WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is taking his case against Republican to millions of Americans on Friday, faulting the party for refusing to help him turn around the sluggish economy or support some proposed new tax breaks for businesses the party has backed in the past.
Facing devastating poll numbers and prospects of big losses, Democrats are in danger of losing control of the House of Representatives in November congressional elections. In a nationally televised news confrence from the White House, Obama is trying to convince voters that they have a choice between going back to Republican policies that led to the economic crisis or going forward with policies he says will grow the economy over the long term.
Before taking questions, Obama was to open the session with a statement on the economy and the stakes in the elections and, according to a White House official, announce that he has chosen one of his longtime economic advisers, Austan Goolsbee, to be the chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers. The official spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because the formal announcement had not been made.
Goolsbee, 41, a University of Chicago professor of economics, was Obama's senior economic adviser during the 2008 presidential campaign. He already has been confirmed to the council by the Senate and will need no further confirmation. He replaces Christina Romer, who left the administration last week to return to teaching at the University of California, Berkeley.
Feeling pressure amid slumping polls to show he is doing everything possible to repair the economy, Obama this week unveiled a tax-and-spend package that would expand and permanently extend a tax credit for research and development that lapsed in 2009, let businesses write off 100 percent of their investments in equipment and plants through 2011, and spend $50 billion (€39.3 billion) immediately on highway, rail and airport projects.
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio has offered an alternative plan: freezing tax rates for two years and cutting back government spending to 2008 levels.
Obama also wants to let taxes rise next year on the highest wage earners while keeping existing tax cuts for families with annual incomes of $250,000 or less and individuals making $200,000 a year maximum. Republicans insist on keeping the lower tax rates for higher incomes, arguing that doing so would help small businesses too. Obama argues that's a financial burden the country can't afford to bear.
By law, taxes will rise for everyone next year unless Congress acts.
But even some of Obama's own Democrats and his former budget director, Peter Orszag, have suggested a compromise that would temporarily extend all the tax cuts that were enacted in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush, to leave more money in consumers' pockets and give the economy some breathing room, before the tax cuts are allowed to expire entirely in a year or two.