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Obama Wants Wealthy to Pay More Taxes, Fires at Critics in State of the Union Speech [VIDEO]

Pool, Getty Images

President Obama proposed a range of policy initiatives during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, including a call for Congress to shift a heavier tax burden onto the very wealthiest earners and provide financial incentives to domestic manufacturers and energy producers.

“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” he said. “Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.”

The president called for action on the so-called “Buffett rule,” named for the billionaire Omaha investor who famously griped that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. The initiative would require those earning more than $1 million a year to pay a minimum rate of 30 percent, affecting mainly those who currently pay only 15 percent on investment earnings. It would also deny mega-earners any targeted tax breaks or credits.

“You can call this class warfare all you want,” he said, directly addressing his critics in the GOP. “But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”

He also put a renewed focus on natural gas and domestic manufacturing, proposing subsidies for companies willing to open plants in the communities hardest hit by the recession. In addition, he touched on immigrations reform, a new housing refinancing program to be funded by a fee on large banks, and restrictions on congressional lobbying and trading.

And while it wasn’t a campaign speech, the president is clearly gearing up for his re-election bid in November.

Mitt Romney, a leading contender for the GOP nomination, recently said “envy” of the wealthy drives the president’s tax policies. Obama didn’t mention that comment directly, but it was obviously the impetus of one section of Tuesday night’s speech.

“We don’t begrudge financial success in this country. We admire it,” the president said. “When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich. It’s because they understand that when I get tax breaks I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference – like a senior on a fixed income; or a student trying to get through school; or a family trying to make ends meet. That’s not right.”

Thoughts about the upcoming election were also evident when he — again, indirectly — addressed Republican critics who’ve said Obama’s policies have been a failure. “Anyone who tells you America is in decline or our influence has waned doesn’t know what they are talking about,” he said. “The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we’ve come too far to turn back now.”

[Time]

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