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Obama presses case on "fiscal cliff" with Dimon, Buffett

US President Barack Obama speaks during a joint media conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at Government House in Bangkok
US President Barack Obama speaks during a joint media conference with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at Government House in Bangkok

By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's intensive lobbying to avert big year-end tax hikes and spending cuts resumed over the weekend as he spoke with senior corporate chieftains, including JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon and legendary investor Warren Buffett.

Dimon has been a harsh critic of tougher rules imposed on the financial services industry after the 2007-2009 recession, but last month backed Obama's goal of raising taxes on top earners to avert the so-called fiscal cliff.

The president, who is on a four-day Asia trip, also spoke with Apple's Tim Cook, Boeing's Jim McNerney, and Costco's Craig Jelinek, a White House official said.

"The president reached out to and spoke with each of these business leaders as a part of his continuing conversations and outreach on the need to find a balanced deficit-reduction solution that protects the middle class and continues to move our economy forward," the White House official said.

Unless Congress and the administration act, individual income tax rates will rise across the board and $109 billion in spending cuts will go into effect on January 1. The so-called fiscal cliff may cut the federal budget deficit but is also forecast to drag the economy back into recession.

Obama began negotiations with congressional leaders last week to avoid the economic shock. The key sticking point for Republicans is his insistence that rates for top earners be allowed to rise to 39.6 percent from 35 percent.

Republicans agree that more government revenue is needed to trim the budget deficit, but they don't want to raise tax rates to do it.

As part of efforts to pressure Congress to support his approach, the president has invited business, labor and civic leaders and non-profit groups to the White House to press his case. His re-election was expected to give him some leverage in the negotiations.

Dimon said last month that it was "terrible policy" to let the fiscal cliff deadline draw so near before beginning talks. He also said he would be willing to see his tax rate rise if it meant avoiding any economic shock.

Dimon and the other executives could not immediately be reached for comment.

(The story deletes paragraph four to remove reference to Jelinek speaking at Democratic convention)

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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