Surveys Galore!

 

John Boehner wants you to see this

Wed Sep 14, 2011 10:44 AM EDT, The Maddow Blog

 

Republican House Speaker John Boehner just tweeted a survey from Bloomberg News. It shows 72 percent of people saying the economy is getting worse and the country’s on the wrong track:

The broad message of Republicans is resonating, with 57 percent of the country saying the best way to create jobs is to cut taxes and government spending. That hasn’t stopped the party’s brand from deteriorating, and the public rejects many specific Republican policy prescriptions.

From far away, voters buy the tough-love premise. Up close, they want Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy before cutting Medicare or Social Security. They also like health reform — just 34 percent agree with Republicans that it should be repealed.

Another new survey, this one not tweeted by Speaker Boehner, says that Americans prefer President Obama’s approach to the economy over Republicans. They like the American Jobs Act by 43-35, and when you break it down into parts, Steve Benen notes, they like it even more:

[T]he more important results show strong support for individual provisions of the plan: clear majorities Americans support cutting the payroll tax (65% support), providing state aid to protect jobs for teachers and first responders (74%), and infrastructure investments (64%).

Republicans oppose all of these ideas.

We saw something of the same thing in the health reform fight — even people opposed to it on principle really liked the particulars.

Progressives to Obama: Go Big or Go Home

Obama Jobs Plan: Progressive Groups Urge President To ‘Go Big’

 The Huffington Post      Posted: 8/30/11 06:10 PM ET

Sixty-seven major progressive organizations have penned an open letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to “go big” as he prepares a new jobs plan, which he will announce in a major speech just after Labor Day.

The groups — including MoveOn, Democracy for America, Rebuild the Dream and the National Council of Women’s Organizations — commend Obama for presenting a jobs plan at a “crucial moment,” but also stress the negative impact of Congress’s failure to provide a fix for the nation’s high unemployment rate:

A problem this serious needs a plan to match it in scope. Tax cuts and incentives for corporations have repeatedly failed to put Americans back to work. It is time to move beyond these half-measures designed to appeal to a narrow ideological minority who have repeatedly shown their unwillingness to negotiate and their disinterest in real solutions. History — and proven economics — tells us that any plan to solve our job crisis needs to be big, bold, and create jobs directly.With 25 million Americans out of work, or only able to find part-time work when they want and need full time jobs, aggressive action is needed. Representative Jan Schakowsky’s “Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act” is an example of the kind of bold step that we need to take as a country and that you should include as part of your broader jobs agenda. It would decrease unemployment 1.3 percent by directly creating more than 2 million jobs, including jobs for construction workers to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and for educators, health care workers, firefighters, and police, to strengthen our communities.

The progressive groups have reservations about Obama’s intention to dedicate part of his speech to deficit reduction, according to a press release from Campaign for America’s Future.

They are also concerned that Obama’s plan may not be large enough to be taken seriously — the plan is expected to be significantly less ambitious than the $825 billion stimulus of 2009.

According to the Associated Press, economists who advocate for government intervention in the economy estimate that it would take a package of at least $300 billion to avoid backsliding, and even more to boost the economy significantly. It is unlikely a plan that large would be accepted by Congress, which was divided on fiscal issues during the recent debt ceiling debate.

O’Reilly: “You Can’t Tax People Who Just Sit On Their Money” [Video]

Schooled by Ben Stein

GOP Will Raise Taxes, But Not on the Rich

The GOP will raise taxes — on the middle class and working poor

By , Published: August 23, The Washington Post
America’s presumably anti-tax party wants to raise your taxes. Come January, the Republicans plan to raise the taxes of anyone who earns $50,000 a year by $1,000, and anyone who makes $100,000 by $2,000.

Their tax hike doesn’t apply to income from investments. It doesn’t apply to any wage income in excess of $106,800 a year. It’s the payroll tax that they want to raise — to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent of your paycheck, a level established for one year in December’s budget deal at Democrats’ insistence. Unlike the capital gains tax, or the low tax rates for the rich included in the Bush tax cuts, or the carried interest tax for hedge fund operators (which is just 15 percent), the payroll tax chiefly hits the middle class and the working poor.

In both debt plans, the wealthy win.
In both debt plans, the wealthy win.
And when taxes come chiefly from the middle class and the poor, all those anti-tax right-wingers have no problem raising them. In an editorial this weekend, the Wall Street Journal termed the payroll tax reduction “an inferior tax cut,” arguing that tax cuts should be “broad-based, immediate and permanent.” Broad-based? The payroll tax cut, which the Journal dismisses so contemptuously, benefits every employed American, while the tax cuts the paper champions — on capital gains and millionaires’ income — accrue to a far smaller group. Immediate? Unlike taxes paid annually or quarterly, the payroll tax is drawn from each paycheck from the moment the law takes effect. Permanent? The payroll tax is the tax that funds Social Security, so reducing it really can’t be a permanent policy. But the impermanence of the Bush tax cuts, which had been set to expire this year but were extended, presented no obstacle to the Journal’s fervent support for them.

This tax-Joe-Six-Pack mania doesn’t end with the Journal. While President Obama has made clear that he supports extending the lower 4.2 percent payroll tax rate for another year, to keep the economy from contracting further, congressional Republicans have made their opposition equally clear. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. Camp complained that it would push the deficit higher. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the man who’d have us scrap Medicare, concurred. “It would simply exacerbate our debt problems,” he said on Fox News Sunday this month.

This concern for the debt, touching though it may be, didn’t keep Republicans from enacting two waves of tax cuts under George W. Bush. It hasn’t kept them from opposing our current president’s proposal to restore the Clinton-era tax rates on the wealthy. But when we’re talking about taxes on the majority of Americans, those who work for a living and don’t make six-figure incomes, the Republican brain lobe devoted to debt reduction through tax increases goes abuzz with synaptic frenzy.

The most telling Republican reaction to the president’s proposal to extend the lower rate has been one man’s equivocation. The man is Grover Norquist, author of the anti-tax-increase pledge that the vast majority of House Republicans have signed. On Tuesday, pressed by a number of journalists (most prominently, The Post’s Greg Sargent) to state his position on raising the payroll tax, Norquist sought to quietly steal away. “One would have to see the final legislation,” his spokesman, John Kartch, told Sargent, to determine “what is the net effect on total taxes.”

But unless Congress votes to extend it, the lower rate will expire on Jan. 1 regardless of its effect on total taxes. Norquist flat-out opposed letting the Bush tax cuts expire — though he did tell The Post’s editorial board that it didn’t technically violate the pledge, a position that he has since tried to obfuscate. Now that the payroll tax is slated to expire, though, Norquist is lost in contemplation (or something). Congressional Republicans inclined to increase the payroll tax — and I’m not aware of any who have come forth to oppose that idea — can do so, apparently, without fear of being labeled tax-increasers just because they’ve increased taxes.

Republicans like to complain that Democrats practice “class warfare” and “the politics of division,” as House GOP leader Eric Cantor argued on this page Monday. What the Republicans’ position on the payroll tax makes high-definitionally clear is their own class warfare on working- and middle-class Americans. Their double standard couldn’t be more obvious: Tax cuts for the wealthy are sacrosanct; tax cuts for everyone else don’t really matter. Norquist, Cantor, Ryan, Camp, the Journal editorialists and the whole Republican crew give hypocrisy a bad name.

A Word from Warren Buffet

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich

By WARREN E. BUFFETT, Op-Ed The New York Times, August 14, 2011

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.

American Dream Movement vs. Tea Party

Progressives Say American Dream Movement Rivals Tea Party

Wednesday 10 August 2011
by: Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

As Americans face the economic fallout of the recent debt deal in Washington, members of the burgeoning American Dream Movement on Tuesday announced the Contract for the American Dream, a new agenda for economic recovery supported by a grassroots movement that progressive leaders say will rival the Tea Party in size and impact.

The contract is a list of ten sweeping policy proposals drawn from suggestions made by 131,203 Americans who gathered online and in neighborhood meetings to discuss solutions to the nation’s economic woes. The contract demands what Democrats conceded in the recent debt deal: investment in jobs, education and infrastructure and higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

MoveOn.org Director Justin Ruben told reporters that most Americans want jobs instead of spending cuts, and the people who contributed to the American dream contract are frustrated with both parties. He said the American Dream Movement has spread from the demonstrations in Wisconsin to a dozen other states where “people are fighting against Republican attacks on the middle class.”

“We’ve been critical of both parties, including the president,” Ruben said. “There is a an enormous opportunity for politicians to step up … because people are desperate.”

The American Dreamers are already being compared to the divisive Tea Party that made countless headlines and shook up the GOP in recent years. Like the Tea Partiers on the right, promoters of the American Dream contract said Washington is out of touch with the views and needs of the rest of America.

“Too many people in Washington are giving up on the American dream, but the American people are not,” Ruben said.

Rebuild the Dream President Van Jones said the American Dream Movement is “real,” unlike the Tea Party, which was created with the help from “Fox News and Koch Brothers.” Jones said the American Dreamers are starting out with twice as many numbers as the Tea Party had in its early days, and the broad grassroots movement could “help DC as a whole do a major reset.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) said that she is working with members of the House progressive caucus to advance the contract’s agenda. Schakowsky recently introduced legislation that would increase spending on new jobs and raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but the bills are expected to face strong opposition in a divided Congress.

Schakowsky said the Obama administration has not indicated if it will support the legislation during the next Congressional session.

Taxes — Who to Believe?

Can they still raise taxes? Well, depends on who you believe

(CNN) — As the details of the debt ceiling deal start to emerge, it’s not surprising that there’s a disagreement between the White House and Republicans on whether the deficit reduction committee can or will tackle tax reform.

However, the politics of these positions are fairly clear: Republicans want to reassure members that taxes aren’t really on the table, and Democrats want to reassure members that they are.

Here’s what’s behind the spin:

Both sides agree …

The joint committee can take up tax reform if it chooses to. The dispute is whether the deal is structured in a way that motivates the committee to do it. Keep in mind the committee’s product — if it passes Congress — would take effect in January 2013, just when the Bush tax cuts expire.

The Republicans’ position …

Republican leadership aides say the committee is unlikely to tackle tax reform because the group’s goal is deficit reduction.

• They say the Congressional Budget Office — the official scorekeepers of any budget plan — will rate the committee’s deficit reduction package based on 2013 spending levels, when Bush-era tax cuts have already expired. That means they’ll be working off a baseline with higher revenue — as much as $3.5 trillion more revenue over 10 years.

• If the president wants to reinstate tax cuts for, say, the middle class, that would count as revenue lost. A committee focused on deficit reduction doesn’t want to be in the business of losing revenue.

• So the committee would then need to find a way to offset that lost revenue — closing loopholes wouldn’t be enough. It would have to move to cuts.

• Republicans say Democrats on the committee are unlikely to want to institute even more cuts in spending.

Therefore, Congress will have to deal with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at some time, but there’s no motivation to do it in the context of a deficit reduction committee.

The administration’s pushback …

The White House says that the committee will be motivated to take up tax reform precisely because the Bush tax cuts will soon expire. One senior White House official says the schedule is motivating.

• First, the suggestion that it is impossible for the joint committee to raise tax revenue, they say, is simply false.

• If the joint committee decides as part of a balanced deal to eliminate tax subsidies for oil and gas companies or corporate jets, or if it decides to limit the value of itemized deductions for high-income earners, then these measures would raise revenue — completely independent of any baseline assumptions. They can be part of a balanced agreement, and the president will be encouraging the committee to consider them.

• Second, nothing in the legislation, they say, specifies that the committee must operate under any specific baseline — either the one that assumes the Bush tax cuts have expired, or the one that has them in place.

• Under the terms of the statute, the joint committee could decide to use whatever baseline it wants. If the committee wants to operate under a baseline that assumed the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for high-income taxpayers, it is free to do so. Likewise, if committee members want to operate under a current policy baseline that includes the Bush tax cuts — which is what House Speaker John Boehner was relying on when he said he had agreed to $800 billion in revenue from tax reform — they are free to do so as well.

• The legislation does not preclude revenue-raising tax reform. In fact, the president will be making the case that tax reform should be part of a balanced deal coming out of the joint committee.

Could the CBO use that baseline? It really doesn’t matter. The committee could still raise revenue if it wanted to. For instance, tax reform that included closing loopholes — tax breaks for jet plane owners, oil and gas subsidies — would show up as reductions from the baseline, despite GOP claims that it would not.

The bottom line …

Depending on who you believe, revenue increases — whether they take the form of closing loopholes, ending subsidies or letting the Bush tax cuts expire — may still be on the table in the next round. One way or the other, it will probably be up to the joint committee.

The question will be whether each side has the political will to push its position to the edge six months from now.

IRS: 1,470 Millionaires Paid No Income Taxes in 2009

IRS: 235,413 million-dollar earners

A fan of one hunderd dollar bills is seen. |Reuters

Only 8,274 returns were filed by people making $10 million or more. | ReutersClose
By JENNIFER EPSTEIN | 8/5/11 6:51 AM EDT

President Barack Obama and many Democrats are talking about raising taxes on the wealthy, but few Americans actually fit that bill, data released this week by the Internal Revenue Service suggests.

People and households earning more than $1 million annually made up just 0.1 percent, or just over 235,000, of the 140 million tax returns filed in 2009, and just 8,274 returns were filed by people making $10 million or more.

Though the tax rate for Americans earning $1 million or more averaged 24.4 percent, up from 23.1 percent in 2008, that’s still lower than the 28.5 percent rate they paid in 2002 when President George W. Bush was in office.

And, the data shows, of the 235,413 taxpayers reporting incomes seven digits or more in 2009, 1,470 paid not a penny of income taxes. In 2007, 959 Americans earning $1 million or more paid no income taxes.

The returns filed in 2009 reflect income from 2008, the deepest depths of the recession and financial crisis, and, under that backdrop, incomes fell sharply.

The vast majority of tax return filers – more than 97 percent – reported incomes of less than $200,000. The average income was $54,283, a drop of more than $3,500, or 6 percent, from 2008. That put the average income at its lowest level since 1997.

At the same time, the average tax rate declined from 12.5 percent in 2008 to 11.4 percent in 2009.

The amount of unemployment benefits claimed on tax returns nearly doubled between 2008 and 2009, the IRS found.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/60717.html#ixzz1UAIvEZPR

U.S. Just Barely Avoids Default

Obama to sign US debt ceiling bill into law

President Obama to authorise measure to avert US debt default and cut spending after weeks of political wrangling.
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2011 17:38, Al Jazeera
The eleventh hour deal came after weeks of political wrangling between Republicans and Democrats [GALLO/GETTY]

The US Senate has approved a bill that raises the country’s borrowing limit and averts a possible default, after the lower house of congress approved it on Monday following weeks of political wrangling.

The upper house of congress passed the measure by 74 votes to 26. It required 60 votes to pass.

Barack Obama, the US president, is set to sign the bill into law following Tuesday’s vote.

The earlier passage of the bill by the Republican-controlled House came a day before the deadline to lift the debt ceiling, with agreement between Republicans and Democrats over the $2.1 trillion deficit-cutting plan reached over the weekend.

In remarks delivered immediately following the passage of the bill in the senate, Obama said that “both parties need to take responsibility for improving this economy”, and emphasised the need for congress to work towards passing stalled trade bills that created more jobs. He also said that he wanted to see unemployment benefits extended.

He said that lawmakers need to continue to work towards finding a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, including some adjustments to healthcare benefit plans for the elderly and reforming the tax code so that the wealthy pay more.

“We can’t balance the budget on the backs of the very people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession,” Obama said.

The White House has indicated that Obama will sign the bill as soon as it lands on his desk.

No immediate tax increases

The vote in the Senate had been virtually guaranteed to pass the bill, with Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, and Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, both backing it.

It passed with support from 45 Democrats, 28 Republicans and an independent. Nineteen Republicans, six Democrats and an independent voted no.

The bill, which contains no immediate tax increases, raises the borrowing limit into 2013, calls for spending cuts spread over 10 years and creates a congressional committee to recommend a deficit-reduction package by late November.

It does not spell out where the spending cuts should be made and instead puts off decisions about which programmes will bear the brunt.

World markets were initially down, despite the news, with the US Dow Jones Industrials bearish for the eight straight day on the back of spreading debt troubles in Europe and a decline in US consumer spending.

Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington DC, said that there was a lot of public anger over the way that the US congress went about dealing with this crisis.

“If you ask the American public across the board they blame anybody who currently holds elected office in Washington … what is possibly going to impact the president here is what he’s done to his base,” she said.

“You’ll hear from lawmakers here on Capitol Hill, especially the more on the far left [that] they feel as if the president simply walked up to the negotiating table and got nothing in return from the Republicans. They feel that he basically threw the Democrats here on Capitol Hill under the bus, is an expression I’ve heard a couple of times.”

Credit rating fears

On Tuesday, Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, said that it was unclear if the passage of the debt ceiling deal would ensure that the country did not lose its prized AAA rating from international credit ratings agencies.

The Fitch ratings agency retained its AAA rating for the US immediately following the passage of the bill, but more prominent firms Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s were yet to report.

The deal falls short of the $4 trillion in fiscal consolidation that rating agencies had indicated would be sufficient to retain the current rating.

Obama: Go Big or Go Home

President Obama: Go ‘big’ on debt deal

By President Obama
Updated 17h 36m ago
For years now, America has been spending more money than we take in. The result is that we have too much debt on our nation’s credit card — debt that will ultimately weaken our economy, lead to higher interest rates for all Americans, and leave us unable to invest in things like education, or protect vital programs like Medicare.
Neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this debt, but both parties have a responsibility to come together and solve the problem. That’s what the American people expect of us. Every day, families are figuring out how to stretch their paychecks a little further, sacrifice what they can’t afford, and budget only for what’s truly important. It’s time for Washington to do the same.

Why cuts are necessary

In the short term, my No. 1 focus is getting our economy back to a place where businesses can grow and hire. That’s why I want to take a number of steps right away, like extending tax relief for middle-class families and putting construction workers back on the job rebuilding our roads and highways.

But over the last few months, I’ve also said that I’m willing to cut historic amounts of spending in order to reduce our long-term deficits. I’m willing to cut spending on domestic programs to the lowest level in half a century. I’m willing to cut defense spending by hundreds of billions of dollars. I’m willing to take on the rising costs of health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, so we can meet our obligations to an aging population.

Some of these cuts would eliminate wasteful spending, weapons we don’t need, or fraud and abuse in our health care system. Still, some of the cuts would target worthwhile programs that do a lot of good for our country. They’re cuts that some people in my own party aren’t too happy about, and frankly, I wouldn’t make them if we didn’t have so much debt.

But the American people deserve the truth from their leaders. And the truth is, you can’t get rid of the deficit by simply eliminating waste and fraud, or getting rid of pet projects and foreign aid, like some have suggested. Those things represent only a tiny fraction of what we spend our money on.

At the same time, it’s also true that if we tackle our deficit with spending cuts alone, it will likely end up costing seniors and middle-class families a great deal. Retired Americans will have to pay a lot more for their health care. Students will have to pay a lot more for college. A worker who gets laid off might not have any temporary help or job training to fall back on. At a time of high gas prices, we’ll have to stop much of the clean energy research that will help free us from our dependence on oil.

That’s why people in both parties have suggested that the best way to take on our deficit is with a more balanced approach. Yes, we should make serious spending cuts. But we should also ask the wealthiest individuals and biggest corporations to pay their fair share through fundamental tax reform. Before we stop funding clean energy research, we should ask oil companies and corporate jet owners to give up the tax breaks that other companies don’t get. Before we ask college students to pay more, we should ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries. Before we ask seniors to pay more for Medicare, we should ask people like me to give up tax breaks they don’t need and never asked for.

The middle class hasn’t just borne the brunt of this recession; they’ve been dealing with higher costs and stagnant wages for more than a decade now. It’s just not right to ask them to pay the whole tab — especially when they’re not the ones who caused this mess in the first place.

Raising revenues: a bipartisan position

A balanced deficit deal that includes some new revenues isn’t just a Democratic position. It’s a position that has been taken by everyone from Warren Buffett to Bill O’Reilly. It’s a position that was taken this week by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, who worked together on a promising plan of their own. And it’s been the position of every Democratic and Republican leader who has worked to reduce the deficit in their time, from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton.

There will be plenty of haggling over the details of all these plans in the days ahead. But right now, we have the opportunity to do something big and meaningful. This debate shouldn’t just be about avoiding the catastrophe of not paying our bills and defaulting on our debt. That’s the least we should do. This debate offers the chance to put our economy on stronger footing, restore a sense of fairness in our country, and secure a better future for our children. I want to seize that opportunity, and ask Americans of both parties and no party to join me in that effort.

President Obama wrote this column exclusively for USA TODAY.