(CBS) President Obama today entreated the American people to press Congress to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all but the highest earners, insisting that public pressure could make all the difference in negotiations.
"When the American people speak loudly enough, lo and behold, Congress listens," Mr. Obama said from the White House, with middle-class Americans standing behind him. He noted that a typical middle class family of four would see its taxes rise by $2,200 if Congress doesn't extend the current tax rates for most Americans before the year is up.
"Tell members of Congress what a $2,000 tax hike would mean to you," the president said. "Call your members of Congress. Write them an e-mail. Post it on their Facebook walls. You can Tweet it using the hashtag #My2k."
The White House has used public campaigns like this before to lobby Congress during tough negotiations. In April, the White House urged Twitter users to employ the hashtag #dontdoublemyrate to send the message that they wanted student loan interest rates to stay low.
Now, Mr. Obama is using the bully pulpit of the presidency to pressure Congress to extend the tax cuts for income under $250,000. That would leave the 2 percent of Americans who earn more than $250,000 still facing a tax hike when the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of the year.
Polls show that the public supports Mr. Obama's plan, which he campaigned on against Mitt Romney: 60 percent of Americans in a new Washington Post/ ABC News poll support raising taxes on incomes more than $250,000 a year.
Negotiations over the tax cuts are part of the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations under way between Congress and the White House. The "fiscal cliff" refers to a series of tax increases and spending cuts slated to go into effect on January 2, which could potentially send the U.S. into another recession. Along with the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, it includes the expiration of the payroll tax holiday that Mr. Obama instituted. Around $1.2 trillion in cuts to both defense and non-defense programs are also set to kick in on January 2 unless Washington acts.
Republicans insist they will not agree to raise any tax rates. Some say they are willing to raise tax revenue by closing tax loopholes and deductions, as long as Democrats are willing to scale back spending in areas like Medicare and Medicaid.