WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is talking taxes and talking tough about tax cuts, and today he was also talking to our Karen Swensen, as he proposes tax cuts for the middle class.
It was just one of the topics in a one-on-one interview with Channel 4.
Karen spent the day at the White House, took a tour, attended a press conference and then had a sit-down interview with the president. Unfortunately, we only got five minutes, but we addressed the two topics we received the most viewer feedback on: the economy and healthcare.
In a crowded east room of the White House, President Obama tried to win over middle class voters by proposing an extension of Bush-era tax cuts that will save families roughly $3,600 a year.
'I'm calling on Congress to extend the tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans who make less than $250,000 for another year,' Obama said.
But in our one-on-one interview with the president afterwards, he said he's so opposed to extending those cuts to wealthy Americans, that if Congress were to pass an all-or-nothing proposition, he'd opt for nothing.
Q: What if Congress were to extend them to everyone across the board including the wealthy? Would you veto?
OBAMA: 'I would veto it and here's why. What I'm proposing is that we give a tax break, that we make sure that taxes don't go up on 98 percent of Americans. 98 percent. But to extend tax breaks for that top two percent of wealthiest Americans would cost us a trillion dollars over the next decade. Now at a time when we're trying to bring down our deficit to give me a tax break or Warren Buffett a tax break that costs a trillion dollars and 80 percent of that would go to people who make a million dollars or more, that would mean that we would have to cut something.
Channel 4 was one of eight stations invited to the White House to talk about issues that matter to our viewers. It was a five-minute opportunity to bring him your questions.
Many shared common themes, like this one from Michael Varino:
Swensen: 'He describes himself as a Catholic voter and wrote 'What can you say about a healthcare bill that'll mandate insurance companies to provide birth control, sterilization, etc. to employees of Catholic universities, hospitals and churches since this goes against the Catholic religion?' We know there is compromising language in place. Some say it doesn't go far enough and that the real, the much bigger issue is religious liberty, not contraception.'
Obama: 'Yeah. Well it's absolutely true that religious liberty is critical. I mean that's what our country was founded on. That's the reason why we exempted churches, we exempted religious institutions, but we did say that big Catholic hospitals or universities who employ a lot of non-Catholics and who receive a lot of federal money, that for them to be in a position to say to a woman who works there you can't get that from your insurance company even though the institution isn't paying for it, that that crosses the line where that woman, she suddenly is gonna have to bear the burden and the cost of that. And that's not fair.'
But by far the topic that strikes the greatest chord with Louisiana voters is the economy and jobs. Four years ago Obama ran on a platform of change, but many of you told us things have only changed for the worse.
Swensen: 'When you took office, in New Orleans the unemployment rate was 6.1 percent. It's now, it's 7.2 percent. With 4,000 people losing their jobs just between April and May. What would you say to those constituents, to those voters who would say I'm not better off with all due respect than I was four years ago, I'm worse?'
Obama: 'Well, you know if you look at what's happened not just in Louisiana but across the country, most of those job losses initially came in the first six months of me being in office, right as we were hitting the worst part of the crisis, and we've been doing clean-up ever since. I mean this is essentially, it was like a financial hurricane that hit and we've been cleaning up ever since.'
The president says unemployment is down from when it peaked, and that's true. And under his administration, 4.4 million jobs were created.
Moving forward he says middle class tax cuts, investment in education and rebuilding infrastructure and ports will help turn the economy around. It'll be up to voters to decide if they believe him.