Obama to Congress: Invest in Students and Economy by Passing Buffett Rule
President Obama called on Congress to make a more fair tax system and touted his proposal for a Buffett Rule, which would require those making more than $1 million annually to pay at least 30 percent in taxes, during a higher education-laced speech Tuesday at Florida Atlantic University.
“In this country, prosperity has never trickled down from the wealthy few,” the president said. “Prosperity has always come from the bottom up, from a strong and growing middle class. That’s how a generation who went to college on the GI Bill—including my grandfather—helped build the most prosperous economy that the world has ever known.”
Obama harkened to a time when, he says, lawmakers valued investing in the middle class more than ensuring the wealthy saw more tax cuts. Referencing the rising costs of health care, higher education, and a high unemployment rate for young Americans, the president urged Congress to act on the Buffett Rule.
“This is not just another run-of-the-mill gabfest in Washington. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and everybody who's aspiring to get into the middle class,” he said.
The Senate is expected to consider a Buffett Rule measure as early as Monday. The rule, Obama was quick to note, is intended to create more economic equality and not stifle success.
“I want folks to get rich in this country. I think it's wonderful when people are successful,” he said. “But understand, the share of our national income going to the top 1 percent has climbed to levels we haven't seen since the 1920s,” and they’re paying some of the lowest tax rates in 50 years.
To illustrate his message, Obama noted that tax cuts proposed by the Ryan Republican Budget would amount to an average of $150,000 in savings for each millionaire. That amount could pay for tax credits for higher education, a year’s worth of financial aid, a year’s worth of prescription drugs, a new computer lab for a school, a year of medical care for a veteran, a medical research grant, and a year’s salary for a firefighter or police officer—combined.
Obama, calling higher education the “single most important investment you can make in your future,” also stressed the importance of financial aid for economic growth:
If you’re here at FAU because you got financial aid or a student loan, a scholarship—which, by the way, was how I was able to help finance my college education. That’s how Michelle got her college education. That doesn’t just benefit you. It benefits whatever company might end up hiring you and profiting from your skills. If one of you goes on to become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, or one of you discovers the next medical breakthrough, think about all the people whose lives will be changed for the better. We made an investment in you; we’ll get a return on the investment.
Turning back to the Ryan Republican Budget, the president noted that the proposed “across the budget” cuts would mean less financial aid for more than 10 million college students, who would see about $1,000 less on average in aid.
“I believe that we cannot stop investing in the things that help create that middle class; that create real, long-lasting, broad-based growth in this country. And we certainly shouldn’t be doing it just so the richest Americans can get another tax cut,” he said. “We should be strengthening those investments. We should be making college more affordable. We should be expanding our investment in clean energy.”
Brian Stewart is the communications manager at Campus Progress.
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