President Obama says he will be "agnostic" about whatever his reduce-the-federal-debt commission recommends ---- including the idea of higher taxes for households making less than $250,000 a year.
"What I want to do is to be completely agnostic in terms of solutions," Obama told Bloomberg Business Week in interview excerpts released today. "I want everybody to sit down and work off of a common base of facts."
The question dealt specifically with households making less than $250,000; Obama promised during his presidential campaign not to raise taxes on that group.
Obama has also pledged to reduce budget deficits that have generated a federal debt of more than $12 trillion. He will appoint a special commission to look at any and all solutions, including tax hikes and budget cuts, presumably including Social Security and Medicare.
"What I can't do is to set the thing up where a whole bunch of things are off the table," Obama said. "Some would say we can't look at entitlements. There are going to be some that say we can't look at taxes, and pretty soon, you just can't solve the problem."
This is the same interview that produced yesterday's flap over what Obama said about wealth and bonuses.
Among other items covered in the session:
Obama says he is not anti-business: Ã? "I think that part of what has happened is that during the course of the year, the frustrations expressed toward the behavior of some of the biggest banks on Wall Street -- a frustration that was not unique to my administration but is widely shared across the country -- in the minds of a lot of business leaders was viewed as anti-business rhetoric."
Why is there no CEO in the Obama Cabinet? "It just has to do with who the particular individuals who were needed at a time of crisis. I thought it was very important to have Larry Summers and Tim Geithner as two of my key economic advisers early on because they had gone through significant global economic crises before."
Who is a CEO you admire? "You know who I really enjoyed talking to at our last lunch was Fred Smith of FedEx. Very thoughtful. He's an example of somebody who is thinking long-term. His industry is deeply sensitive to energy prices, and he's the first one to say that if we don't start getting an energy policy that's smart, we're going to lose. He's also very thoughtful about trade and talks about the difficulties they've had in some cases with partners around the world."
What, basically, is your economic message? "That having broken the back of this recession, our goal now is to build a new foundation for long-term, sustainable economic growth, and that that requires innovation. It requires a smart energy policy. It requires a health-care system that is not a drag on business. And it requires an education system that is producing the most productive workers in the world."
What about the pending trade deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama? "I would like to get them done. And, now, whether I can get all three done or any one of them done this year, in part, is going to depend on the conversations between our U.S. trade representative and his counterpart in those three other countries."
Chinese currency manipulation. "I have said publicly, and I will repeat, that China and its currency policies are impeding the rebalancing that's necessary. My goal over the course of the next year is for China to recognize that it is also in their interest to allow their currency to appreciate because, frankly, they have got a potentially overheating economy."