President Barack Obama and Sen. Marco Rubio addressed the importance of the middle class during their weekly addresses Saturday, but each offered different prescriptions for prosperity.
Obama urged Congress to pass his plan for deficit reduction, which includes an extension of the Bush-era tax breaks for middle-income earners.
"If we're serious about reducing our deficit while still investing in things like education and research that are important to growing our economy - and if we're serious about protecting middle-class families - then we're also going to have to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay higher tax rates," he said. "That's one principle I won't compromise on."
Rubio spoke against Obama's plan in the GOP address, saying instead, "our goal should be to generate new revenue by creating new taxpayers, not new taxes."
"We must get the national debt under control. Tax increases will not solve our $16 trillion debt. Only economic growth and a reform of entitlement programs will help control the debt," the Florida Republican said.
Rubio is seen as a rising star within his party and a possible 2016 presidential contender. He was born to working-class immigrant parents and frequently speaks about families such as his seeking to better their circumstances.
Besides an improved economic system, Rubio spoke in favor of reforming the education system.
"Let's stop preparing 21st-century students using a 20th-century education model," he said. "Instead, let's be creative, innovative and daring in reforming the way we provide our people the skills they're going to need to make it to the middle class."
Their remarks on taxes come as Obama and congressional Republicans - led by House Speaker John Boehner - are locked in negotiations to avert the spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to kick in next year.
As part of the so-called fiscal cliff, the Bush-era tax rates would expire on all levels of income. Obama supports extension of the lowered rates for families' income under $250,000 per year, and taxation of earnings above that level at the higher rates.
"We're just waiting for Republicans in the House" to pass such a measure, he said. "But so far, they've put forward an unbalanced plan that actually lowers rates for the wealthiest Americans. If we want to protect the middle class, then the math just doesn't work."
Republicans, meanwhile, have described Obama's initial proposal as not serious. Many have called for the extension of the lowered tax rates for all, saying an increase in rates would be harmful to the economy.