Barack Obama Says 'We Can Afford' to Tax the Rich for Joe Biden's Infrastructure Plan

Former President Barack Obama has said the wealthiest Americans "can afford" tax increases in order to fund President Joe Biden's infrastructure plans in two bills making their way through Congress.

Obama, who was president from 2009 to 2017, told Good Morning America host Robin Roberts that he supported taxes on rich Americans and corporations to help pay for Democrats' $3.5 trillion infrastructure package.

He also supported a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has passed in the Senate but has been held up in the House of Representatives as progressives seek to tie it to the $3.5 trillion proposal.

Progressives in the House have suggested they may not vote for the bipartisan bill unless the larger bill— which covers so-called "human infrastructure"—is also brought up for a vote.

The $3.5 trillion bill would have to be passed through the budget reconciliation process and without Republican support, but there are concerns about how it will be paid for and suggestions that the package will have to be slimmed down.

Obama said he was in favor of paying for the reconciliation bill through tax rises on corporations and the wealthiest Americans, as House Democrats have suggested.

"I think that they can afford it. We can afford it. I put myself in this category now," Obama said.

"It's paid for by asking the wealthiest of Americans, who have benefited incredibly over the last several decades—and even in the midst of a pandemic, saw their wealth and assets rise enormously—asking them to pay a few percentage points more in taxes in order to make sure that we have an economy that's fair for everybody," he said.

The White House has said nobody earning less than $400,000 a year would face higher taxes and the Biden administration will not support a proposal that would lower that threshold.

Under plans announced by House Democrats, individuals earning $400,000 or more and couples earning a combined $450,000 or more would see their top marginal income tax rate increase from 37 percent to 39.6 percent. The top tax rate on sales of appreciated stock and other assets would go from 20 percent to 25 percent.

Obama told Roberts: "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 childcare support or so that we can make sure that our communities aren't inundated by wildfires and floods and that we're doing something about climate change for the next generation—you know, that's an argument that is unsustainable."

The former president also defended the contents of Biden's infrastructure plans, saying: "You're talking about us stepping up and spending money on providing childcare tax credits—making those permanent to help families, who for a long time, have needed help.

"You're looking at making our infrastructure function more efficiently," he said. "You're talking about rebuilding a lot of buildings, roads, bridges, ports so that they are fortified against climate change. And also, that we start investing in the kinds of energy efficiency that's going to be required to battle climate change."

Obama Speaks During the Biden Campaign
Former President Barack Obama speaks in support of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during a drive-in rally at the Florida International University on November 2, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Obama has come out in support of tax rises for the wealthiest Americans to help pay for a $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill. Joe Raedle/Getty Images