(CNN) - President Barack Obama took his tax proposal on the road Tuesday, drawing up support for his call to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for households bringing in less than $250,000 per year.
In his remarks at a community college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Obama tried to beat back critics who point to the resulting tax hike on those falling above the quarter-million dollar threshold.
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"This has nothing to do with me wanting to punish success," Obama said at the campaign event. "For us to give a trillion dollars worth of tax breaks to folks who don't need it and aren't even asking for it, that doesn't make sense."
Obama signed a bill in 2010 to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts until the end of 2012, citing the need for economic stimulus at the time. He has since vowed he would not permit another extension of the lower tax rates for wealthy Americans and re-emphasized that promise in a White House announcement on Monday.
His proposal would maintain the current lower tax rates for families making up to $250,000 for another year while allowing tax rates to return to 1990s levels for those earning more. The White House says 98% of Americans would benefit from the extension.
But the wealthy would still benefit if the Bush tax cuts are preserved for everyone else, since some of their income is also taxed at the lower rates of 10%, 15%, 25% and 28%.
Republicans have sharply opposed the president's policy, saying it could severely affect small business owners.
Mitt Romney's campaign, for example, criticized Obama's announcement as more bad policy from the president in the wake of the latest disappointing jobs report showing a stagnant unemployment rate of 8.2%.
"President Obama's response to even more bad economic news is a massive tax increase," said Andrea Saul, the Romney campaign's spokeswoman. "It just proves again that the president doesn't have a clue how to get America working again and help the middle class."
Unlike Obama, Saul continued, Romney "understands that the last thing we need to do in this economy is raise taxes on anyone."
Republicans also complained that Obama's plan would raise taxes on more than 900,000 small-business owners who report their income in individual returns as so-called flow-through enterprises.
On Tuesday, however, Obama called on Congress to avert a stalemate in the tax debate, making the case that both parties agree to keep the cuts for 98% of Americans.
"We disagree on the two percent," he said. "Let's not hold the vast majority of Americans hostage, while we debate the merits of another tax cut for the other two percent."
– CNN's Tom Cohen and Jeanne Sahadi contributed to this report.