President Barack Obama pushed support for the "Buffett Rule" during a campaign swing through South Florida Tuesday, telling students at Florida Atlantic University that the wealthy don't need tax breaks or special loopholes.
He urged students at the university in Boca Raton to call their representatives in Congress and "tell them, don't give tax breaks to folks like me who don't need them" but instead to make the investments that will keep our economy growing.
“Tell them to do the right thing," Obama said at FAU's arena.
The "Buffett Rule," which would require millionaires to pay at least the same tax rate as middle-class families, is named after billionaire businessman Warren Buffett, who has long supported tax increases for the wealthy. The Senate is scheduled to vote on it next week. It has little chance of passing Congress, but the president and Senate Democrats have been promoting it to underscore the need for economic fairness.
The FAU event was closed to the public. The school held an online ticket lottery among students, faculty and staff for tickets.
Protesters outside the arena criticized Obama's policies. One man held a sign that said "No Nukes For Iran."
Obama told the audience that a safety net based on investments in education, research and healthcare “is not some socialist dream,” but that those investments have been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations because they benefit everyone and lead to strong economic growth.
“If you’re here at FAU because you got financial aid, or a student loan, a scholarship – which, by the way, is how I was able to finance my college education … that doesn’t just benefit you, it benefits whatever company might end up hiring you, and profiting from your skills," Obama said.
He said what drags down economic growth is when benefits go to very few at the top, and said that over the last decade the wealthiest Americans got two huge tax cuts and corporations made big profits, “but we also had the slowest job growth over the last century."
On the other side of the aisle, the campaign for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney contends Obama's plan would raise taxes on small businesses, harming that engine of growth and job creation when the economy needs it the most.
Obama is the "first president in history to openly campaign for re-election on a platform of higher taxes," Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitchho said.
Obama did not mention chief political rival in his speech, but his message was squarely aimed at the former Massachusetts governor.
"America has always been a place where anybody who's going to work and playing by the rules can make it. A place where prosperity doesn't trickle down from the top, it grows from the bottom, it grows outward from the heart of a vibrant middle class," Obama said.
Before the FAU appearance, Obama attended a fundraising lunch in Palm Beach. After the FAU event, he planned to appear at a second fundraiser at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood.
His South Florida stop ended with a fundraising dinner at the home of Jeremy Alters in Golden Beach.