“We’ve got to decide what our priorities are,” said President Barack Obama. “Do we keep tax loopholes for oil companies, or do we put teachers back to work? Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, or should we invest in education and technology and infrastructure?” Take away all the noise and clutter, and the success or failure of the president’s jobs bill comes down to whether the Republican Party will continue to defend the rich against the interests of everybody else.

Obama revealed the details of his $447 billion jobs plan Monday, funded mostly by raising taxes on those who can most easily afford to pay them, and immediately the GOP leadership said half the bill was dead on arrival.

Beginning in 2013, the proposal would limit annual itemized deductions for families with taxable income of at least $250,000, curtail tax breaks for oil companies and corporate jet owners, and eliminate a tax break for investmentfund managers. But the bill, which according to the administration would raise $467 billion over 10 years, was ripped by Republicans because it would penalize what they called “job creators.”

“I sure hope that the president is not suggesting that we pay for his proposals with a massive tax increase at the end of 2012 on the job creators that we’re actually counting on to reduce unemployment,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said.

That is, of course, stuff and nonsense. Corporate America is sitting on trillions of dollars while millions go jobless. It is the middle class and small business that create the bulk of the jobs in this country, not the wealthy class.

The simple truth is the rich don’t need the extra money. What’s more, many of them don’t want the GOP sticking up for them.

“While ... most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks,” Billionaire Warren Buffett wrote in The New York Times. “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”

More than 31 million Americans tuned in to the president’s speech to Congress on Thursday night. It showed that the people are open to what Obama has to say. His approval numbers ticked up after the address, and he has taken his plan on the road to persuade voters that the economy needs a boost.

We hope the president sticks to his guns this time, rather than continuing to yield to Republican intransigence. He must fight. If he does, he will likely find that the people will be on his side.

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