Obama Defends Tax Cut Stance

President Obama attended a town hall meeting Monday at the Newseum in Washington D.C., where he focused squarely on the economy. He stood firm on his decision not to budge on an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

President Obama took questions at a town hall meeting yesterday in Washington, where voters repeatedly expressed their disappointment.

NPR's Ari Shapiro reports the president defended his economic decisions, including his opposition to the of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

ARI SHAPIRO: President Bush's across-the-board tax cuts expire in January. And the debate over whether to extend them has become a focal point of the mid-term elections. President Obama argued, yesterday, that his plan includes tax cuts for everyone.

BARACK OBAMA: If you make more than $250,000 a year, you still get a tax break; it's just you only get it up to 250,000.

SHAPIRO: His Republican opponents and a few Democrats want to extend the tax cuts on all income. Some have suggested a compromise: raising the cutoff to a million dollars a year. But at a forum hosted by CNBC, the president said that plan does not make economic sense.

OBAMA: I can't give tax cuts to the top two percent of Americans, 86 percent of that money going to people making a million dollars or more, and lower the deficit at the same time. I don't have the math.

SHAPIRO: Many voters pushed back on why the President's economic policies have not produced more improvement, including the first audience member to ask a question - who did not give her name.

Unidentified Woman: I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration...

OBAMA: Right.

INSKEEP: ...defending the mantle of change that I voted for.

OBAMA: Right.

Woman: ...and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.

SHAPIRO: Mr. Obama admitted that things are not where they need to be, but he argued that the country is moving in the right direction.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, the White House.

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