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Obama promotes tax cut extension plan in Cedar Rapids

BY ERIC LIGHTNER | JULY 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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CEDAR RAPIDS — President Obama shared his campaign message of raising taxes on the upper class and strengthening the middle class in Iowa Tuesday, but some state leaders say the plan could have a negative effects on state government.

Obama spoke in Cedar Rapids at Kirkwood Community College, calling on Congress to extend tax cuts for the middle class while ending tax cuts for those Americans who make more than $250,000 a year. Obama announced his tax plan Monday.

"Now, I believe that we should make sure that taxes on the 98 percent of Americans don't go up, and then we should let the tax cuts expire for folks like me, for the top 2 percent of Americans," he said Tuesday.

Iowa state legislators agree or disagree with the president along party lines. However, there is bipartisan agreement on a need for a long-term plan from Congress addressing the federal budget in a way that ensures the federal government won't leave state governments picking up the tab.

"I want the federal government to take care of its own responsibilities," Sen. Shawn Hammerlinck, R-Dixon, said, citing Illinois' difficulty with keeping its Medicaid program properly funded.

Obama emphasized his middle-class background and his childhood during his speech, noting the importance of middle class America.

"I had a single mom who, with the help of my grandparents, was able to send my sister and me to great schools," he said.

He said the way to grow the economy is through the middle class.

"Now, this tax issue is part of a broader debate we're going to have about how we rebuild an economy that grows the middle class and gives opportunity to everybody who is trying to get into the middle class," the president said.

Iowa GOP Chairman A.J. Spiker, was quick to respond in a press release that criticized Obama for not living up to his campaign promises in 2008.

"After promising to cut the deficit in half, run a more open and transparent government, and not raise taxes on the middle class, President Obama has done exactly the opposite," he said.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, agreed with Hammerlinck's reservations about Congress' ability to come up with a long term solution.

"I would hope that Congress would look a little bit more long-term in trying to make sure that it doesn't leave state government in the lurch," he said

Yet Dvorsky said he agrees with Obama's newly announced tax plan.

"This is the lowest tax rate the rich have ever had, so I don't think it's that big of a problem if they have to go back to the Clinton tax rates," he said.

As to how voters are going to react to the president's plan, there is still a lot that is going to have to happen, said Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science.

"Well, it's hard to say at this point, [higher taxes for the wealthy] is certainly a theme that he has talked about for some time," Hagle said. "It's something that the Republicans are certainly going to push back on."

Hagle also pointed out the $1 trillion Obama contends the nation would save by allowing the Bush tax cuts to end is, in fact, for a ten-year time span and not just for the one year that the taxes would be extended.

The president called on Congress to compromise with him for the extension of the tax cuts involving the middle class.

"Let's not hold the vast majority of Americans hostage while we debate the merits of another tax cut for the other 2 percent," Obama said.

Hagle said this argument of compromise is something he thinks will resonate with voters in a positive way, but the perception of Republicans in the House of Representatives being solely to blame is not entirely true.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said there was a strong need for Congress to push the tax cuts forward.

"Congress must stop the partisan bickering and come together to move these tax cuts forward instead of kicking the can down the road," he wrote The Daily Iowan in an email. "There is broad agreement on 98 percent of this, and partisan politics should not stand in the way of moving forward."


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