I’ll admit it: There’s a part of me that wants President Obama to get every last tax increase he proposed this week.
Let him close the loopholes and raise tax rates on “millionaires and billionaires” — defined, in his world, as married couples who earn a combined $250,000 a year and individuals who bring in $200,000. Let him tax capital gains at the same rates as wages. Let him squeeze more revenue out of oil and gas companies. Let him sock it to the corporate jet owners.
And then, when the economy keeps foundering and the jobless are still out of work and the budget remains unbalanced, let him tell us what comes next.
You see, I don’t think there is a Plan B, because I don’t think his proposals amount to a Plan A for growing the economy, or creating jobs, or balancing the budget — or for anything besides raising taxes for the sake of raising taxes.
Obama’s quest to raise taxes, especially on “the rich” and corporations, has reached Ahab-like levels of obsession. The question doesn’t matter; for him, the answer is “raise taxes.” The $447 billion piece of legislation he proposed earlier this month was not so much a jobs bill as it was a tax increase-justification bill.
Obama’s already admitted more than once that he knows better than to believe infrastructure jobs involving the federal bureaucracy are truly “shovel ready.”
He may already be too late in calling for schoolhouse renovations if they’re to be completed by the end of next summer.
We’ve already seen, with the bankruptcy of the solar panel manufacturer Solyndra — in the exact month analysts predicted, and despite a half billion in federal loan guarantees — the folly of trying to shove taxpayer dollars out the door to private ventures quickly enough to count as a job-creation measure.
But none of that matters, because I don’t think that’s the point for him.
I don’t agree with those who think his intention is to destroy the economy or ruin the country. I don’t know if he believes his tax maneuvers will have an effect that’s opposite of what basic economics suggests — although I am certain he believes that a more muscular central government is in the public’s best interest.
I don’t know why he would continue to think people will put stock in super-investor Warren Buffett’s anecdote about paying a lesser share of his income in taxes than his secretary, when there are piles of data that make clear this situation is not an epidemic in our country.
I do know that we’ve known about this tax-the-rich tendency since the 2008 campaign. During one debate, Obama said he would raise capital gains taxes even if doing so resulted in less federal revenue, out of his sense of “fairness.”
I don’t know why he would feel that way. There are plenty of dime-store psychological analyses of Obama out there, if you’re into that kind of thing. I just know that one constant for the man who came to the White House as a self-proclaimed “blank screen” has been the push to tax the rich more heavily.
But ultimately, satisfying my curiosity about what Obama would do and say differently if he got his way on taxes, and proved it didn’t work, isn’t worth the collateral damage. Because here are a few other things I know:
I know the Reverse Rumpelstiltskins in Washington can’t take gold out of private hands and spin it into straw fast enough to do more good than harm.
I know that, even by the White House’s own projections, this soak-the-rich strategy won’t come close to balancing the budget — especially when it’s used to justify increasing spending even further.
I know the Obama approach — complicating the tax code even further, just to scratch this anti-rich itch — will only make it harder to reform the tax code. And that will make it harder to draft a broader strategy for reducing deficits and debt.
Finally, here’s something I can only suspect: that Obama’s answer to “what comes next?” once the millionaires and billionaires have been tapped will not be to cut spending as needed to achieve fiscal balance. Instead, it’ll be to define “millionaire” much lower than people who earn just a quarter of that amount.
(Note: This post, my column from Thursday’s print edition of the AJC, draws and expands on a few thoughts I posted earlier this week.)
– By Kyle Wingfield