In his first post-election interview, President Barack Obama reiterated his demand that congressional Republicans agree to a deficit reduction plan that includes raising high-end tax rates, while adding that he didn't expect to get all of his priorities passed either.
But in the sit-down with Bloomberg News' Julianna Goldman, Obama did not directly state whether he would demand that those rates on top earners be raised to their 2000 level of 39.6 percent, or somewhere between that and their current level of 35 percent. Moreover, he suggested that his primary goal at this juncture was not to pursue some form of broad tax and entitlement reform, but a "down payment" that would get Congress past the so-called fiscal cliff and into the position to engage in more sustained, level-headed negotiations.
"We are not going to be able to come up with comprehensive tax reform package that gets it all done just in the next two weeks," Obama said. "We are not going to be able to come up with necessarily a comprehensive entitlement reform package that gets it all done in the next two weeks. When you look at what Ronald Reagan did back in 1986 working with Bill Bradley and others, that was a year-and-a-half process ... Let's essentially put a down payment on taxes. Let's let taxes on upper-income folks go up."
The president scoffed at a proposal put forward by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday that included raising the eligibility age for Medicare, changes to the payment structure of Social Security and revenue hikes totaling $800 billion.
"Unfortunately, the Speaker's proposal right now is still out of balance," he said.
Obama suggested that the math didn't add up, noting that the speaker was only looking at closing loopholes and lowering deductions, rather than raising rates. Obama pegged savings from those two actions at somewhere between $300 billion and $400 billion -- or as he put it, "not enough."
Obama has agreed to raise Medicare's eligibility age from 65 to 67 in past negotiations with Boehner. But he refused to commit to doing so this time around. The impression left was that of a president who felt he held the advantage heading into the critical final weeks of the lame-duck session. (Obama declined to commit to a face-to-face sit-down with Boehner.)
But when pressed specifically, Obama left the door open to easing off some of his demands as well. Goldman asked if he would be comfortable with the top-end tax rates ending up somewhere short of 39.6 percent, and he didn't directly answer:
In fact, I do believe that we can simplify the tax system. And by closing some loopholes and deductions, and by cleaning out some of the underbrush in the tax code, that we can have a fairer, more efficient system. On entitlement reform, I did not expect Republicans to agree to any plan where they are just betting ... that it will happen. We would have to have some specific down payments now, recognizing that we would then have to continue to work to see if we could come up with even better idea to reduce health costs over the long term. So that is the framework we are operating on. And within that framework, I am happy to be flexible. I recognize I'm not going to get 100 percent. But what I'm not going to do is agree to a plan in which we have some revenue that is vague and potentially comes out of the pockets of middle-class families in exchange for some very specific and tough entitlement cuts that would affect seniors or other folks who are vulnerable.
Also on HuffPost:
Obama Is Not An American Citizen
One of the most popular Obama conspiracy theories (aka the Birther Movement), endorsed (or not denied) by the likes of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_263532.html">Tom Delay</a>, <a href=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_251393.html>Lou Dobbs</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_250891.html">Chuck Norris</a> and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/_242555.html">Liz Cheney</a>, it claims that Obama is not an American citizen, thus rendering his presidency illegitimate, or something. The theory hinges on the false claim that his birth certificate is fake. Birther queen Orly Taitz (a lawyer and dentist from California) continues to lead the march, despite her lawsuit getting <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/29/orly-taitz-lawsuit-thrown_n_338870.html">thrown out</a> and a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/13/orly-taitz-slapped-with-2_n_318546.html">$20,000 fine</a>.
Obama Wants "Re-Education Camps For Young People
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a proponent of many bizarre and outlandish critiques of President Obama, declared in April that the White House was trying to install <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/06/bachmann-obama-wants-re-e_n_183552.html">youth re-education camps</a>. "It's under the guise of -- quote -- volunteerism. But it's not volunteers at all. It's paying people to do work on behalf of government," said the Minnesota Republican. "I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."
Larry Sinclair's Rabbit Hole Of Insanity
This one is a doozy. Larry Sinclair, <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0608/11164.html">a petty criminal specializing in forgery</a>, spread wild accusations via YouTube involving <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/18/obama-accuser-larry-sincl_n_107900.html">gay sex, drugs and possible murder committed by Barack Obama</a>. At one point reporters apparently took Sinclair seriously enough to attend a press conference he gave, most remarkable for his lawyer's appearance in a kilt, which he explained was intended to secure comfort for his unusually large sexual organs: "Those at the other end of the spectrum find [pants] quite confining."
The Case Of The Fake Thesis
In which a group of right-wingers get taken in by a satiric blog post on Barack Obama's college thesis, written ages ago, and frantically presented as real. The post, which was tagged as SATIRE, described how <em>Time</em> Magazine's Joe Klein had obtained ten pages of a thesis written by Barack Obama, in which he wrote about how the Constitution was "inherently flawed." Then Rush Limbaugh and Michael Ledeen presented this story as <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/23/fake-obama-thesis-story-g_n_332255.html">fact</a>.
Bill Ayers Wrote 'Dreams From My Father"
A popular theory on right-wing websites like <a href="http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2101151/posts">The Free Republic</a>, <a href="http://www.americanthinker.com/2008/10/who_wrote_dreams_from_my_fathe_1.html">American Thinker</a> and <a href="http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=110784">WorldNetDaily</a>, claiming that educator (and former radical) Bill Ayers helped Obama write "Dreams Of My Father." There is <a href="http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/category/books/">no evidence</a> supporting this claim.
Obama As Antichrist
Is Obama the Antichrist? <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDB5BFoSQLs&feature=player_embedded">These</a> <a href="http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/antichrist.asp">folks</a> think maybe so. McCain also verged on endorsing this theory during the campaign season with an attack ad called "<a href="http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1830590,00.html">The One.</a>"
Obama As Muslim
A theory that began circulating during the campaign season and has been kept alive by Tea Partiers, and other ultra-conservatives. It's taken different forms over the year (<a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/6516016/Will-Obama-Swearin-on-the-Holy-Koran-or-the-Holy-Bible-After-Attacking-Jesus-Sermon-on-the-Mount">Will Obama be sworn into office on Qur'an??</a>, asks one website.) Most recently Tea Party leader Mark Williams had a meltdown on CNN, and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/15/tea-party-leader-melts-do_n_286933.html">claimed</a> that Obama was an "Indonesian Muslim" and a "welfare thug." According to Obama and those who know him, this is not so.
Tells America In His Acceptance Speech To "Serve Satan"
Ever listened to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" backwards? How about Obama's presidential acceptance speech? This video suggests that the speech, like the Zeppelin song, contains a Satanic message when played in reverse. Go ahead - take a bong hit, try it and tell us what you hear.
Hugo Chavez Funded The Obama Campaign
Did Hugo Chavez fund the Obama campaign? No. But some people thought so after a Fox News affiliate issued a false report claiming that <a href="http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/chavez.asp">he did</a>.
Michelle Banished Barack's Girlfriend To The Caribbean
One of the few conspiracy theories to go after the Obamas' marriage. The claim is that Michelle banished Barack's female aide (and suspected lover) to the Caribbean. Every person involved, including the woman, says this is <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1076695/Obama-hit-affair-smears-following-claims-attractive-aide-banned-wife.html">false</a>.
Obama Is Malcolm X's Son
Initiated by the author of the <a href="http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2008/10/how-could-stanl.html">Atlas Shrugged</a> blog and claiming that Obama is actually Malcolm X's son. As Ezra Klein <a href="http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=10&year=2008&base_name=obama_x">pointed out</a> at the time: "Honestly, who wouldn't give Malcolm props for that one?" Klein continued: "And think there's anyway we can fit Tupac into the bloodline? Or maybe Obama actually is Tupac? You know that whole shooting was some bullshit, right? Incidentally, I see no reason to stop with Malcolm. History is full of great Xs for Barack Obama to be related to. Professor X, which would explain why millions of white people lose their minds in his presence. Weapon X, which would explain the adamantium grafted onto his skeleton. XML, which would explain why it's so easy to structure his data. I'm sure there are others."