President Obama proposed to expand tax cuts for low-income workers who don’t have children during his State of the Union address.
Obama began the speech Tuesday night, the last of his presidency, by praising the new Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for helping shepherd the tax extenders legislation through Congress last month.
“Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families,” said Obama. “So I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse. We just might surprise the cynics again.”
Later in his speech, Obama again reached out to Ryan about initiatives on which he and Republicans could perhaps find common ground in the final year of his presidency.
“I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty,” said Obama. “America is about giving everybody willing to work a hand up, and I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without kids.”
Obama spent much of the early part of his speech talking about how the economy has improved during his administration, while admitting that many families continue to face challenges from income inequality.
“I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy,” he said. “I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut. But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. In this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less.”
He said he planned to encourage the many businesses that have “figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those best practices across America.”
Among the items on his to-do list is convincing Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which he noted would reduce tariffs imposed on American goods sold in Asia.
“It cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs,” said Obama. “With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.”
During the Republican response to the State of the Union address, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also urged the two parties to work together, but claimed taxes would be lower for working families if Republicans capture the White House in November. “Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference,” she said. “That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference. Of course that doesn’t mean we won’t have strong disagreements. We will. And as we usher in this new era, Republicans will stand up for our beliefs. If we held the White House, taxes would be lower for working families, and we’d put the brakes on runaway spending and debt.”