Obama, with Blue-Collar Backdrop, Pushes for Higher Taxes on the Richest

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The New York Times
By:  Mark Landler
December 10, 2012

REDFORD, Mich. -- Using a German-owned truck factory as a grease-stained backdrop, President Obama on Monday pressed his case for higher tax rates for the richest Americans, declaring that his economic program would cut the deficit without crimping the job market.

"Our economic success has never come from the top down," Mr. Obama said to a few hundred cheering autoworkers. "It comes from the middle out; it comes from the bottom up."

A day after the president and the House speaker, John A. Boehner, held face-to-face budget talks at the White House, Mr. Obama took his case again to the American public -- a tactic he has used repeatedly to go around reluctant party leaders in Congress.

This time, he chose a nearly 75-year-old truck engine maker, where the owner, the German company Daimler, announced $120 million in investments in new production that will create 115 jobs.

In a speech replete with the cadences of his late-inning campaign swings, Mr. Obama ratcheted up the pressure on Republicans, who are still resisting his call for higher tax rates on income above $250,000 a year, three weeks before a deadline that could set off across-the-board tax increases and automatic spending cuts.

Under his plan, Mr. Obama said, taxes would not increase for 98 percent of Americans, and even those whose taxes would rise would not be taxed at a higher rate on their first $250,000 of income. But fairness, he said, demanded that those earning much more pay a greater share.

"I'm not going to have a situation where the wealthiest among us, including folks like me, get to keep all our tax breaks, and then we're asking students to pay higher student loans," he said.

The White House is also cranking up the machinery of the Obama campaign to help in the battle. On Monday, the campaign sent an e-mail to its entire mailing list from its deputy manager, Stephanie Cutter, urging supporters in Republican districts to press their representative to agree to the mix of higher tax rates and spending cuts offered by Mr. Obama.

"Who will decide if your taxes increase in just 22 days?" Ms. Cutter said. "A few dozen members of the House of Representatives, that's who." A spokeswoman, Katie Hogan, said that the campaign had sent updates to supporters about the fiscal negotiations a few times since the election, but that this one was unusual for its wide distribution.

In Mr. Obama's first visit to Michigan since the election, he still seemed to be in election mode, presenting the fiscal debate as a choice about what kind of future America will have. But he skipped partisan attacks on the Republicans and devoted much of his remarks to extolling Detroit Diesel as an example of how the country can rebound.

Daimler, which owns Detroit Diesel, will invest in new equipment to make truck engines, axles, and transmissions on a single site at the sprawling factory in this suburb of Detroit. That will improve the integration of its components, said Mr. Obama, who took a tour of the plant floor and watched a demonstration of pistons being inserted into an engine.

Detroit Diesel, a manufacturer of heavy-duty trucks, traces its roots to 1938. It was sold to Daimler in 2000, after Daimler had acquired Chrysler. The company remained part of Daimler after it sold off Chrysler, amid heavy losses, to a private equity firm in 2007. The carmaker was rescued in a bailout by the Obama administration.

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Daimler's up-and-down history in Detroit was less of an issue for Mr. Obama than what it was doing now. "He's focused on the present and future," Mr. Carney said to reporters on Air Force One.

Indeed, Mr. Obama praised Daimler as a company that was willing to invest in manufacturing in the United States.

"For a long time companies, they weren't always making those kinds of investments here in the United States," he said, "They certainly weren't willing to make them in the U.S. automotive industry."

If the factory attested to Detroit's brightening future, Mr. Obama's ride from the airport spoke to the city's troubled past. Lining the president's motorcade route, which also passed the headquarters of Ford Motor Company, were boarded-up houses, storefronts and factories.

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