Although Obama did not comment on the tea parties, he did respond to his critics. “For too long, we’ve seen taxes used as a wedge to scare people into supporting policies that actually increased the burden on working people instead of helping them live their dreams,” he said. “That has to change.”
Obama also announced that he’s asked Paul Volker, a former Federal Reserve chairman and member of the president’s economic advisory panel, to conduct a review of the tax code and submit a report on ways to simplify it by the end of the year.
When Congress returns from recess next week, lawmakers will begin debating which of President George W. Bush’s tax cuts to extend or sunset. Obama’s 2010 budget proposal calls for a tax increase on the wealthiest families and a limit on itemized deductions taken by households earning more than $250,000. “We need to end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans so that folks like me are paying the same rates that the wealthiest 2% of Americans paid when Bill Clinton was president,” Obama said.
That’s exactly the kind of talk that drew Keith Lewis, a black businessman who owns the consulting firm LMK Partners, out into the rain. “What’s happening right now is there’s this false sense of stimulus money coming in to create jobs but the money’s going to disappear, governments are going to be left hanging and will have to let go of people. Here I am trying to run a business and hire people, but if the tax burden is high on me, I won’t have the money to bring new people in,” said Lewis. He’s also worried about the burden the level of debt the government is incurring will place on his grandchildren. “It’s easy to talk about pain now, but it’s nothing compared to the pain that’s going to be felt in the future,” he added.