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Obama to supporters: Use social media to help avert fiscal cliff

Thursday, 29 November 2012 - 12:01pm IST | Place: Washington, DC | Agency: The Daily Telegraph
Obama now appears determined to leverage both his recent election victory and his campaign machinery to capitalise on polls showing popular support for his stump pledge to raise taxes on those earning over $250,000.

Barack Obama called on ordinary middle-class Americans to bombard members of the US Congress with emails, tweets and Facebook messages on Wednesday to demand a deal to avoid the US falling over the so-called 'fiscal cliff'.

In a populist play designed to heap pressure on Republicans to accept higher taxes on the very rich, Obama appealed to his supporters to mount a grassroots campaign to urge Congress to extend Bush-era tax cuts worth $2,000 (pounds 1,200) a year for an ordinary family.

"I'm asking Americans all across the country to make your voice heard," he said at a carefully staged event at the White House on Wednesday, in which he met and chatted with ordinary citizens.

"Tell members of Congress what a $2,000 tax hike would mean to you. Call your members of Congress. Write them an email, post it on their Facebook walls and you can tweet it using the hashtag "my2k'", he added.

Republicans have chided Obama for "returning to the campaign trail", rather than getting down to negotiations to cut a deal that would avoid the fiscal cliff - $680?billion of automatic tax rises and spending cuts that economists warn could plunge the US back into recession.

However, in marked contrast to his previous low-key negotiating style with Congress, Obama now appears determined to leverage both his recent election victory and his campaign machinery to capitalise on polls showing popular support for his stump pledge to raise taxes on those earning over $250,000.

Recalling the success of a similar campaign this year to stop student loan rates rising, Obama added: "The lesson is, when enough people get involved, we have a pretty good track record of making Congress work."

Obama is also taking his message on the road, appearing at a toy factory in Pennsylvania tomorrow to urge Congress to agree to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for 98% of Americans, while leaving negotiators time to haggle over increases for the wealthiest 2%.

Although negotiations between Congressional leaders are taking place in secret, there are already signs of the huge difficulty in getting Republicans to accept the need for tax rates to rise, and Democrats to agree to cuts in welfare spending.

With just 34 days to go until the deadline expires, Obama emphasised that there was very little time remaining, even as he voiced optimism that a "framework" for a broader deal could be agreed before the Christmas holiday.

Mr Obama said he was "encouraged" that Republicans had acknowledged the need for increased revenues, but avoided any mention of the welfare spending cuts that they want in return, or the fact that Republicans still oppose increases in headline tax rates.

As the battle-lines start to harden, John Boehner, the Republican Speaker, urged Republicans to stick together, slapping down a Republican Congressman who had suggested the party should accept Obama's call to extend tax cuts for the 98%.

Instead, Boehner highlighted Democrats who are "saying no" to spending cuts and repeated the idea that additional revenues could be raised only by reforming the tax code - a position that both Obama and his treasury secretary Timothy Geithner have said will not be sufficient to meet their target of an additional $1.6trillion in revenues.


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