The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

December 18, 2012

Obama backs off hard lines in search of compromise

(Continued)

Either way, though, there is no doubt Obama has moved in Boehner's direction after Boehner opened the door to a tax rate increase.

Obama's plan, like Boehner's, would also raise taxes on dividends and capital gains from 15 percent to 20 percent. Both would also reduce the number of deductions and exemptions that wealthy taxpayers can claim. Obama's proposal also would let estate taxes revert to 55 percent on estates after allowance for a $1 million exemption.

In making his offer, Obama stiff-armed Republican demands to increase the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, a goal Democrats strongly reject. He also sought to contain cuts in Medicare and other health care programs to about $400 billion over 10 years, less than what Republicans want. And he is continuing to seek spending on unemployment assistance and on public works projects.

Obama's willingness to reduce future cost-of-living increases in Social Security would also mean smaller annual increases in government pensions and veterans' benefits. Annual adjustments to income tax brackets would be smaller, pushing more people into higher tax brackets.

Over time, because annual adjustments to the poverty level would be smaller, the new index could reduce the number of people eligible for programs such as Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, school lunches and home heating assistance.

To avoid some of that risk, Obama wants lower-income recipients to receive protection against any loss from scaling back future cost-of-living increases, people familiar with his plan said.

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