By Sean Alfano
Daily News Staff Writer
President Obama is not ready to cave in to Republican demands that Bush-era tax cuts must be extended to wealthy Americans.
Obama told "60 Minutes" that he is ready to work with Republicans on the hotly debated issue, but he stopped short of saying he is ready to compromise with the GOP.
"We're gonna have to have a serious conversation about it," he said in his first interview since Democrats were massacred at the polls on Election Day.
The dispute centers around whether to extend the tax cuts to families earning less than $250,000, which both parties want, or giving the cuts to all Americans, which the GOP wants.
Raising taxes for middle class Americans, the President said, "is the last thing we want right now."
The cuts are set to expire by the end of this year.
Obama said giving the tax break to people earning more than $250,000 a year will cost the country $700 billion over the next 10 years.
After saying the tax rate for wealthy Americans would return to Clinton-era levels, Obama quipped, "Rich people were doing pretty well" back then.
The President said with the country's deficit in the trillions after rescuing Wall Street with bailouts, tax breaks for everyone would further hamper economic recovery.
"Why would we want to add to it?" Obama said of the deficit.
"We are going to have to have a negotiation," the President said of Democrats and Republicans. "And I am open to, you know, finding a way in which, you know, they can meet their, you know, principles and I can meet mine."
In the coming weeks, Obama and Democrats will likely clash with Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is considered to be the next Speaker of the House, as well as a more powerful Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
"I've already invited them over to the White House," Obama said.
"My hope and expectation is that we can solve this problem," he said.
As for the heavy losses his party suffered in the midterms, which cost Democrats control of the House and narrowed their majority in the Senate, Obama took most of the blame.
The President said he allowed Republicans to frame him as an out-of-control spending liberal.
"What I didn't effectively, I think, drive home, is that we were taking these steps not because of some theory that we wanted to expand government.
"It was because we had an emergency situation and we wanted to make sure the economy didn't go off a cliff," Obama said, referring to the billion-dollar bailouts and his trillion-dollar economic stimulus package.
Still, he said the Election Day results had less to do with voters wanting Republicans in office. "It was a referendum on the economy," Obama said.
The "60 Minutes" interview was taped Thursday and aired on Sunday.