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Obama pushes businessmen on tax hike

Dec. 5, 2012 at 3:40 PM  |  Updated Dec. 5, 2012 at 1:09 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama Wednesday tried to enlist business leaders in the battle on the "fiscal cliff" and House Speaker John Boehner acknowledged taxes will rise.

Obama met with the Business Roundtable at a Washington office building, telling them the partisan bickering needs to stop.

The session followed Republican rejection of Obama's proposal for avoiding the simultaneous Jan. 1 expiration of the tax cuts adopted during the George W. Bush administration, other breaks incorporated since then and draconian spending cuts that were supposed to push Congress into taking action on the deficit, and the White House rejection of a plan floated by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, which conservative Republicans refused to back.

Obama has called for $1.6 billion in tax increases, $50 million in stimulus spending and executive power to raise the federal debt limit without congressional approval. He told those attending Wednesday's roundtable session his approach is balanced.

"We're prepared to make some tough decisions when it comes to spending cuts," he said but reiterated new revenue has to be part of the package.

Obama, whose remarks were interrupted by problems with the sound system, said in private discussions, business leaders have told him they were willing to pay slightly higher taxes.

"It is not possible for us to raise the amount of revenue that's required for a balanced package if all you are relying on is closing deductions and loopholes," Obama said.

"So what we've said instead is let's allow higher rates to go up for the top 2 percent -- that includes all of you, yes, but not in any way that's going to affect your spending, your lifestyles, or the economy in any significant way; let's make sure that 98 percent of Americans don't see a single dime in tax increases next year, 97 percent of small businesses don't see a single dime in tax increases next year -- and by doing that alone we raise almost $1 trillion without any adverse effects on the economy.

"Let's combine that, then, with some additional spending cuts and some long-term entitlement reform that can get us to a number close to $4 trillion, which stabilizes our debt and our deficits relative to GDP [gross domestic product] for at least a decade, perhaps more."

Obama also warned Republicans not to hold the debt ceiling hostage as they did in 2011, bringing the United States to the brink of default and forcing a lowering of the U.S. credit rating. He called it a "bad strategy" and said he "will not play that game."

Boehner Monday offered $800 billion in new tax revenue, an offer that was immediately rejected by the White House as too vague and a failure to acknowledge the need to raise taxes on incomes of more than $250,000.

Meeting with reporters Wednesday, Boehner said spending must be cut "and I believe it is appropriate to put revenues on the table. Now, the revenues that we are putting on the table are going to come from guess who? The rich."

However, Boehner said, he still does not favor increasing tax rates, instead favoring closing loopholes and limiting deductions -- something Obama has said will not raise the amount of money needed, CNN reported.

Boehner issued a statement urging Obama "to show leadership by presenting a credible plan of his own that can pass both houses of Congress.

"The president talks about a balanced approach but he's rejected spending cuts that he has supported previously and refuses to identify serious spending cuts he is willing to make today. This is preventing us from reaching an agreement," Boehner said.

He added: "We don't have time for the president to continue shifting the goal posts. We need to solve this problem."

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