Obama to seek tax increases on wealthy to help middle class
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will call for increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans then using the revenue to fund new tax credits and other cost-saving measures for the middle class in his first address before a Republican-led Congress.
The president’s proposals are likely to be cheered by the Democratic Party’s liberal base, but the tax increases are all but certain to be non-starters with the new Republican majority in Congress.
Obama will announce the tax proposals Tuesday night in his State of the Union address. Senior administration officials disclosed details Saturday on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the proposals by name ahead of the president.
The president’s address will also include calls for lawmakers to make community college free for many students, increase paid leave for workers and enact broad cybersecurity rules.
The centerpiece of the president’s tax proposal is an increase in the capital gains rate on couples making more than $500,000 per year to 28 percent, the same level as under President Ronald Reagan. The top capital gains rate has already been raised from 15 percent to 23.8 percent during Obama’s presidency.
Obama also wants to require estates to pay capital gains taxes on securities at the time they’re inherited. Officials said the overwhelming impact of the change would be on the top 1 percent of income earners.
While Republican leaders have said they share Obama’s desire to reform the nation’s complicated tax code, the party has long been opposed to many of the proposals the president will outline Tuesday. For example, most Republicans want to lower or eliminate the capital gains tax and similarly want to end taxes on estates, not expand them.
Administration officials pointed to a third proposal from the president as one they hope Republicans would support: a fee on the roughly 100 U.S. financial firms with assets of more than $50 billion.
Raising the capital gains rate, ending the inheritance loophole and tacking a fee on financial firms would generate $320 billion in revenue over a decade, according to administration estimates. Obama wants to put the bulk of that money into a series of measures aimed at helping middle-class Americans.
Obama’s call for higher taxes on the wealthy could further antagonize Republicans who are already angry with the president over his vows to veto several of the party’s priorities, including legislation to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, make changes to the president’s signature health care legislation and block his executive actions on immigration.
Republicans say Obama’s veto threats are a sign of a president who didn’t get the message from voters who relegated his party to minority status in the November election.
Beyond rolling out new proposals, Obama’s address is also expected to focus on making the case to the public that recent economic gains represent a real and lasting recovery.
Obama isn’t expected to make any major foreign policy announcements. He is likely to urge lawmakers to stop the pursuit of new penalties against Iran while the U.S. and others are in the midst of nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
The president also is expected to cite his recent decision to normalize relations with Cuba, as well as defend the effectiveness of U.S. efforts to stop Russia’s provocations in Ukraine and conduct air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.
Associated Press writers Stephen Ohlemacher and Laurie Kellman contributed to this report.
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