Peter Wehner explores the obsession in Commentary Magazine:
For Obama, the top two percent are the Great White Whale–and he is Captain Ahab.
The question is why. Captain Ahab’s neurotic obsession was understandable (Moby Dick, after all, had destroyed his boat and bit off his leg). So what explains Mr. Obama’s obsession?
It can’t be what he claims, which is improving the economy or reducing the deficit. As Charles Krauthammer pointed out, “the alleged curative effect on debt of Obama’s tax-rate demand — the full rate hike on the ‘rich’ would have reduced the 2012 deficit from $1.10 trillion to $1.02 trillion. That’s a joke, a rounding error.”
So if what is driving Obama isn’t an economic argument, what else might it be? Part of it is, as Krauthammer argues, political. Mr. Obama believes forcing Republicans to agree to raise tax rates on the top bracket will fracture the party. But there may be something else at play as well. Barack Obama is a man of the left, a proud progressive, and what animates the left today isn’t a positive vision to achieve the common good; it’s a seething resentment toward those who are successful and a commitment to make them pay more in the name of “fairness.”
Wehner goes on to make a reference to Obama’s 2008 debate with Hillary Clinton, moderated by Charles Gibson:
GIBSON: All right. You have, however, said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, “I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton,” which was 28 percent. It’s now 15 percent. That’s almost a doubling, if you went to 28 percent.
But actually, Bill Clinton, in 1997, signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.
GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.
GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased; the government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down.
So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?
OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.
We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year — $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That’s not fair.
Capital gains, and income for the top two percent…or one percent…the “millionaires and billionaires.” Thar she blows!
Krauthammer, linked above, elaborates:
Obama has never shown interest in genuine debt reduction. He does nothing for two years, then spends the next two ignoring his own debt-reduction commission. In less than four years, he has increased U.S. public debt by a staggering 83 percent. As a percentage of gross domestic product, the real marker of national solvency, it has spiked from 45 percent to 70 percent.
Obama has never once publicly suggested a structural cut in entitlements. On the contrary, he created an entirely new entitlement — Obamacare — that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will increase spending by $1.7 trillion over 11 years.
Now here’s where the problem gets into public relations. We have a negotiation going on between the Republicans in Congress, and President Obama, the latter of whom is suffering from this weird Ahab obsession and is demonstrably not interested, even a tiny bit, in solving the deficit problem. But what do you get back when you Google “obama obsessed tax rich“? Just as many links back about the Republicans’ obsession with not taxing the rich, and for good measure a righteous mocking by Jon Stewart.
Consider the message from democrats, to which the Republicans seem to be finding themselves unable to prepare a compelling response:
People are suffering, therefore it’s a problem when anybody prospers, so our plan is to make it much more difficult to prosper, and if anyone succeeds in spite of us then we’ll take their money away so they can see what suffering is like. We’ll pretend it’s got something to do with solving the deficit but nobody seriously thinks so, hardly any of us ever say so, we’re just using it as an excuse to grab money. It all works out in the end, trust us because we’re politicians!!
Something like that. Republicans cannot offer a rebuttal that resonates with the public? Uh, really?
So President Obama has this weird Ahab-like obsession, because the political reality is that He is allowed to have it. It isn’t costing Him anything to have it, or not very much anyway. Given that, there’s not much use to exploring how & why He has it; it is what it is. In fact, it could be argued that He was elected and re-elected to be so obsessed, and the white whale is, in fact, His “mandate” of sorts.
Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.