Former President Barack Obama says wealthy Americans – himself included – can afford to pay more in taxes to help fund President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill aimed at expanding the social safety net.


What You Need To Know

  • Former President Barack Obama says wealthy Americans — himself include — can afford to pay more in taxes to help fund President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill
  • In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that aired Tuesday, Obama said Biden’s Build Back Better plan “is something that America desperately needs.”
  • Obama said Biden, who served as his vice president, is handling the division in his own party over the plan “exactly right”
  • Obama called the recent images of Haitian migrants at the Texas-Mexico border “heartbreaking” and blamed Congress’ inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform for situations like that one

In an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that aired Tuesday, Obama said Biden’s Build Back Better plan “is something that America desperately needs.”

“Most importantly, it’s paid for by asking the wealthiest of Americans to pay a few percentage points more in taxes in order to make sure that we have an economy that’s fair for everybody,” Obama said.

“They can afford it,” he continued. “We can afford it. I put myself in this category now.”

“I think anybody who pretends that it’s a hardship for billionaires to pay a little bit more in taxes so that a single mom gets child care support or so that we’re doing something about climate change for the next generation, that’s an argument that is unsustainable,” the former president added.

Biden’s ambitious plan aims to create jobs and fight climate change, as well and lower costs for working families, including for child care, health care, housing and higher education. Lawmakers are still hashing out the details before introducing the bill, but the White House and congressional Democrats said last week they have agreed to a framework of options to pay for the package, largely by hiking taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations.

Republicans are staunchly opposed to the plan, calling it a reckless spending spree. There also has been disagreement among Democrats — moderates believe the price tag is too high, while progressives, worried some of their key objectives will get swept aside, are demanding that the legislation be tied to the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that already has cleared the Senate.

Obama said Biden, who served as his vice president, is handling the division in his own party “exactly right.”

“I believe that it will get done,” he said. “It will be messy. It’s always messy to get big, serious legislation done.”

Obama was also asked about the recent surge of Haitian migrants at the Texas-Mexico border. He called the images from Del Rio, Texas, “heartbreaking” and blamed Congress’ inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform for situations like that one. 

“What happens, though, at the Texas border is a painful reminder that we don’t have this right yet,” he said. “ … It is, I think, one of those situations in which, if you have a system that overall is dysfunctional, you are going to get episodes in which what’s happening right in front of you is something that nobody wants.”

The ABC News interview coincided with the groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, set for Tuesday afternoon. The center will serve as a museum and public gathering space and is scheduled to be completed by 2025.

The former president, who spent many years in the city, reflected on the city’s gun violence epidemic, saying he hopes his presidential library will be a part of the solution, but added that “Chicago alone can’t solve the gun problem.”

Obama said that Congress must take action to pass “common sense gun safety measures,” a major priority of his presidency which was repeatedly blocked by Congressional Republicans.

“Chicago alone can’t stop the easy access and flood of guns into these communities,” Obama added. “But what we can do is potentially give young people the sense that there’s another way for them to empower themselves, other than wielding a gun.”

Obama said that addressing gun violence is a “generational project” and he hopes that Obama Presidential Center programs will aid those efforts.

“If we’re doing that in a systemic way, year after year, then over time, we can reduce these incidents of violence,” the former president said.