August 19, 2008


For Obama, Taxes Are About Fairness (William McGurn, August 19, 2008, Wall Street Journal)

[W]hile Mr. McCain was at first shy about giving a specific number, in the end he did allow that someone who had an income of, say, $5 million could pretty definitely be said to be rich.

Yesterday's Politico hooted that with this response Mr. McCain handed his opponent the perfect fodder for a TV commercial. That, of course, overlooks those who might actually find attractive Mr. McCain's fuller explanation. "I don't want to take any money from the rich," he said, "I want everybody to get rich."

Mr. Obama, by contrast, started out much more directly, suggesting that if you make $150,000 or less you may be poor or middle class. A family with an income above $250,000, he went on to say, is "doing well." And if you find yourself in that category, he's going to target you for a tax hike -- all in the name of creating "a sense of balance, and fairness in our tax code."

In fact, the idea of fairness is at the heart of his whole economic argument. And he goes back to it in almost every public appearance.

He talks about it as a general theme: "It is time for folks like me who make more than $250,000 to pay our fair share."

He invokes it as a solution for Social Security: "[W]e will save Social Security for future generations by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."

He points to how it guides his energy policy: "The first part of my plan is to tax the windfall profits of oil companies and use some of that money to help you pay the rising price of gas."

And he stuck to it on capital gains, even after ABC's Charlie Gibson noted that the record shows increased taxes on capital gains -- which would affect 100 million Americans -- would likely lead to a decrease in government revenues: "Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness."

Translated into ordinary English, what that means is that it doesn't really matter whether a tax increase actually brings in more revenue. It's not about robbing from the rich to give to the poor. Robbing from the rich will do, especially if it's done in the name of fairness.

...taxes are pretty bad at producing what we want but effective at punishing what we don't. Raise taxes on liquor, tobacco, and gas, for instance, and people will use less.

It's revealing then that what Mr. Obama wants to punish is profits and income.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 19, 2008 11:20 AM
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