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Rich tax to pay for US jobs bill

Sep 13 2011 07:52 AFP

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Washington - US President Barack Obama signalled on Monday he would pay for his $447bn jobs plan by raising taxes on the rich and energy corporations and lining up a new showdown with Republicans.

The president, seeking to reset his under-pressure presidency and slice away at 9.1% unemployment, sent the bill to lawmakers and warned Republicans not to slow it down with "political games" at a time of great national urgency.

But Obama, by deciding to finance the bill by ending tax breaks for oil and gas firms and individuals earning over $200 000, set up a new row with Republican lawmakers - who have already rejected such methods in the past.

The president, who has promised to fight for the bill in every corner of the country, gathered firefighters and teachers who he said would be helped by the bill on Monday in the White House Rose Garden.

"This is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country. This is a bill that will help our economy in a moment of national crisis," Obama said.

"This is a bill that Congress needs to pass. No games. No politics. No delays."

The White House later unveiled Obama's plans for paying for the legislation in a way that will not run up the already bloated deficit.

Budget Director Jack Lew said the plan would remove itemized tax deductions and some exemptions for people earning over $200 000 a year and families which take in $250 000.

Obama would also tax carried interest earned by hedge fund managers as ordinary income rather than as capital gains and take away special preferences enjoyed by oil and gas firms.

He would also close tax loopholes enjoyed by corporate jet owners. In all, the package would raise $467bn, Lew said.

Lew said, alternatively, the congressional supercommittee mandated to find $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions by November could accept Obama's suggestions or recommend a different path to pay for the jobs bill.

Republican sources however said that Obama's proposals proved he was still wedded to raising taxes, which they say would slow job creation by small businesses.

"It would be fair to say this tax increase on job creators is the kind of proposal both parties have opposed in the past," said Brendan Buck, a spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner.

"We remain eager to work together on ways to support job growth, but this proposal doesn't appear to have been offered in that bipartisan spirit."

Republicans in the House of Representatives, who have been a roadblock for Obama since their mid-term election triumph last year, however have hinted they will accept some parts of the plan, though not the full bill as sent to them.

In a slight concession to his foes, Obama said in a roundtable with Hispanic journalists on Monday that he would agree to sign into law pieces of his plan - but pressed them to pass the measure in full.

"Obviously if they pass parts of it I'm not going to veto those parts, I will sign it but I will say then 'give me the rest' and I will keep on making that argument as long as the need is there to put people back to work," he said.

The Obama bill halves payroll taxes to 3.1%, provides aid to cash-strapped states and includes a $50bn infrastructure investment portion to tackle high unemployment and a stagnant economy.

The White House senses that after a bruising showdown over raising US government borrowing authority in July, that Republicans may be feeling political pressure to compromise on some aspects of Obama's plan.

Boehner and Majority leader Eric Cantor have said that they are eager to find some common ground with the president.

But they will be wary of handing Obama a big victory he could trumpet as he prepares to face the voters in November 2012.

In line with his pledge to sell the jobs plan in every corner of America, Obama will tout the legislation on Tuesday in the vital electoral swing on Ohio and then follow up in another key battleground, North Carolina, on Wednesday.

Obama opened his campaign for the bill on Friday in Virginia, a long-time Republican state which he won during his 2008 election victory, and needs again in 2012 as he seeks a new mandate.

barack obama  |  us economy  |  tax  |  us jobs plan
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