Pressed repeatedly to respond to the Tea Party demonstrations taking place right outside the White House gates, spokesman Robert Gibbs largely stuck to the numbers. The president, he stressed, had just recently passed a "tax cut that covers the most people in the history of this country."
"The president promised significant tax relief for working families of this country, and in the first month of the administration delivered that to the American people," Gibbs said.
He was referring to the making work pay tax credit, which will provide working individuals with a refundable tax credit of up to $400 and $800 for married couples filing joint returns.
But what about raising taxes on cigarettes to pay for health care coverage, one reporter asked. "People make the decision to smoke," Gibbs responded. "People get on airlines and pay taxes to land a plane at O'Hare or in Washington. Those people also got a tax cut. I don't know how much they smoke; I guess that depends on the individual consumption or nicotine habit with those involved in tea parties around the country. Maybe on a rainy day such as today one would light up a few more times in hopes of surviving the drizzle."
The line of questioning wasn't quite exhausted. Where these demonstrations, in the administration's viewpoint, contrived?
"You can speak to the organizers on whether they are contrived," said Gibbs. "I think the statistics I read are pretty clear. If you are one of the 95 percent of working families that earn, I think, less than $200,000 a year, you receive a tax cut. That's not contrived. Those are the facts... Maybe [the protesters] fall outside the window of making a quarter of a million dollars a year."
Later, a rain-soaked reporter -- apparently coming back from covering the demonstrators sans umbrella -- told Gibbs that the majority of people outside made less than 200k and still viewed the government's tax policies as inherently unfair.
"I don't think anybody doubts that there is a frustration over where we are economically in this country," Gibbs conceded. "The president didn't come to office seeking to help banks survive or insurance companies that have hedge funds attached on top of them dissolve to the point of systemic risk to the entire economy."
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