Do you want to keep giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans -- people like President Barack Obama, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates? The question came today from Obama himself, to about 4,500 students at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla.
It's not fair that some of the richest people in this country pay less in taxes than middle-income Americans, the president said during the event. Before giving that speech, Obama attended a fundraising luncheon 45 miles north, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., where wealthy supporters paid $10,000 to dine with the president. I wonder if that crowd was as excited about the tax-the-rich talk as the FAU students were.
Speaking for himself, Buffett and Gates, Obama said the wealthy trio don't need the tax breaks and "never asked for them."
The 1 percent's share of the national income has climbed to levels last seen in the 1920s, Obama told the cheering crowd. Yet these rich individuals are paying taxes at one of the lowest rates in 50 years.
"We keep on having the same argument with folks that don’t seem to understand how it is that America got built," he says. They think if the rich get more tax cuts "somehow the economy is going to get stronger. … Here is the news: We tried this for eight years before I took office."
It didn’t work. "A shrinking number of people are doing really, really well, but a growing number are struggling to get by," he said. And, he added, that's wrong.
Sure, it's wrong. But is it enough to persuade the Senate to vote for the Buffett Rule next week? Even the Obama administration knows the measure will fail.
The Buffett Rule was named after the billionaire investor who says he should be required to pay more taxes than his secretary. If approved, the Buffett Rule would require that individuals who make more than $1 million per year pay at least 30 percent in taxes.
It's not likely to happen. But still, Obama is pushing for it because it's the right thing to do, the administration says.
It's also a good political campaign, considering this is an election year.
"Tweet them to tell them they don’t need to give tax breaks to folks like me," Obama said, encouraging students to reach out to their Congress members.
The students laughed. But they didn’t seem to find it funny when the president warned them of what will happen if more tax cuts are implemented, as his opponent Mitt Romney has proposed.
"You'd see your financial aid cut by more than $1,000 per year," he said. "Tens of thousands of teachers could lose their jobs."
You're here because of financial aid, the president told the students. He asked, who knows if one of you will become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg?
Ironically, Mr. President, these two became wealthy after they dropped out of college.
Follow me on Twitter @Polyanad