With bridge as backdrop, Obama defends tax hike

Washington Bureau

President Obama on Thursday fired back at Republicans who have called his proposal to raise taxes on the nation’s wealthy “class warfare,” saying he’s fighting on behalf of the middle class.

“You know what? If asking a billionaire to pay their fair share of taxes, to pay the same rate as a plumber or teacher, then I’m a warrior for the middle class,” Obama said during an event in Cincinnati. “I am happy to fight for the middle class. The only warfare I’ve seen is the battle against the middle class for the last 10 or 15 years.”

Obama spoke with the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River as a backdrop. The bridge, which is badly in need of replacement, serves one of the busiest trucking routes in the country.

But that isn’t why Obama was there. The bridge connects southwest Ohio, where House Speaker John Boehner’s district is located, to Kentucky, the home of the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell.


“Now that’s just a coincidence. Purely accidental,” Obama joked. “But part of the reason I came here is because Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell -- those are the two most powerful Republicans in government. They can either kill this jobs bill or they can help pass this jobs bill.”

Obama was in Ohio for the second time in 10 days as part of his populist campaign to pressure Congress to pass his proposed American Jobs Act, which calls for $447 billion in spending to, among other things, help boost infrastructure projects, offset in part by Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on the nation’s wealthiest earners.

“Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge,” Obama said. “Pass this bill.”

Republicans such as Boehner spent much of Thursday pointing out that it’s less than clear whether Obama’s jobs plan, if passed, would actually result in a replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge. The project is at least two, and more likely four, years away, meaning it’s not exactly “shovel-ready.” And there’s no dedicated funding in the jobs bill for the bridge.

The White House responded by releasing an interview with Cincinnati Mayor Mike Mallory praising Obama’s jobs plan. “There’s money in the jobs to do things like replace that bridge,” Mallory said. He said the plan would also help the city keep police officers and firefighters on the job.