Obama Meets With Labor, Progressives Over Fiscal Cliff Talks


I suppose it all depends on what you mean by wealthy. Still, sounds like Obama is semi-solid on ending those upper-class tax cuts, which is better than nothing but not enough:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama promised liberal groups on Tuesday that the Bush tax cuts will end for the nation's wealthiest, according to a statement from the progressive group MoveOn.

"MoveOn’s 7 million members will be pleased to know that President Obama today strongly reiterated his steadfast commitment to ensuring that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent finally end December 31—and to protecting the middle class in the process," said the group's political action executive director Justin Ruben after meeting with Obama at the White House.

In his daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney rejected the GOP's approach to raise revenues by cutting loopholes and deductions from the tax code, saying raising taxes on the rich was non-negotiable for Obama.

But Carney did not say whether Obama would stand by his "wealthy" cutoff line at $200,000 for individuals or $250,000 for families — a response to disagreement among Democrats over where to raise taxes and where to keep the rates the same or lower. Sen. Chuck Schumer has proposed raising the threshold to $500,000 or even $1 million.

The president "is not wedded to every detail of that plan," Carney said, when asked about the income levels. "I'm not going to negotiate hypothetical details."

No one's really saying much about Medicare and Social Security, but I got emails late yesterday afternoon from several of the organizations whose representatives attended the meeting, asking people to get ready for a fight:

Labor and progressive leaders who met with President Obama Tuesday drew a line in the sand on taxes, unemployment insurance, and entitlements—all of which are subject to change under the looming fiscal cliff deadline.

The meeting was the first of three the president will hold on the topic this week. He will meet with business leaders Wednesday and Congressional leaders Friday.

Richard Trumka, president of AFL-CIO said the meeting was "very positive," and that the president reiterated his position on preserving tax breaks for the middle class and seeing that the wealthy pay more.

One point of conflict between labor leaders and the White House may arise if the president offers to raise the eligibility age for Medicare as leverage to reach a deal. Trumka made no indication that the two sides made any progress on negotiating the issue during their one-hour meeting.

Matt Bai says it's too late:

Liberal activists will tell the president that things are very different now. He’s won a mandate, they will say, and that means he doesn’t need to compromise.

But while Mr. Obama can probably claim some vindication on the need to make the tax code more equitable, it would be a stretch to say that the voters demanded that he hold the line against entitlement cuts as part of a broader deal. The possible terms of a grand bargain hardly ever came up during the campaign, because neither side wanted to talk about it.

Mr. Obama may have more leverage now than he did in 2011 to put a hard limit on the scale of entitlement cuts, but it’s unthinkable that he could reach a comprehensive deal — something he still badly wants to do — without at least accepting the terms he found acceptable the first time around. That’s how negotiations work.

So while it may be good strategy for progressive groups to pressure the White House on entitlement spending, no one should harbor the illusion that the president won’t sign off on reductions. The simple fact is, he already has.


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