Jewish World Review Sept. 21, 2011 22 Elul, 5771
Eat the Rich
By Roger Simon
"I think we all can agree this is a good day for America," Obama said back then. "There is nothing we can't do."
But it turned out there was plenty we could not do. Like create enough jobs. Or stop the foreclosures. Or keep American spirits from plunging. Nearly three out of every four Americans now feel the country is on the wrong track, the worst number of the Obama presidency.
And then there were the little things: The debt-ceiling debacle — "I got 98 percent of what I wanted!" House Speaker John Boehner crowed to CBS News — the Solyndra deal, books and articles devoted to dysfunction in the White House, and professional political performer James Carville advising Obama to "panic."
A far more sober, and more chilling, analysis came from Obama's chief advisor David Plouffe. "We understand the very perilous situation we're in," Plouffe told Dan Balz of The Washington Post on Saturday. "We don't think we have much margin for error."
The salad days of Obama's spring had turned into the bitter herbs of an endless summer.
But had he not passed historic health care legislation? Did he not save the U.S. auto industry? Did he not prevent the collapse of the global economy?
Well, yes, but that all seems so ... yesterday.
And the New York Times editorial page is fed up with all his talk of unity and healing and bipartisanship. "He has wasted far too much time trying to puzzle out how he can shave policies down far enough to get the Republicans to cooperate," it said Sunday. "The answer has long been clear: He can't."
Solution: Go for it. If you can't win their hearts and minds, at least you can kick them in their groins.
And President Obama began kicking Monday. In a speech filled with "I'm not going to allow," "I'm not going to stand for," "I will not support" and "I will veto," Obama stood under a cloudy sky in the Rose Garden and attacked the "tax cuts for multimillionaires and billionaires" that are ruining this nation.
"Everybody, including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, have to pay their fair share," he said. And farmers! You think farmers are Ma and Pa Kettle, these days? No, many are giant agribusinesses. And Obama pledged to "reform agricultural subsidies — subsidies that a lot of times pay large farms for crops that they don't grow."
And those despicable Masters of the Universe on Wall Street? "We also ask the largest financial firms — companies saved by tax dollars during the financial crisis — to repay the American people for every dime that we spent!" Obama said.
If there was one take-away principle guiding the new Obama plan, it was this: Those who have oodles of money today shall have less of it in the future. Because that's only fair.
"And that's why this plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations — tax breaks that small businesses and middle-class families don't get," Obama said.
"It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million."
I couldn't tell for sure, but Madame Defarge may have been sitting off to one side of the stage and knitting "The Wealthy" while cackling to herself.
"This is not class warfare," the president promised. "It's math."
Well, sort of. Though the rich do benefit enormously, the poor and middle-class benefit from the current tax code, too. About half the households in America pay no income taxes at all, because the tax code says they don't make enough. And middle class taxpayers get a large break by being able to deduct their home mortgage interest. (Want a true third-rail in American politics? Try suggesting the elimination of that last one. Obama didn't on Monday.)
In truth, the tax code gives too many breaks to too many people.
"All told, federal taxpayers last year received $1.08 trillion in credits, deductions and other perks while paying $1.09 trillion in income taxes, according to government estimates," wrote Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post Sunday. "Only about 8 percent of those benefits went to corporations. ... The bulk went to private households, primarily upper-middle-class families that Obama has vowed to protect from new taxes."
Oh, well, so what? Willie Sutton robbed banks because that's where the money was. And Barack Obama will protect the middle class because that's where his votes are.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate