Monday, November 12, 2007

The Arrogance

Over any number of presidential campaigns, the Democratic Party has made much of the diversity of its candidates, with this year being no exception. This is entirely understandable, as their slate of contenders is the first that includes both a black and a woman who are in serious competition for the nomination.

Inconsequential differences (except to liberals) in the race and gender of the candidates notwithstanding, the Democratic candidates have expressed a unanimity of opinion on the issue of taxation. All of them to a person have indicated their interest in rolling back the Bush tax cuts - even as the economy hangs over a precipice of subprime mortgage defaults, rising oil prices and a falling dollar. And nearly all have attached their candidacies to some form of universal health care, which would only increase government spending and taxes, if not immediately, then at some point in the none too distant future.

So how does an ambitious young man establish any sort of singularity. If you are Barack Obama, you pledge to raise a tax that your opponents have eschewed or waffled on. To bastardize an old saying, when the politician is ready, the media will appear; in this case, Tim Russert did the honors (see video and transcript.) For Sen. Obama, the tax in question is Social Security, and the exchange with Russert had the collateral benefit of allowing for further differentiation between himself and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

MR. RUSSERT: You had an exchange with The New York Times. It says here, "In an interview, Obama said Hillary Clinton was deliberately obscuring her positions for political gain. Asked if she had been fully truthful with voters about what she should do as president, Mr. Obama replied, 'No.'" On which issues has Hillary Clinton not been truthful?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think that what Senator Clinton's been doing is running what's considered a textbook Washington campaign, and what that says is that you don’t answer directly tough questions. You don't present tough choices directly to the American people for fear that your answers might not be popular, you might make yourself a target for Republicans in the general election. So on Social Security, for example, she has maintained, it appears, that if we just get our fiscal house in order that we can solve the problem of Social Security... So that means that we're going to have to make some decisions, and it's not sufficient for us to just finesse the issue because we’re worried that, well, we might be attacked for the various options we present.

MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, you said last year—earlier this year that everything should be on the table for Social Security, including looking at raising retirement age, indexing benefits, and then suddenly you said, "No, no. Those aren't off—on the table; I'm taking them off the table."

SEN. OBAMA: Tim, that's not—that's not what I said. What I said was that I will convene a meeting as president where we discuss all of the options that are available. That doesn't mean that as president I will not have strong opinions on how we should move forward. And when you look at how we should approach Social Security, I believe that cutting retire—cutting benefits is not the right answer...

MR. RUSSERT: But in May you said they would be on the table.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, when I—I am going to be listening to any ideas that are presented, but I think that the best way to approach this is to adjust the cap on the payroll tax so that people like myself are paying a little bit more and the people who are in need are protected. That is the option that I will be pushing forward...
Now were I more liberally inclined politically, I might not be so perturbed about my Senator's alacrity to raise the cap on Social Security payroll taxes. After all, when Mr. Obama refers to people "like myself" - if his 2006 tax return is to be believed - one might assume he means people who got $403,750 in royalties from Random House for two best-selling memoirs, this on top of a $157,082 Senate salary. He may well be speaking of men whose wives earned a $273,618 salary from the University of Chicago Hospitals. Thanks to the very tax cuts that he would seek to repeal, the Senator and his wife paid $277,431 in federal taxes on earnings of $991,296, or roughly 28 percent of their total income.

But my sense is that Sen. Obama means to raise taxes on people who are more like myself. Obama would have me and all of the breadwinners on my block - along with those on blocks as far as the eye can see - paying more of their wages to sustain a government-sanctioned Ponzi scheme. As he correctly pointed out in the full interview, there is going to be a gap between Social Security revenue and payments. But the gap does not exist because too few taxes have been levied or collected.

I surely do not envy the Obamas; life has been very good to me and my family. But I do resent the idea that Mr. Obama and others of his ilk would presume to know how much of their earnings American workers "need." This arrogance is predicated on a central immorality of progressive thinking vis-a-vis wages and taxes. On a subliminal level, liberals perceive that wages accrue to workers primarily based on the actions of government, and that government is therefore allowed to harvest whatever contributions it needs to carry out its functions.

As I said, I do not begrudge
Barack and Michelle their wealth and success. I just wish that the Senator did not begrudge me mine.

1 comment:

Readwriteblue said...

All the Democratic candidates tow with they the chains their party has forged over the last 30 years. They are ignoring their responsibility for the costs inherent in the solutions they forced upon our nation. Healthcare, Sub Prime Mortgages, Immigration, and Social Security are the (excuse the pun) Elephant in the room that they can not honestly talk about. They are also interrelated in that each feeds into cost in the others. An honest leader would explain how we must solve all of these together because separately they cause our economy to bleed from a thousand cuts.