US & Canada

Obama defends opposition to tax cuts for rich Americans

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Media captionPresident Obama: "I believe it's the private sector that must be the main engine for our recovery"

President Barack Obama has defended his opposition to extending Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

He said the US cannot afford $700bn (£452bn) in tax cuts "to folks who are already millionaires".

Mr Obama's remarks in Ohio came as the faltering US economy emerges as the key issue in November's mid-term elections.

Republicans have attacked Mr Obama's economic stewardship, while he has criticised what he calls obstruction to Democratic job creation efforts.

On Friday, the labour department said the US economy lost 54,000 jobs in July, with unemployment rising to 9.6%.

The BBC's James Reynolds, in Washington, says that Mr Obama knows that no matter what else he has achieved, his administration will be judged by its record on the economy.

Republicans blame Mr Obama for increasing the deficit with hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus spending without delivering promised job growth.

"People are asking, 'Where are the jobs?"' House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said ahead of Mr Obama's speech. He called the White House "out of touch" with the American public.

'Growing again'

The address at a college in Cleveland was the president's second major economic speech this week, as he attempts to highlight his and the Democratic-controlled Congress' efforts to create jobs.

"The economy is growing again," he said.

"The financial markets have stabilised. The private sector has created jobs for the last eight months in a row. And there are roughly three million Americans who are working today because of the economic plan we put in place."

But he acknowledged the pace of growth had been "painfully slow".

"People are frustrated and angry and anxious about the future," he said.

"I understand that. I also understand that in a political campaign, the easiest thing for the other side to do is ride this fear and anger all the way to election day."

Republican plan derided

Mr Obama dedicated much of the speech to attacking Republican policies.

Referring by name to Mr Boehner, he blasted Republican plans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

"With all the other budgetary pressures we have - with all the Republicans' talk about wanting to shrink the deficit - they would have us borrow $700bn over the next ten years to give a tax cut of about $100,000 to folks who are already millionaires," he said.

And he derided what he described as a Republican economic plan centred on tax cuts for the wealthy and reductions in corporate regulation.

"I recognize that most of the Republicans in Congress have said no to just about every policy I've proposed since taking office," he said, adding the Republican minority believes "if I fail, they win".

"They might think this will get them where they need to go in November, but it won't get our country where it needs to go in the long run. It won't get us there."

BBC News website readers have been sending us their thoughts. Here is a selection of their comments:

The president is on target. As someone who will be hit with a larger tax bill I support ending the tax break. Helping people who are less fortunate is more important. Aaron, New York City

Mr Obama believes the government can allocate resources more efficiently than the private sector because of his innate mistrust of the wealthy. Unfortunately, economic growth comes most efficiently when private individuals are investing capital for free market returns, not by "welfare" jobs with finite time-spans funded by debt. Patrick, Florida

There shouldn't be tax cuts for rich Americans because the people who have to make up the loss of revenue are poor and middle-income Americans. This causes more of a drain on the already shaky economy because the poor will have to seek assistance to meet needs such as housing and food. Many cannot afford healthcare. Most of the assistance will come from the government which is (ironically) funded mostly by the lower and middle-income Americans. Julie, Texas

At a time when the national deficit is at its highest in history we cannot afford to give tax breaks to anyone. By reducing the income a government makes, everyone suffers. Taxes are what allow governments to function and what make government programmes work. Without tax money all the standards fall and the crisis persists. In order to deal more effectively with the situation, the money must flow and go to where it is needed. Jordan, New Mexico

Mr Obama has put the economy in even worse shape with his frivolous and reckless spending on projects and jobs that have not worked and are pointless. By not extending the "Bush tax cuts" he again shows, as all Democrats do, that they do not know how to stimulate the economy. You cannot punish the wealthy because they employ thousands of people. If they do not have enough money to continue their business or to attain their lifestyles, then they will have to lay people off and even more will be unemployed. Dave, Indiana

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