MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — President Barack Obama on Monday defended his push to tax the rich more to help jolt the economy and rebuild it for the long term, saying the income of well-to-do people has soared while the middle has struggled with no room to spare.
At a town hall, one man set up the president to make his point, saying: "Would you please raise my taxes?" The questioner said he was unemployed by his own choice, having done well at a nearby start-up search-engine company in Silicon Valley, and was willing to pay more.
Obama said he did not want to punish the rich, but rather to return income tax rates to the level of the 1990s.
"During that period, the rich got richer," the president said. "The middle class expanded. People rose out of poverty."
Obama is in a deadlock with Republicans in Congress, including leaders of the House, over raising taxes as part of a formula for helping a staggering economy. He has put forward a debt-reduction plan that would raise $1.5 trillion in new revenue, including about $800 billion over 10 years from repealing the Bush-era tax cuts for couples making more than $250,000.
Obama spoke during an event hosted by LinkedIn, the career-focused social networking site, midway through a three-state Western swing. The event was at the Computer History Museum, near LinkedIn's Silicon Valley headquarters.
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