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August 22, 2014, 5:34 pm

Obama must stand strong on deficit deal

Days after winning reelection, President Barack Obama said he wouldn’t accept any approach to federal deficit reduction that doesn’t ask the wealthy to pay more.

“This was a central question during the election,” Obama said Friday in his first post-election comments on the economy. “The majority of Americans agree with my approach.”

Obama’s spokesman said later that the president would veto any legislation extending tax cuts for families making $250,000 or more.

In response, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said he remains unwilling to raise tax rates on upper-income earners. He left open the possibility of balancing spending cuts with new revenue that could be achieved by revising the tax code to lower rates but also eliminate tax breaks.

Obama and Boehner’s comments were in anticipation of upcoming negotiations to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” tax increase and automatic spending cuts due to hit in January. Both parties agree that those changes, the result of failed deficit-cut talks earlier this year, could send the economy back into recession.

The president is right to veto any legislation extending tax cuts for the wealthy. Exit polls showed that voters supported tax increases on the wealthiest Americans as a way to reduce the deficit.

The president must stand strong. The president and congressional Democrats can not acquiesce to the deal that Boehner is proposing.

Boehner said in a news conference Friday that cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps — known as entitlement programs — have to be part of the equation. He stubbornly refuses to budge on raising taxes on the wealthy and made no mentioned of reducing defense spending.

Boehner should be reminded that Mitt Romney did not win the election and that he is not the one calling the shots.

The fact is that the Democrats control the White House and the Senate. Boehner is a junior partner in the negotiations.

Elections must have consequences. Obama should negotiate from a position of strength after his strong showing in the Electoral College and the popular vote. Democrats made gains in the House and strengthen their position in the Senate.

Voters have sided with the Democratic approach that the wealthy must pay more in taxes to reduce the deficit.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported last week showed how higher taxes on the wealthy makes economic sense. The new study estimates that the nation’s gross domestic product would grow by 2.2 percent next year if all Bush-era tax rates were extended and would expand by almost 3 percent if Obama’s 2 percentage point payroll tax and current jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed were extended as well.

Lawrence J. Korb, who served as assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan, said the defense budget can be reduced without jeopardy national security.

“For FY 2013, defense spending will consume about 20 percent of the total federal budget and more than half of the discretionary budget,” said Korb. “In addition, the defense budget will be larger than major mandatory spending programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

It is clear that there are better alternatives to draconian cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other spending cuts that will hurt the poor and middle class Americans.

Voters must send a strong message to Congress that a grand bargain can not include cuts to those programs.