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The President's Weekly Address

January 05, 2013

Hi, everybody. Over the past year, as I traveled across the country campaigning for this office, I told you that if I was fortunate enough to be reelected, I'd work to change a Tax Code that too often benefited the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

This week, we did that. For the first time in two decades, we raised taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans in a bipartisan way, while preventing a middle class tax hike that could have thrown our economy back into recession.

Under this law, more than 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses will not see their income taxes go up one dime. We also made sure that millions of families will continue to receive tax credits to help raise their children and send them to college. Companies will continue to receive tax credits for the research they do, the investments that they make, and the clean energy jobs that they create. And 2 million Americans who are out of work will continue to receive unemployment benefits so long as they are actively looking for a job.

But all this was just one step in the broader effort to grow our economy and shrink our deficits. We still need to do more to put Americans back to work while also putting this country on a path to pay down its debt. And our economy can't afford more protracted showdowns or manufactured crises along the way. Because even as our businesses created 2 million new jobs last year—including 168,000 new jobs last month—the messy brinksmanship in Congress made business owners more uncertain and consumers less confident.

We know there's a path forward. Last year, I signed into law $1.7 trillion in deficit reduction. This week's action further reduces the deficit by $737 billion, making it one of the largest deficit reduction bills passed by Congress in over a decade. And I'm willing to do more.

I believe we can find more places to cut spending without shortchanging things like education, job training, research, and technology, all of which are critical to our prosperity in a 21st-century economy. But spending cuts must be balanced with more reforms to our Tax Code. The wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations shouldn't be able to take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren't available to most Americans.

And as I said earlier this week, one thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they've already racked up. If Congress refuses to give the United States the ability to pay its bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy could be catastrophic. The last time Congress threatened this course of action, our entire economy suffered for it. Our families and our businesses cannot afford that dangerous game again.

I congratulate the newly sworn-in Members of Congress, and I look forward to working with the new Congress in a bipartisan way. If we focus on the interests of our country above the interests of party, I'm convinced we can cut spending and raise revenue in a manner that reduces our deficit and protects the middle class. And we can step up to meet the important business that awaits us this year: creating jobs, boosting incomes, fixing our infrastructure and our immigration system, promoting our energy independence while protecting our planet from the harmful effects of climate change, educating our children, and shielding them from the horrors of gun violence.

These aren't just things we should do, they're things we must do. And in this new year, I'll fight as hard as I know how to get them done. Happy New Year, everybody.

NOTE: The address was recorded in Kailua, HI, for broadcast on January 5. In the address, the President referred to the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which was approved on January 2 and assigned Public Law No. 112-240. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on January 4, but was embargoed for release until 6 a.m. on January 5.

Barack Obama, The President's Weekly Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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