Opinion: Obama overreaching on tax plans

November 29, 2012


— With a chip on his shoulder larger than his margin of victory, Barack Obama is approaching his second term by replicating the mistake of his first. Then his overreaching involved health care — expanding the entitlement state at the expense of economic growth. Now he seeks another surge of statism, enlarging the portion of gross domestic product grasped by government and dispensed by politics. The occasion is the misnamed “fiscal cliff,” the proper name for which is: the Democratic Party’s agenda.

For 40 years the party’s principal sources of energy and money — liberal activists, government employees unions — have advocated expanding government’s domestic reach by raising taxes and contracting its foreign reach by cutting defense. Obama’s four years as one of the most liberal senators and his four presidential years indicate he agrees. Like other occasionally numerate but prudently reticent liberals, he surely understands that the entitlement state he favors requires raising taxes on the cohort that has most of the nation’s money — the middle class.

Mitt Romney as candidate and others before and since have suggested increasing revenues by capping income tax deductions. This would increase that tax’s progressivity, without raising rates that would dampen incentives. Obama’s compromise may be: Let’s do both. Remember the story of when the British Admiralty sought six new battleships, the Treasury proposed four, so they compromised on eight.

Those proposing higher taxes on the wealthy note that when the income tax began in 1913, the top rate was 7 percent. But in 1917, war brought a 67 percent rate. Between 1925 and 1931, the rate was 24 percent or 25 percent, but in only five of the subsequent 80 years — 1988-92 — was the top rate lower than it is today.

Republicans, however, respond that because lower rates reduce incentives to distort economic decisions, they promote growth by enhancing efficiency. Hence restoration of the higher rates would be a giant step away from, and might effectively doom, pro-growth tax reform. Furthermore, restoration of the Clinton-era top rate of 39.6 percent would occur in the very different Obama era of regulatory excesses and Obamacare taxes. Hence Republicans rightly resist higher rates.

Given liberals’ fixation with the affluent paying their “fair share,” it might seem peculiar that they are so vehemently against Paul Ryan’s “premium support” proposal for Medicare. Their recoil is, however, essential to the liberal project.

Ryan’s supposedly radical idea is that people should shop for health insurance, with government subsidizing purchases by the less affluent. This would introduce what soon will be inevitable — means testing, aka progressivity. But liberals reject it with a word the incantation of which suffices, they think, as an argument — “voucher.”

This is peculiar because perhaps the most successful federal program of the 20th century was essentially a voucher program. The purpose of the 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act — aka the G.I. Bill of Rights — was to facilitate demobilization by helping men and women acquire educations and buy houses — and hence form families. The government did not build universities or houses. It, in effect, gave individuals conditional cash — vouchers — by helping to pay for home loans and college tuition.

Liberals’ strenuous objection to vouchers is that vouchers, as the functional equivalent of cash, empower individuals to make choices. It is the business of the liberals’ administrative state, staffed by experts, to make choices for inexpert individuals. This is why, while Democrats in Washington are working to reduce the portion of Americans’ private income that is disposed of by private choices, two tentacles of the Democratic Party — the Indiana and Louisiana teachers unions — are currently in their states’ courts waging futile fights against school choice programs, lest thousands of low- and moderate-income parents be as empowered as millions of demobilized servicemen were.

Washington’s contentiousness about the “cliff” is producing a blizzard of numbers. The argument, however, is not about this or that tax rate but about the nature of the American regime. When the Republican House majority acts as though it has a mind — and a mandate — of its own, this is not Washington being “dysfunctional,” it is the separation of powers functioning as the Founders intended. Their system requires concurrent congressional majorities — one in the Senate, with its unique constituencies and electoral rhythms, another in the House, with its constituencies and rhythms. And at least 219 of the 234 House Republicans won in November by margins larger than Obama’s national margin.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Getaroom 5 years, 6 months ago

Another nonsensical bla bla bla from the ever intellectual sounding, George Will and with sour grapes dripping from his smarmy mind.

OK! Now LJW, let's hear what Faux Nuz Krauthammer has to say. Whoops! Guess he is still wiping the deer caught in the headlights look off his face just like Grover Norguist. It's truly amazing the things money can't buy, like WIN based on a lie and liar!!

Please please, tell us more lies about corporations and the 1%'ers needing more entitlements to sweeten the pot of success and how jobs and small business will be destroyed by allowing the Bush Tax Cuts to expire. Lions and tigers and bears....... More lies please.......

Paul R Getto 5 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Will: Rejoice in the President's victory. Your columns for the next four years are already written.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

George choreographs a dance of sloganeering straw men.

Briseis 5 years, 6 months ago

My, that was truly profound (heavy sarcasm.)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

No, it was a statement of of the obvious (to all but the oblivious.)

Briseis 5 years, 6 months ago

"Vladimir Putin of Russia now says, "We are reducing taxes on production. We are investing money in the economy. We are optimizing state expenses."

And what is Obama doing?

He's doing the exact opposite.

He's increasing taxes on production. He's not investing money in the economy.

He's not reducing government expenses, he's increasing them.

Obama is doing everything backwards.

History is repeating itself, right in front of our eyes.

Vladimir Putin seems to be more of a Democrat than Barack Obama. "

For 20 points...who said this?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 6 months ago

Briseis said it.

Where do I collect my 20 points.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 6 months ago

You didn't specify who said it first. I demand my promised 20 points.

Briseis 5 years, 6 months ago

ok, ok, ok....can we come to a consensus sprinkled with social justice to resolve your demand? Would a candle lite vigil help?

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

Why are you offering him a lite vigil? He deserves a full vigil.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

It was said by someone who thinks kleptocracy and plutocracy are features of "democracy."

JackMcKee 5 years, 6 months ago

Will is back to writing garbage. Order has been restored. Now I just need some Krauthammer drivel and my week will be complete.

JackMcKee 5 years, 6 months ago

And a poorly written screed from Dolph would just be gravy.

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

"With a chip on his shoulder larger than his margin of victory, Barack Obama..."

Compared to Bush's re-election of 286 electoral votes to Kerry's 252, Obama's re-election totals of 332 to 206 was an ass whoopin'. In reality, it wasn't even close. Will is the one with the chip on his shoulder by not getting over it already. Hey Will, your guy lost. Deal with it.

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

Give a man more money in welfare, allow him to stay on unemployment for years, and they will vote democrat forever!!!! Democrats expect the 1% to hire more full-time people, pay more for healthcare, and pay more in taxes??? That is insane... Let's try making people work, not supporting lazy people, and cut spending... A nice start would be for this idiot to not fire 20,000 Marines the same day he announces 6 billion going to Indonesia for green energy lmfao... How about a higher flat tax so everyone pays the same % and you don't punish people for being successful??? Cut people who have been on unemployment for 12 months!!! Drug test people on welfare!!! Stop with the green energy bs that was a scam to begin with!!! This country needs to hold everyone accountable, not just the wealthy!!!

Paul R Getto 5 years, 6 months ago

Drug tests are not worth the money. Test farmers, corporate execs and legislators too and I might change my mind.

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

I agree... Test everyone!!! When people are on welfare or unemployment they have time to take a drug test!!!

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

Florida found out that it cost more money to test as folks on government assistance were less likely to use drugs than the general population.

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

Look it up... Try getting news from multiple sources instead of 1...

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

rc79, I think the Republican party should follow your lead by demeaning those not voting Republican. Great tactic to win people over to your shrinking party!

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

You didn't really expect them to return, did you? (Well ... not under their old names, anyway, did you?) Maybe I'm wrong and they really did self-deport from this website. Either way, whether they left on their own or have chosen to be so craven as to take a new name rather than face the ridicule that comes with being remarkably wrong in their year-long election predictions, we win (again).

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

Beat, its not putting people down... I am tired if people perfectly capable of working being handed more and more money and they still aren't working!!! You can't keep asking tax payers to pay more and more and watch people take advantage of it!!! I work hard, as I am sure you do... We should not have to pay more for people who just flat out refuse to work... You can't ask business owners to pay more per employee, more in taxes, then think they will hire more people!!! People are in business to make money, not lose it!!! I have student loans, mortgage, car payment, business loans, and other debt that I work hard to pay every month!!! Why should I have to pay more than anyone else???

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

If you believe calling someone without a job "lazy" isn't demeaning, then you truly do not have a clue. Very few simply don't want to work. The amount paid out for unemployment is such a small amount that it is barely enough to live on, so perhaps you should be looking at the lack of jobs available. Maybe you should be upset with the "job creators" for hiding their money in the Cayman Islands instead of living up to their title and, you know, creating jobs. Taxes on the wealthiest among us are at record lows, so where are the jobs?

You shouldn't pay more -- as a percentage of your income, did you pay more than Mitt Romney or Warren Buffett? Why doesn't that upset you?

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

Democrats lmao... Your right, republicans are the only ones with money hidden!!! Nice try!!! Buffet feta about paying more in taxes yet won't settle his billion dollar lawsuit for taxes!!! Hmmmm you really think business owners make millions and can afford to keep paying more for everything, lose tax breaks that raise some to 39%, hire more, and pay more for healthcare!!! You need to wake up!!!

deec 5 years, 6 months ago

You mean like how Papa John's would need to raise the price of a pizza 5 whole cents to cover insurance for all corporate employees?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 6 months ago

If the extreme right sees them as an inconvenience, then the extreme left sees them all as victims. Both the Ph.D. as well as the 38 year old with 5 kids by 3 different men.

So who is wrong, the person on the right who sees only inconvenience or the person on the left who sees only victims? BOTH.

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago

" the 38-year-old woman who has been living on welfare and food stamps since 2005 (and has had five kids by three different men in the ensuing years)."

The money is probably not great, but it's free. Apparently, it gives her some free time to reproduce.

Good work if you can get it.

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

Nice reply!! The information you have provided has been helpful today.. just your opinion with zero facts to back any of it up.. going to guess your not a business owner, and have no clue what tax changes are coming and therefore don't care as long as your job is not threatened..

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

Wounded warrior project, feel free to look up got your 6.org both organizations that you probably don't support. It is difficult to post links from my phone, now you will use this as an excuse and whatever you twist this into. Have a nice evening

Katara 5 years, 6 months ago

Wait a minute! You're claiming the Wounded Warrior Project is the source for all your claims about people too lazy too work?


Or is there a post that has been disappeardeded again?

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago

"At least 90 posts so far, and as I write this, not one single link to a news article, blog post, video... nothing. Just a really, really big fetish for exclamation points"

That's wrong-headed. Do you ever watch "cops"? Almost everyone they arrest say's something like "I was down at the pool hall when she got beat up, ask George, he was there".

I don't have a link, and you don't need proof. I think it is a sign of weakness to feel you need someone else to agree with you for you to be honest.

I don't care about sleepers, fetishes or sleeper fetishes.

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm for unemployment, just not extending it over and over... My issue with welfare is that some people completely abuse the system...

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

NAFTA Bill Clinton helped with that lol... Go to Craigslist,.everything from engineer's to janitors can get jobs... 6 months is plenty of time to find a job... You blame businIf yesses, corporations, and owners yet don't understand that not all businesses make millions... Now they have to pay 40-60 dollars more a month per employee for healthcare... 40x200 8000... 8000x12 96,000 dollars more, plus more in taxes and you expect them to hire more people?? We have all seen and heard the trend that businesses will hire 2 part-time people for every full-time person that quits/fired/retired unless something is done... Keep the Bush tax cuts for businesses to help them recoup the cost of healthcare, and perhaps hire more full-time versus replace workers with part-time help...

Yes, it is a workers responsibility to find a job... Who else should find them a job?? The govt?? No...

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

You obviously didnt even look at craigslist today... One web ad, the rest all businesses in lawrence with numbers, addresses, and my goodness names... It's a holiday miracle... Guess those crazy sites like careerbuilder, Lj world classified are just total shams too... Give me a break...

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago

"Things like $30-40 an hour, no experience, start today. Sounds like real reputable company."

Sounds like an ad for a hooker.

Anthony Mall 5 years, 6 months ago

Please look at the classified ads before you speak...

Briseis 5 years, 6 months ago

what jobs?

The certainty of Obamacare is having negative effects on job growth as employers search for ways to maintain their profit margins in the face of rising healthcare costs - with employees taking the brunt of the pain.

If the inevitable costs of Obamacare weren't tough enough on the labor market we have this continuing battle over the fiscal cliff and the uncertainty of what payroll taxes will be, what income taxes might be and how much of the sequestered Federal spending cuts will take place on January 1st. We have repeatedly warned that despite the need to reduce spending and increase taxes to narrow the deficit, all of these needed steps will negatively affect jobs. This likely weighs on the willingness of businesses to hire - during the holiday season and into the New Year.

Republicans drove the economy into the ditch. Obama is taking the economy off a cliff.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

Kansas has migrated to a republican party that is only posing as republicans. What has replaced Kansas republicans is the anti american right wing party.

What does this anti american right wing party do for us? Nothing such as the one in Washington D.C. Obstacles and frauds is the proper description.

The state and the nation are back to square one since November 6 came and went.

Face it neither WOMEN nor Republicans nor Democrats nor the Middle class will ever be able to afford those posing as the Republican Party!

-- Women will be getting more republican big government in there lives? It is on the way! http://www.kansascity.com/2012/10/05/3849961/joel-brinkley-gop-would-impose.html

--- Public Education is a strong player in new Economic Growth yet republicans starve the system of funding which starves our teachers of resources. Which starves the desired level of education = stealing from our children’s future.

--- "Rebuilding America's Defences," openly advocates for total global military domination” (Very dangerous position which threatens OUR freedoms and the nations security) http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Project_for_the_New_American_Century

--- The repub party declared the day Obama was elected their primary function would be to make Obama a one term president. Consequently their millions of NO votes became the disastrous campaign against women,The USA and jobs for Americans. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/09/did-republicans-deliberately-crash-us-economy

--- Republicans want to kill PBS and NPR - NO I want my tax dollars to support PBS and NPR

--- Publicopoly Exposed frankly is a threat to Democracy - ALEC http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/11603/publicopoly_exposed/ http://www.justice.org/cps/rde//justice/hs.xsl/15044.htm

--- Killing Social Security Insurance Is Not An Option. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2010/0111orr.html

--- Killing Medicare Insurance is simply not an option. http://www.thenation.com/article/159769/paul-ryans-plan-destroy-medicare

Republicans are anti american and anti jobs as ever!!!

Liberty275 5 years, 6 months ago


Why do you post links to biased tripe?

msezdsit 5 years, 6 months ago

Obviously, George is the one with the "chip on his shoulder".

gudpoynt 5 years, 6 months ago

"Liberals’ strenuous objection to vouchers is that vouchers, as the functional equivalent of cash, empower individuals to make choices."

Um... no. Liberals' objections to vouchers for senior care is that in the system proposed by Ryan, the value of the vouchers would consistently lag behind the project rising costs of health care, thus making them insufficient in maintaining current standards of quality.

it's called thinking things through, George. You do it with your head, not your gut, and it leads to something called "information", which is crucial to making what are known as "informed decisions".

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