In Michael Steele’s world, even families making $250,000 a year are struggling.
“I really don’t think that people who make $255,000 a year, a family of four, $255,000 a year of annual income or even adjusted gross income is rich,” the former Republican National Committee Chairman told Hardball’s Chris Matthews on Monday night.
His remarks come as President Obama is pushing for families who make that much to pay more in taxes.
“Rich is a relative term, and I think that’s going to be part of the debate,” Steele added.
MSNBC political analyst Joy Reid of TheGrio.com jumped in, arguing “Fewer than 6% of Americans make that kind of money.” She added, “If you live in New York or in DC you may not think that sounds like a lot of money. Where I grew up in Colorado, or if you’re in Arkansas, or you’re in, you know, North Dakota. Believe me–very few people you know are making that kind of money.”
Host Chris Matthews agreed, saying “depends where you live.”
President Obama addressed the United Auto Workers in Redford, Michigan, on Monday as Congress tries to hammer out a deal to avoid the looming fiscal cliff.
“If Congress doesn’t act soon, meaning in the next few weeks, starting on Jan. 1 everybody’s going to see their income tax go up,” he said to boos from the audience. “We can solve this problem,” Obama said. “All Congress needs to do is pass a law that would prevent a tax hike on the first $250,000 of everybody’s income.”
Matthews noted that there seemed to be progress between Democrats and Republicans, as Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met alone on Sunday –the first time since the summer of 2011– to discuss a potential deal.
Some GOPers like Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee have even said the GOP would likely agree to a higher tax rate on the richest Americans if it meant getting the opportunity to overhaul expensive entitlement programs like Medciare and Social Security.
Reid agreed that there was progress, but noted Boehner keeps publicly insisting revenue won’t come from raising the tax rate.
“It’s pretty clear, if not 100% clear, that the White House isn’t going to give on that. Boehner is going to have to find a way to get his caucus to understand that those top rates are going to go up. After that, there’s a lot that can be negotiated…but Boehner has got to give on the top rates,” said Reid.
Steele said that Boehner was likely making such remarks to show that “this is still important for [the GOP]. But when he gets inside the room, he’s negotiating a deal.”