Here’s where we are on taxes, based on the latest news and commentary:
President Obama, determined to stick with his fiscally implausible pledge not to raise taxes on households earning up to $250,000 a year – 98 percent of households – talks up the need to tax those at the top a bit more to help restore fiscal sanity.
Speaking with Facebook’s billionaire founder, Mark Zuckerberg, the other day, Obama said that, for deficit reduction, he proposes “another trillion [dollars] … that we raise through a reform in the tax system that allows people like me – and, frankly, you, Mark – for paying a little more in taxes.”
Conservative commentators, such as columnist Dan Henninger in today’s Wall Street Journal, suggest that Obama should stop picking on the rich and note that raising taxes on them, by itself, won’t solve our fiscal problems.
“At the top of President Obama's re-election strategy is what appears to be a personal jihad against America's ‘millionaires and billionaires,’” Henninger writes, “many of whom, he seems to think, are – there's no other word for it – un-American.”
We’re stuck. One side says no tax hikes unless you’re “rich.” In response, the other side says stop picking on the rich.
But, look more closely. The gap is even wider. Henninger is pushing back not just against Obama’s call for higher taxes on the well-to-do. He’s complaining about Obama’s attack on the plan of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, which would cut taxes for the well-to-do even more, dramatically shifting more wealth to the top.
Here’s Henninger’s evidence that the president has launched a “personal jihad” against the rich:
“I think,” Obama said, “that what [Ryan] and the other Republicans in the House of Representatives also want to do is change our social compact in a pretty fundamental way.” They would tell someone like Obama, who succeeded after his parents and grandparents benefited from government programs, “that somehow I now have no obligation to people who are less fortunate than me and I have no real obligation to future generations to make investments so that they have a better [future].”
So, opposing a budget plan that would shower even more tax benefits on the rich is, in Henninger’s words “un-American.”
Lawrence J. Haas is former Communications Director to Vice President Gore and, before that, to the White House Office of Management and Budget. He's now a public affairs consultant who writes widely about foreign and domestic affairs, including fiscal policy.
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