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Obama gets a feel-good moment on jobs package

Finally, an unemployed American whom President Barack Obama was happy to hear from.

world Updated: Sep 27, 2011 21:33 IST
David Nakamura
David Nakamura
Hindustan Times

Finally, an unemployed American whom President Barack Obama was happy to hear from.

During a town-hall-style event at the Computer History Museum, Obama was answering some tough questions about his $447-billion American Jobs Act when he called on a man sitting in the back row of the audience. The man stood to explain he was unemployed. He was no longer working because he had made a lot of money in a start-up company down the road in Silicon Valley.

“My question is would you please raise my taxes?” the man deadpanned, to immediate laughter and applause. “I would like very much to have the country to continue to invest in things like Pell Grants and infrastructure and job-training programmes that made it possible for me to get to where I am. And it kills me to see Congress not supporting the expiration of the tax cuts that have been benefiting so many of us for so long. I think that needs to change, and I hope that you will stay strong in doing that.”

If Obama was searching for someone aside from Warren Buffett to be the populist face of his jobs package, this was a moment that could not have been scripted better.

Unemployment is at 9.1%, and Obama has been battered in public opinion polls, his job approval rating plummeting below 40%. In response, Obama has proposed the “Buffett rule,” which would raise taxes on Americans who earn more than $1 million a year to help pay for an ambitious $3-trillion deficit reduction plan. But congressional Republicans have denounced the proposal.

The man was later identified as Doug Edwards, a former Google employee, and part of a group called Patriotic Millionaires for Higher Taxes.

In response to Edwards, Obama laid out his vision that wealthier Americans benefited from many factors in society and should be willing to pay back a little bit more. “At some point, money makes a difference,” the president said. “And, right now, we’ve got the lowest tax rates we’ve had since the 1950s. And some of the Republican proposals would take it back as a percentage of GDP back to where we were back in the 1920s. You can’t have a modern industrial economy like that. I appreciate the fact that you recognise we’re in this thing together. And those of us who’ve been successful, we've always got to remember that.”

In exclusive partnership with The Washington Post

First Published: Sep 27, 2011 21:31 IST