Archive for Saturday, September 24, 2011

Obama returning to his ‘soak the rich’ roots

September 24, 2011


— In a 2008 debate, Charlie Gibson asked Barack Obama about his support for raising capital gains taxes, given the historical record of government losing net revenue as a result. Obama persevered: “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”

A most revealing window into our president’s political core: To impose a tax that actually impoverishes our communal bank account (the U.S. Treasury) is ridiculous. It is nothing but punitive. It benefits no one — not the rich, not the poor, not the government. For Obama, however, it brings fairness, which is priceless.

Now that he’s president, Obama has actually gone and done it. He’s just proposed a $1.5 trillion tsunami of tax hikes featuring a “Buffett rule” that, although as yet deliberately still fuzzy, clearly includes raising capital gains taxes.

He also insists again upon raising marginal rates on “millionaire” couples making $250,000 or more. But roughly half the income of small businesses (i.e., those filing individual returns) would be hit by this tax increase. Therefore, if we are to believe Obama’s own logic that his proposed business tax credits would increase hiring, then surely this tax hike will reduce small-business hiring.

But what are jobs when fairness is at stake? Fairness trumps growth. Fairness trumps revenue. Fairness trumps economic logic.

Obama himself has said that “you don’t raise taxes in a recession.” Why then would he risk economic damage when facing re-election? Because these proposals have no chance of being enacted, many of them having been rejected by the Democratic-controlled Congress of Obama’s first two years in office.

Moreover, this is not an economic, or jobs, or debt-reduction plan in the first place. This is a campaign manifesto. This is anti-millionaire populism as premise for his re-election. And as such, it is already working.

Obama’s Democratic base is electrified. On the left, the new message is playing to rave reviews. It has rekindled the enthusiasm of his core constituency — the MoveOn, Hollywood liberal, Upper West Side precincts best described years ago by John Updike: “Like most of her neighborhood, she was a fighting liberal, fighting to have her money taken from her.”

Added Updike: “For all her exertions, it never was.” But now with Obama — it will! Turns out, Obama really was the one they had been waiting for.

That is: the new Obama, today’s soak-the-rich, veto-threatening, self-proclaimed class warrior. Except that the new Obama is really the old Obama — the one who, upon entering office in the middle of a deep economic crisis, and determined not to allow “a serious crisis to go to waste” (to quote his then chief of staff), exploited the (presumed) malleability of a demoralized and therefore passive citizenry to enact the largest Keynesian stimulus in recorded history, followed by the quasi-nationalization of one-sixth of the economy that is health care.

Considering the political cost — massive electoral rebuke by an infuriated 2010 electorate — these are the works of a conviction politician, one deeply committed to his own social-democratic vision.

That politician now returns. Obama’s new populism surely is a calculation that his halfhearted feints to the center after the midterm “shellacking” were not only unconvincing but would do him no good anyway with a stagnant economy, 9 percent unemployment and a staggering $4 trillion of new debt.

But this is more than a political calculation. It is more than just a pander to his base. It is a pander to himself: Obama is a member of his base. He believes this stuff. It is an easy and comfortable political shift for him, because it’s a shift from a phony centrism back to his social-democratic core, from positioning to authenticity.

The authentic Obama is a leveler, a committed social democrat, a staunch believer in the redistributionist state, a tribune, above all, of “fairness” — understood as government-imposed and government-enforced equality.

That’s why “soak the rich” is not just a campaign slogan to rally the base. It’s a mission, a vocation. It’s why for all its gratuitous cynicism and demagoguery, Obama’s populist Rose Garden lecture on Monday was delivered with such obvious — and unusual — conviction.

He’s returned to the authenticity of his radical April 2009 “New Foundation” address (at Georgetown University) that openly proclaimed his intent to fundamentally transform America.

Good. There’s something to be said for authenticity. A choice not an echo, said Barry Goldwater. The country will soon choose, although not soon enough.

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. His email address is


Gandalf 4 years ago

Obama "soak the rich" versus repub "soak the poor". Get gasoline costs down to around $2.00 a gallon and I bet the economy world wide would perk up.

Liberty_One 4 years ago

Gas is around one dime a gallon--if you are using a pre-1964 dime.

Still think big government lives to serve the people?

Gandalf 4 years ago

Still doing a pretty good job of serving you isn't it?

Liberty_One 4 years ago

Nope. Never has. Time for you dinosaurs to go away and let rational people run things for a change.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

Libertarianism isn't rational. It is flipping insane.

Look at Somalia if you want to see the results of Liberty_One "ideas"

jhawkinsf 4 years ago

Libertarianism would work if you had two people who agreed living on an island. But democracy has the same problems. If I could go back to the years of my youth (a long time ago), I wonder what the people would vote to do with, say gays. Lock 'em up. African-Americans? Send 'em back to Africa. Immigrants? Send 'em home. Libertarianism, like democracy needs moderation, it needs common sense. Liberty's problem is that he takes a reasonable concept and stretches it to the breaking point. His problem is that he refuses to let common sense moderate his position. His position is like letting us vote on those above mentioned positions and then defending that vote by saying it's democratic.

Abdu Omar 4 years ago

Yes, Gandalf, that is exactly as I see it, too. Why do we allow the Repugs to constantly fight for the rich when it is the middle class that is hurting? When did this class idea come to being? When are we going to learn that if one man is starving, we don't have a banquet and not invite him? It is time the American People pull together and stop the war in Washington.

cato_the_elder 4 years ago

Gandalf and wounded_soldier, how many businesses have you started that wound up employing many of your fellow citizens and providing sustenance to them and their families? Increased taxation and government regulation severely damage Americans' opportunities to start and grow businesses. Is the continued stifling of business initiative in America by the type of government fascism promoted by Obama and his cronies what you really want?

Gandalf, if you want to see gasoline prices go down, then work to elect those who favor vastly increased oil production in America by Americans. Wounded_soldier, if you want to help the middle class, then work to elect those who favor increased job creation through lower tax rates on business and investment and significantly decreased government regulation, starting with the outright repeal of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank.

You will never get what you want by "soaking the rich." All that Obama and other government-fed babies like him really want is to punish financially successful people for their success, nothing more.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

In the 1920s The Republicans de-regulated the banking sector, reversed environmental regulations, and cut taxes.

The result? The great depression.

In the 2000s the Republicans de-regulated the banking sector, reversed environmental regulations, and cut taxes.

The result? The great recession.

Libertarianism is nuts. It doesn't work. If you want to solve our problems look at the New Deal and at WWII. That is the level of spending needed to take us into the next American Century.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

You are just plain wrong.

Government spending on WWII provided infrastructure and training to 10,000,000 GIs and brought a record number of women into the work force.

It was this investment from 1940 to 1945 that paid off for decades as the greatest generation used these hard won skills to build an economy the likes of which the world had never seen.

In the 1920's Hoover actually cut spending dramatically. It wasn't until Roosevelt came into office that government jobs programs kicked in and began to resolve the problems.

Here is a chart that even a Libertarian can read:

Going off the Gold standard also helped significantly, but as a Libertarian I don't expect you to acknowledge that.

rtwngr 4 years ago

Well, just so you know, Reagan's "trickle down" fueled one of the largest growths of the GDP since WWII. Bush's tax reductions did work to a point but the continued spending by the Dem controlled congress flatlined the economy which eventually became a tailspin. The Dems supported changing lending practices for homes in the name of "fairness" and you see the result of that. Your revisionist history doesn't wash.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

By trickle down, they mean the rich peeing on the poor.

voevoda 4 years ago

cato_the_elder, Why don't we just do what the real Cato the Elder did: confiscate the property of citizens who used their wealth to engage in conspicuous consumption. That would force the rich to use their money for domestic investments and domestic employment, or else the government would do it for them.

cato_the_elder 4 years ago

Because this isn't ancient Rome, genius. This is the United States of America, and our Constitution provides for individual liberties and freedoms that weren't known in Cato's time.

In a free society, "confiscating the property of citizens who use their wealth to engage in conspicuous consumption" is no different from banning the freedom of speech to those who speak too conspicuously. You obviously have no understanding of the freedom given to us by our Founding Fathers to conduct ourselves legally in a free society without governmental interference, the same freedom that liberal Democrats have worked assiduously to undermine for eight decades.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

What two more? We are almost out of Iraq and the Libya thing was a small action (relative to the DoD's annual budget).

I think they spent more on shoes that they did on Libya.

Oh, on the plus side the better men won. Could be a democracy there soon, but either way we don't have troops on the ground.

Crazy_Larry 4 years ago

I didn't know BushCo. was for healthcare reform.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

That would have been fine if he had raised taxes to pay for it.

Maybe increased the Gas tax? Then spent the money on Li-Poly research and subsidies?

Mike Ford 4 years ago

math. amnesia serves you well....please forget bush thats what you people do.... it makes it easier to realize how much of a collossal blunder 2000 to 2008 was....but you know if one isn't smart denial works best...

ljwhirled 4 years ago

Parry is a less intelligent version of Bush.

Fear the future.

average 4 years ago

Do you seriously think that not a single iota of the pain of getting out of this mess should fall on the upper class? Because in every service being cut, the cuts fall pretty much exclusively on the lower 90%.

Flap Doodle 4 years ago

Would somebody please take the Mope aside and explain the difference between "Intercontinental" and "transcontinental"? A Nobel Prize winning clever dude shouldn't keep making such a stupid error.

kugrad 4 years ago

Class warfare from the rich has almost destroyed the middle class while the rich have had a 6-fold increase in their annual incomes. There is a class war and it is being waged against us.

ljwhirled 4 years ago

It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be. - Warren Buffett, 2005.

beatrice 4 years ago

Giving massive tax cuts that greatly impact the wealthy during times of mounting debt and war is a form of class warfare.

I don't recall conservatives claiming Reagan was trying to soak the rich during his time in office, yet the top tax rate under Reagan was much, much higher than what Obama seeks in eliminating the "temporary" tax cuts enacted by the Bush administration.

verity 4 years ago

Destroying the working class will eventually affect the upper classes. If there is no viable working class, stuff will not get bought. If stuff doesn't get bought, the economy tanks.

You can be against materialism and think people buy too much stuff (which I do), but it is what fuels the economy.

bearded_gnome 4 years ago

But what are jobs when fairness is at stake? Fairness trumps growth. Fairness trumps revenue. Fairness trumps economic logic.

Obama himself has said that “you don’t raise taxes in a recession.” Why then would he risk economic damage when facing re-election? Because these proposals have no chance of being enacted, many of them having been rejected by the Democratic-controlled Congress of Obama’s first two years in office.

Moreover, this is not an economic, or jobs, or debt-reduction plan in the first place. This is a campaign manifesto. This is anti-millionaire populism as premise for his re-election. And as such, it is already working.


"he believes this stuff."

---well said Charles, roll on bro!

camper 4 years ago

Soak the rich? Hmmm, let's see. If you made 500k (after all deductions) the extra taxes you would pay are:

3% x ($500,000 - $250,000) = $7,500.

This is assuming the Bush cuts are reversed, and income above 250k is increased from 36% to 39%.

This is chump change. Give us a break Kruthenhamler.

Cait McKnelly 4 years ago

Obama is not a "brown skinned, antiwar, socialist who passes out free healthcare". You're thinking of Jesus. On that note, Krauthammer really needs to retire. It must be awful to no longer be a real political pundit, just old and irrelevant.

Cait McKnelly 4 years ago

Take a look at the first link. Now take a look at the second link and notice, not who is on it, but who is NOT on it. Charles Koch David Koch Christie Walton (Walmart) Sheldon Adelson (who owns casinos!) Jim Walton Alice Walton These people are among the top ten billionaires in this country and they have no interest in doing anything but accumulating more wealth. Why? There are only so many homes you can own, so many designer clothes you can buy, so many cars you can drive. What's the point of accumulating that kind of wealth and doing nothing but sitting on it? (Contributing to political parties doesn't count.) These people are privileged. They could do a world of good with their money and choose not to. It speaks volumes. (It also speaks volumes, to me, that the top three billionaires in the country are on the list.)

chootspa 4 years ago

Actually, when they buy more businesses, it generally results in a net decrease in jobs.

Cait McKnelly 4 years ago

No, we shouldn't force people to donate money against their will. You. re right that it's not fair. OTOH, is it fair that these same people who refuse to share willingly are also allowed to be taxed at a lesser rate than those who make far less money and are forced to pay a far greater percentage of their income, to the advantage of those that already, obviously, have more than enough? It's ironic to me that those of the wealthiest that are willing to share are also willing to be taxed on their income at a greater rate to share that wealth with all Americans. Catch David Koch doing that.

chootspa 4 years ago

The wealthiest generally pay less than that. Most of their income falls into the 15% rate for capital gains.

chootspa 4 years ago

Yes, it's really such a pity he did so poorly in school, and then later on he only managed to make a couple of million on his own. Clearly his childhood did not prepare him for life. I'm sure that growing up rich and being a failed oil tycoon with a fake ranch in Texas would have better prepared him for the White House.

JerryStubbs 4 years ago

Yeah, that's why he got his law degree from one of the most prestigious schools in the country.

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