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MOUNTAIN VIEW - President Barack Obama this morning defended his effort to hike taxes on the wealthiest Americans, saying they have "room to spare" that other Americans don't.

"The income of folks at the top has gone up exponentially over the last couple of decades, whereas the incomes and wages of the middle class have flat-lined over the last 15 years," Obama said at a forum hosted by LinkedIn at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

The audience, consisting of LinkedIn employees and invited guests, was favorable to Obama, with a former Google brand manager, Doug Edwards, asking at one point, "Would you please raise my taxes?"

Edwards said he once worked for a "start-up down the street here that did quite well, so I'm unemployed by choice."

While many Americans don't "have a lot of room to spare," Obama said, "Those of us who've been fortunate, we do. And we're not talking about going to punitive rates that would somehow inhibit you from wanting to be part of a start-up or work hard to be successful."

Obama said, "We're talking about going back to the rates that existed as recently as the 90s, when, as I recall, Silicon Valley was doing pretty good, and well-to-do people were doing pretty well."

Obama has proposed $1.5 trillion in tax increases on wealthy Americans, including allowing Bush-era tax cuts to expire next year for individuals earning more than $200,000.

Obama spent most of the morning touting his $447 billion jobs bill, which includes tax cuts and government spending he said will create jobs.


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