Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s, and this was the way to reduce the deficit while still making the investments to build a strong middle class, and a strong economy.
“That’s the only way we can still afford to train our workers, or help our kids pay for college, or make sure that good jobs and clean energy or high tech manufacturing don’t end up in countries such as China,” Obama said, but quickly added that he is open to compromises and new ideas.
“I’m committed to solving our fiscal challenges, but I refuse to accept any approach that isn’t balanced. I’m not gonna ask students and seniors and middle class families to pay down the entire deficit, while people like me making over $250,000 aren’t asked to pay a dime more in taxes. I’m not going to do that,” Obama said.
Obama asserted that, with re-election, he has an upper hand in this policy making as a majority of Americans agree with his approach.
“So our job now is to get a majority in Congress to reflect the will of the American people. I believe we can get that majority,” he added.
If the Congress fails to come to an agreement on an overall deficit-reduction package by the end of the year, Obama warned everybody’s taxes will automatically go up on January 1st including the 98 per cent of Americans who make less than $250,000 a year.
“That makes no sense. It would be bad for the economy and would hit families that are already struggling to make ends meet,” he said.
Stating that the Senate has already passed a Bill doing exactly this, Obama said that the Republican-majority House of Representatives needs to follow suit.
“So all we need is action from the House. And I’ve got the pen ready to sign the Bill right away. I’m ready to do it. I’m ready to do it,” Obama said flashing a pen to the audience.
Noting that the American people understand they are going to have differences and disagreements in the months to come, Obama said the general election on Tuesday made it loud and clear that they won’t tolerate dysfunction, they won’t tolerate politicians who view compromise as a dirty word.
“The American people are looking for is cooperation, they’re looking for consensus, they’re looking for common sense. Most of all, they want action. I intend to deliver for them in my second term, and I expect to find willing partners in both parties to make that happen. So let’s get to work,” Obama said.