Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Cedar Rapids, IA, 7/10/12
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cedar Rapids, Iowa
10:40 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning. Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way to the great state of Iowa. As we did last week, Jen and I will be briefing together. I will take questions on matters of policy. You should direct campaign-related questions to Jen. Some questions will have elements of both in them, and we'll try to answer them accordingly. But we're doing this together to basically make it as efficient as possible for you all, since this is, in fact, a campaign trip.
I don't have any announcements to make. You saw the President yesterday put forward his proposal that in the midst of a broad stalemate on some very important issues, he believes that we can create some certainty for 98 percent of Americans and some good for our economy if we come together on something that we all agree on in Washington, which is the need to extend the middle-class tax cuts that 98 percent of American taxpayers pay.
If Congress were to do that tomorrow, he would sign it tomorrow. And we can debate about whether or not now is the time to give additional tax cuts to the top 2 percent of American earners, the top 2 percent of the wealthiest Americans. The President believes it is not -- that that's not good policy. Republicans believe that it is. So that's a clear area of disagreement. Where there's an area of agreement is that the rest of America, the 98 percent should not see their taxes go up on January 1st. So let's pass that right away.
MS. PSAKI: And I just wanted to give two flags for today. One is that on the way to the grassroots event the President will be doing at Kirkwood Community College, he'll be meeting with a middle-class family -- Ali and Jason McLaughlin. They have a son, they have a child on the way. They've benefited to date by about $4,900 in tax cuts from the President's plan, and they're very concerned, as millions of middle-class families are around the country, about their taxes going up if we don't extend middle-class tax cuts now. So he'll be talking with them about that.
The second thing I wanted to flag is that we will -- also the campaign will be putting out reports in about a dozen states today laying out the contrast between President Obama and Mitt Romney's plans for taxes -- for tax cuts I should say. Mitt Romney has a plan that's a $5 trillion tax cut plan focused on millionaires and billionaires. He hasn’t explained how he'd pay for it, so either he'll blow up the deficit or he'll raise taxes on families like those in Iowa. So look out for those today as well.
MR. CARNEY: Your questions, please.
Q Jen, will we hear anything from the President about Romney's tax accounts overseas and will we see tax returns today?
MS. PSAKI: You will hear the President lay out the difference in vision that he has with Mitt Romney, what he wants to do in fighting for middle-class families. That includes extending the tax cuts now. That includes providing affordable -- access to affordable health care, access to education.
The campaign has put out some details in a fact sheet on offshore -- on sending jobs overseas. I'm happy to provide that to anyone today. But the President will be focusing his remarks on the contrasting vision when you hear him speak in Iowa later this morning.
Q Anything at all about -- I meant to say bank accounts, not tax accounts, overseas. Anything about that, regarding his opponent?
MS. PSAKI: Well, since you've given me the opportunity to speak to it, I will say that there still remain a number of serious questions about where Mitt Romney is investing, what he’s invested, what it means. If you’re an average Iowa family, you’re going to the bank around the street, and it’s a question that I think a lot of people have raised about why would he have had an account in Switzerland. Why did he have investments in the Cayman Islands? He was running a hedgefund -- you may or may not know this -- for three years with major investments in the Cayman Islands. He has an over $100 million IRA that’s based there.
There are a lot of questions that people want answers to, and the ball is really in Mitt Romney’s court and his team’s court to release the tax returns so we can get those questions answered.
Q Jen, can you talk about why Iowa today? Is there a particular urgency that the campaign is starting to feel about Iowa particularly in contrast with his performance there in the 2008 election?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Amy, as you know and many people know, Iowa is where this journey began. It will always have a special place for the President in his heart. I would encourage anybody to read the remarks he gave the night he won Iowa. I was there; many people were there. He talked about a couple of things -- fighting for access to affordable health care, ending the war in Iraq, giving the tax cuts to middle-class families. He’s delivered on all of those. There’s more work to be done, as you’ve heard him say repeatedly.
Iowa is a place -- the tickets for this event today were gone in 24 hours, so we’ve had a really positive response in Iowa. We know that the Republican candidates just spent a year campaigning there and organizing there, but we feel good about where we are and we feel great about the fact that we’ve had strong grassroots support in this state for five years.
Q So there's not a heightened sense of urgency about Iowa today than a few months ago?
MS. PSAKI: Well, of course, we’re coming here because this is a state where we want to compete, we want to win, and the President cares deeply about the people here and he’s looking forward to seeing some familiar faces.
Q Jen, the campaign finance numbers came out the other day. It was the second month in a row that the President was outraised by Mitt Romney. What are you guys trying to do to change course on that? And is this basically a two-month blip -- similar to what we saw in 2004 with President Bush and John Kerry, or is something different happening here?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first I’ll say it was our best month to date. Yes, we were outraised. We’ve been saying we’d be outraised for some time, so it didn’t come as a surprise to us. In there, there was some good news for us, which was almost 200,000 new donors. The average donation -- 98 percent of people gave less than $250. Average size was just over $50.
These are people who are excited, who want to get involved. We want to make them volunteers; we want to make them phone bankers. But we’re continuing to fight to get every last dollar just like we’re fighting to get every last volunteer, and we encourage any of you to go to our website and donate. (Laughter.)
Q Does the deficit, though, that could be forming, does that present problems for your battleground states, your infrastructure, your ability to actually get people out to the polls?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you mentioned and touched on, and I'll just add on this -- back in 2004 -- and I worked for John Kerry -- so back in 2004, he outraised President Bush several months after the nomination. That's common. There's often a common bump where the nominee gets a fundraising bump. So we knew to expect that.
It's all about how you spend your resources and how you invest them as well, and how you excite and energize your supporters -- including Democrats, but also including independents. We feel good about how we've decided to spend our resources -- opening offices, hiring field workers, making sure we have the resources and assets on the ground. And that's where our focus was in 2008 and where it will be in 2012.
Q I’d like to ask you about the veto threat that both you made from the podium and that the President then made in at least one of those interviews last night. So, so far you both have said that he would sign -- that he wants the one-year extension of the tax cuts up to $250,000, and that he would veto any effort for the extension of the full Bush-era tax cuts. But what neither of you have said is would he veto anything above the $250,000 extension?
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate the question. The options on the table are the President's proposal to extend tax cuts to 98 percent of taxpaying Americans, those making $250,000 or less, or the Republican proposal, which is to insist on extending not just those tax cuts but tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the 2 percent of top earners in this country.
The President would not sign a bill that extended the tax cuts for the wealthiest earners. We cannot afford it. He would veto that bill if it were to arrive on his desk. He obviously supports and has long supported extending tax cuts for middle-class Americans.
We could go dollar by dollar and engage in hypotheticals. Those are the only two bills that are going to be voted on as far as I know, and those are -- the President's position on those two bills could not be more clear.
Q I'd like to just follow up. The art of the compromise is -- I understand there's nothing on the table right now for some amount in the middle. But by not saying that the veto threat kicks in at $250,000 and one cent, you're certainly leaving the impression that there's some room for negotiation.
MR. CARNEY: -- leaving that impression. The President's position is clear -- 98 percent of American taxpayers must have the certainty that their taxes will not go up on January 1st. That's the position he has held for years. And he re-established it again yesterday when he put forward a proposal that said, let's do something that we all agree on, which is extend those tax cuts to middle-class Americans.
He has long opposed extension of the high-income tax cuts because we can't afford it, because we know it’s bad policy, because we know economically at a macro level that tax cuts that go to the wealthiest earners do not have the same kind of positive impact on economic growth that tax cuts to middle-class Americans have. So that's his policy position.
But I’m not going to engage in negotiations that might take place in November and December now. The President’s position is clear. He’s calling for a piece of legislation to be acted on now. And he has not engaged in a negotiation about other dollar amounts; $250,000 is the limit. That covers virtually 98 percent of taxpaying Americans, I’m sure a similar percentage, if not higher, of taxpaying Iowans.
And we cannot -- people talk a lot about the fiscal cliff, economic uncertainty that it creates. Here’s an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to come together to resolve some of that uncertainty for the heart of America, for middle-class Americans. They should just do it and stop holding 98 percent of taxpaying Americans hostage to tax cuts for the top 2 percent.
Q -- reach out to the campaign or how -- out of the 98 percent of the people, how did they pick this family?
MS. PSAKI: Let me check on that for you. Typically what happens is our local supporters, our campaign identifies a family or a personal story, just like with what happened when we introduced (inaudible.) Let me find exactly how we found them and I’ll get back to all of you.
Q Jay, you talked about the President's push for legislation. Jen has talked about the President’s push for tax legislation. He announced it from the White House. He’s now taking it on the road and campaigning. Is this a White House issue, or is this a campaign issue?
MR. CARNEY: I think it’s both. He would, as I said yesterday, welcome the opportunity to take this issue off the table. If Republicans in Congress were to act and send him -- join with Democrats and send him a bill that extended tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans this week, he would sign it this week, and then that debate is over.
What we have learned as a legislative issue, as a policy issue is that positions that the President takes and Republicans oppose -- well, let me put it this way -- that when the President proposes something and brings it to the American people, Republican opposition often wanes.
Q Can you give us a couple examples of that?
MR. CARNEY: Payroll tax cuts, student loans, STOCK Act, Jobs Act. Basically, every significant piece of legislation that's been accomplished in the last six months that this President signed into law has been a result of the President making a case to the American people about why his vision for what needs to be done is one that most Americans share, and arguing that they should then make that clear to their representatives in Washington. And this is another one of those situations.
We know that Republicans have, by and large, insisted on holding tax cuts for the middle class hostage to their insistence that the wealthiest Americans get additional tax cuts. That's their position, the polar opposite of the President’s position. But we believe that if the President makes his case to Americans around the country, that the Republican position will become increasingly untenable, and that we can then accomplish something for the American people now before the election -- because, in fact, one of the reasons why it is untenable is because the Republicans say they want these tax cuts extended.
Q So is this going to be the same message that we hear in Virginia on Friday and Saturday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, who knows what will happen in the next three days. You will hear the President talk about the differing visions he has for moving the country forward from Mitt Romney. He will talk today about tax cuts specifically, his call yesterday to extend them for one year for the middle class, and why that’s important. If we can all agree on this, why aren’t we moving forward?
I just want to add one thing to what Jay said, is that the question also should be posted to the Republicans and to Mitt Romney, if this is an area we can agree, why can’t we move this ball forward now so that we can debate about the other issues later? That’s a question we’re all wondering.
So you’ll hear him talk about the differing visions as well as tax cuts. I expect you’ll hear some of that again in Virginia, but we’ll talk about that on Friday.
Q When you look at the guidance on the McLaughlin family, what he's planning on saying today, is all this on taxes? Is there a jobs message in there? Is he bringing a jobs message to Iowa? Will he be bringing one to Virginia? Or is that --
MS. PSAKI: There are many different issues that fall into -- in the President’s view, are about the economic security of the middle class. Of course jobs, providing people access to jobs, investing in jobs of the future -- that’s innovation, that’s infrastructure, that’s clean energy.
But he also feels that middle-class families that are struggling, that are trying to dig themselves out from the recession, need help in areas like access to affordable health care, access to tax credits to help them get a good education. So these are all areas that squeeze the middle class. He’ll talk about all of them today, and he’ll continue to over the course of the next few months.
MR. CARNEY: And if I could just add as a matter of policy make that point that I made before that it is widely established among independent economists that tax cuts to ordinary Americans, middle-class Americans, have, as a rule, a much more positive impact on economic growth in the near term than tax cuts to the wealthiest, because the wealthiest are less likely to spend that money, whereas average Americans, ordinary Americans, middle-class Americans are trying to make ends meet and, by and large, that money goes straight back into the economy, which helps the economy grow and helps to create jobs.
Q Any foreign leader calls today?
MR. CARNEY: I have none to report, no.
Q Do you guys have any comment on this new framework that Kofi Annan has been presenting to try to end the violence in Syria? And then, secondly, Annan also met with some Iranian officials. Does the administration have any view on whether Iran could have a positive role here?
MR. CARNEY: On Iran, I don’t think anybody with a straight face could argue that Iran has had a positive impact on developments in Syria. That's our view.
Broadly, on the Annan plan, we believe that it is essential that the international community come together behind the plan, that the plan be implemented, and that the transition that the plan calls for does not include President Assad. We’ve made that case very clearly to all the "Friends of Syria" and all our international partners. And that is a view that is widely held among interested parties around the globe.
And we remain highly skeptical about Assad’s willingness to meet his commitments, which is another reason why Syria's future cannot plausibly have Bashar al-Assad in the government. He’s long since lost his credibility. He will go down in history as a brutal tyrant who murdered his own people. And we call on members of his inner circle, senior members of his government and his military to break with Assad, to break with that tyrant, and to do so on behalf of the Syrian people.
We also call on other nations to recognize the obvious, which is that allying with Bashar al-Assad is allying with a tyrant and putting your nation on the wrong side of the Syrian people.
Q Can you follow up about the message on whether it's going to be about jobs? Will the President continue to talk about outsourcing, and is that message made a little bit more difficult right now by the media reports and the Republicans recent sort of seizing on the limits of what President Obama has done to limit outsourcing in his first term?
MS. PSAKI: I’ll start. I would say, first of all, the truth -- oh sorry -- it’s a loud plane. The truth sometimes hurts, and that’s true for Mitt Romney and his record on outsourcing. The facts are very clear on this. Mitt Romney not only supported outsourcing as governor, he benefited financially from companies that outsourced at Bain, and he supports giving tax credits to companies that ship jobs overseas.
In contrast, the President has been fighting against outsourcing throughout his career over the last four years. As you know, he’s pushed to give tax credits to companies who bring jobs back here, to end tax credits for companies that are sending jobs overseas, and he’s doubled the rate of enforcement against China as well. So he’s taken a number of steps.
We understand why the Romney campaign wants to try to muddy the waters here, but as I said to start with, the facts are very clear and the contrast between their records couldn’t be more clear either.
MR. CARNEY: As a matter of policy, I think Jen got it just right. You just have to look at the facts, and what the President supports and the efforts he’s made both in terms of enforcement of fair trade practices, with the actions taken before the WTO against China -- a seventh one just taken recently, the previous six having been successful -- as well as his very clear position on rewarding companies that bring jobs back and removing the incentive that Republicans support to reward companies for moving jobs overseas. I mean, that’s the President’s policy position, and I think it’s pretty clear which side he’s stands on.
11:00 A.M. EDT