Obama hosts Twitter chat, takes questions on ‘fiscal cliff’

President Barack Obama took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to personally answer questions on the "fiscal cliff." His venture into social media came as Republicans and Democrats continued trading blame for the deadlocked fiscal negotiations in Washington.

"Hey guys - this is barack. ready to answer your questions on fiscal cliff & #my2k. Let's get started. -bo," Obama tweeted just after 2 p.m., kicking off a conversational Twitter chat fueled by the White House's public call for questions.

Democrats and Republicans are under pressure to reach an agreement to cut the deficit by Jan. 1, when automatic spending cuts and tax increases will go into effect.

Monday's Twitter chat was designed to help boost grass-roots support for the president's position that George W. Bush-era tax cuts should be extended only for individuals making less than $200,000 per year or families making less than $250,000.

Those who participated got a dose of financial talking points peppered with friendly conversation.

"Like your hair!" he tweeted to one questioner whose Twitter "avatar," or photo, suggested a purple hairdo.

The president used Monday's chat to reinforce his positions in the deficit negotiations: tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire; Republican proposals will hurt the middle class; and Democrats have already made spending cuts.

Twitter user @mike5673 asked the president, "Why won't keeping tax rates low across the board encourage more hires and therefore more tax revenue?"

The president responded by arguing against the Republican preference to keep tax breaks for the nation's wealthiest earners.

"High end tax cuts do least for economic growth & cost almost $1T," Obama tweeted. "Extending middle class cuts boosts consumer demand & growth."

User @soitgoesem expressed concern over preserving tax deductions for homeowners. The president responded by pointing to the importance of such deductions for the middle class.

"Breaks for middle class impt for families & econ. if top rates don't go up, danger that middle class deductions get hit - bo," Obama tweeted.

The 45-minute chat promoted the #my2k Twitter hashtag, which highlights the $2,000 tax hike the White House says middle-class families will have to pay next year if Republicans get their way.

The conversation played into Democrats' very public campaign to pressure Republicans to bend to their fiscal demands ahead of the fiscal cliff deadline.

But in a statement on Monday, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell dismissed Obama's efforts to engage the public in the debate.

"If the president is serious about joining us in an effort to reduce the deficit and protect the economy, he'll get off the campaign trail, drop the left-wing talking points and instruct his staff to negotiate a solution in good faith based on actual written proposals," McConnell said.