WASHINGTON -- The Bush-era tax cuts that all Americans enjoy are set to expire at the end of the year, which means they're now caught up in presidential politics.
In a speech at the White House, President Barack Obama asked Congress for a one-year extension of tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year, but not for those making more.
"I believe it's time to let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, folks like myself, to expire," Obama said.
Coming off a tough week on the campaign trail defined by the latest evidence of a stagnant economy, the president is working to shift the story from forlorn to fairness.
For more on the tax cut debate, CBN News spoke with Phil Kerpen, president of American Commitment. Click play for his comments on CBN Newswatch July 9.
Middle class tax cuts are popular with voters.
"If Congress doesn't do this, millions of American families, including these good looking people behind me, could see their taxes go up by $2,200," Obama added.
Tax cuts for top earners will cost $1 trillion over the next 10 years, money the president says America doesn't have. Extending tax cuts only for households making below $250,000 costs the government about $800 billion less over 10 years.
"Let's not hold the vast majority of Americans and our economy hostage while we debate the merits of another tax cut for the wealthy," the president said.
House Republicans are also pushing for an extension of tax cuts, but of a different kind. They want to keep Bush-era tax cuts for wealthier Americans.
Republicans accused Obama of campaigning to raise taxes on small business owners at a time when Americans need jobs.
And the Romney campaign said the president doesn't have a clue how to get the economy moving.
"Americans are struggling in a zombie economy and President Obama's only answer is to pass one of the largest tax hikes in history," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
"President Obama's tax increases on families and job creators will create more economic uncertainty and fewer opportunities for struggling middle class families," she added.
President Obama said 97 percent of small business owners won't be affected.
Only a few months before the November election, Monday's address doubled as a plug for potential voters.
Tax cuts for high earners are the perfect vehicle for both campaigns. The president will use them to paint Romney as out of touch with the middle class. Romney will use them to paint the president as a job killer.