MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Sept. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama told a forum sponsored by LinkedIn in California his proposed tax increase for those making more than $1 million is not "punitive."
Rather it turns back the clock to the 1990s when "as I recall, Silicon Valley was doing pretty good. During that period, the rich got richer. The middle class expanded. Everybody was doing well," Obama said Monday.
Obama fielded questions about jobs, the economy and his jobs plan online and in person, with several audience members at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View telling Obama they or relatives had lost their jobs. One woman said her mother, recently unemployed, was trying to return to the workforce and also was concerned about Social Security and Medicare.
One man at the event said he was unemployed "by choice" after having worked at a start-up company in Silicon Valley. He said he was successful enough to retire and live comfortably.
"My question is: Would you please raise my taxes?" the man asked to a round of applause. "I'd like very much to have a country that continues to invest in things like Pell grants, infrastructure and job training programs that made it possible for me to get to where I am."
The debate over his jobs plan, which includes tax provisions, "is framed as class warfare," Obama said.
His proposal to raise taxes on those making more than $1 million a year is not "talking about punitive rates that will stop you from working at a start-up and being successful," Obama said.
"We're not punishing those doing well," Obama said. "That's the last thing I want to do. The question is how can we afford to continue making the investments that can propel America forward?"
At some point, the president said, "money makes a difference. If we do not have enough science teachers in classrooms we have a problem. Somebody's got to pay for it."
He said the tax rates are at their lowest since the 1950s, but "some Republican proposals would take it back to where we were in the 1920s. We can't have a modern industrial economy like that."
To the man who asked the question, Obama said, "I appreciate the fact that you recognize we are in this thing together. We're not on our own. Those of us who have been successful have to remember that."
The man said he knew "a lot of people" in his own situation "and everyone told me that they would support raising our taxes, so please … ."
Near the end of the forum, Obama said Americans were looking for some common sense.
"The problem is not outside of Washington but the problem is everything has become so ideological and everyone is just focused on the next election and putting party before country that we're not able to solve our problems," he said.
Republican lawmakers plan a Facebook town hall meeting on job creation Monday to counter one hosted by Obama, Facebook said.
They will discuss what they're doing to "help the U.S. economy rebound," Facebook said.