In an interview with the Huffington Post on Wednesday evening, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod said President Obama would accept an extension of the Bush tax cuts across the board — for middle- and upper-income earners alike. It is a departure from the administration's previous position, but, as Axelrod explained, "We have to deal with the world as we find it. The world of what it takes to get this done."White House signals openness on tax extension
Despite GOP insistence that the tax cuts should be extended for all Americans, for months Obama has vowed not to extend them for individuals making more than $200,000 per year or families making $250,000 annually, saying the country could not afford the estimated $700 billion the cuts would add to the federal deficit.
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In the interview, Axelrod justified the administration's change of heart, offering that Obama "took the position he felt was the right position" but that this "optimal" stance was untenable in the current climate. "I don't want to trade away security for the middle class," he said, "in order to make that point." (All of the cuts are set to expire at the end of the year unless they're renewed by the current Congress.)
The details on the White House position remain murky: Axelrod indicated that the upper income extension would only be temporary. "Plainly, what we can't do is permanently extend these high income taxes," he said.
For the White House, the debate over taxes and deficit expenditures is only beginning: On Wednesday, the chairmen of the president's deficit commission released initial outlines of their report — which includes a host of controversial recommendations including Social Security changes and tax increases.
For the moment, the president is remaining mum. "I'm not going to comment on [the outline] because I want [the commission] to have the space to do their work," he said in a press conference at the G-20 summit in South Korea. He then added, "If we are concerned about debt and deficits, then we're going to have to take actions that are difficult and we're going to have to tell the truth to the American people."
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