In the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama said he didn’t care whether a capital gains tax increase raised more revenue because it was an issue of fairness. In other words, it is more important, than job growth and debt reduction, to try to hurt the rich. In 2010, he relented, accepting that a tax hike (i.e., expiration of Bush tax cuts) would hurt the economy, so the tax cuts for the “rich” were extended.
Now the Democrats are back to their old tricks. It’s more important to tax the rich than to prevent the entire economy from going over the fiscal cliff, they say. This, I suppose, is what they call fairness — we tumble into a recession together. Forcing an economic collapse is not a bug but a strategy!
The philosophy is based on resentment toward wealth and ignorance about how it is created. On Friday, Obama told us, in what is certainly his most revealing comment, of the campaign:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.
I don’t think any president or major presidential candidate has ever articulated this view. It’s not very far from that to “property is theft,” after all. Notice how un-nuanced is his statement — no recognition that entrepreneurship is in fact the engine of growth or that government activity is not a undiluted good.
Jim Pethokoukis puts Obama’s philosophy in stark terms: “All success is directly due to society’s collective effort as manifested by government. It takes a village — or at least its bureaucrats — to accomplish anything. There are no heroes, no great Americans other than The People who express the National Will through Government. As if the nation’s entrepreneurs all stand on the shoulders of the giants at the Commerce Department and the Small Business Administration and the Energy Department.”
Obama’s words are emblematic of a president blinded by ideology. If prosperity for all requires the rich to also get richer? Forget it. It is a sentiment that Obama can no longer conceal, and which, if followed, leads us to a poorer, less free and less dynamic society — Europe, in other words.
How’s his philosophy working out? JP Morgan tells us: “This morning we lowered our tracking of Q2 GDP growth from 1.7% to 1.4%. For some time now we have noted that our Q3 GDP call — which was already below consensus at 2.0% — had risks that were skewed to the downside. After the latest round of data we have decided to lower our projection for Q3 to 1.5%.” In other words, going after wealth creators, er, gives us less wealth. And jobs.
Reuters tells us: “A very weak U.S. retail sales report for June forced economists to again take an axe to their already meager forecasts for economic growth this year. Stephen Stanley at Pierpoint Securities, suggests the figures are beginning to dip dangerously close to contraction.” In short, we are heading for recession.
As pernicious as his antagonism toward wealth creation may be, it is nothing compared to his attack on the work ethic, an assault that hurts the poor most of all. Mickey Kaus writes: “If the Republicans’ have any strategic sense they will now hit that sore spot again by making a big fuss about the Health and Human Service regulations that renege on the work requirements imposed on welfare recipients by the 1996 welfare reform law (and its successors).” He advises: “The Republicans’ need to go on offense about something. Obama’s HHS has now given them the gift of a large, slow-moving, profusely bleeding policy target. It’s not crazy to think you could get a two-thirds, veto-proof majority of Congress (Republicans plus skittish Dems) to stand Obama down on this issue. Make ignoring work pay!”
So wealth creation is threat to prosperity, the rich got that way at our expense, and work shouldn’t be foisted on the able-bodied poor. Label it what you want, but this is far from the vision that has made America successful.
I do wonder what responsible, middle-of-the-road Democrats must be thinking. Did they sign up for repeal of welfare reform, antagonism toward wealth for the sake of antagonism, fiscal insanity, and vitriol on a scale never seen before? I have to think that this is not what they want for their party and country. In good conscience, how can they root for four more years of this?