Time marches on, even for the immature. Barack Obama will turn 50 next year. Do not expect an older, wiser (or, still less, a chastened) version of the Young Pharaoh in the new year. With the help of his billionaire friends, some of whom were prancing about on public display in the White House this week, he plans to make class warfare the centerpiece of his domestic policies in the time remaining before the next general election.
Let us hope that the Republicans are able to deal with this weird combination of populism and plutocracy with the derision and contempt that it so richly deserves.
The Billionaires for 'Bama Club includes Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, George Soros, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Michael Bloomberg and Ted Turner. All of them pledge allegiance to the Hipocritic Oath, which states:
I swear by Osiris and Isis and all the gods and goddesses, making them and all-mighty Hypocrisy my witness, that I will fulfill this oath and covenant.
In the full and secure enjoyment of my own riches, I swear that I will do all in my power to join with the Pharaoh in the public condemnation of greed and avarice in all of its forms. I will join him in making false and misleading arguments, and in citing bogus statistics, to support the advancement of an all-powerful state that will be free to redistribute everyone's income and wealth according to its whims and fancies.
Regardless of all that it has done for me, I will disrespect the free market and join with the Pharaoh in calling for punitive taxation of all those who aspire to make a better life for themselves and their families through hard work and initiative. Yea, in my support for punitive taxes on anyone who dares to earn more than others, I will raise the ladder on those who attempt to follow what I have done.
If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy the goodwill and patronage of the Pharaoh, including timely bailouts of my banks and business enterprises, and may it be granted to me to parade about in front of others as a model of generosity in calling for higher taxes. May I act always to preserve the finest traditions of Humbug and Hypocrisy.
That is the holy oath, which may indeed have been penned by the so-called "Sage of Omaha." This Sage does not cease from dispensing nuggets of wisdom to any and all who will listen to him, from the Pharaoh himself down to those who drive chariots for public transport. The Sage is famous for his homespun wit and wisdom.
Never mind that much of what he says is patently false. Take his much-quoted remarks at $4,600-a-seat Democratic fund-raiser in New York in 2007. Here Sage Buffett -- the second wealthiest man in America -- blasted U.S. tax system for allowing him to pay a lower rate than his secretary or cleaner.
He claimed that he was taxed at 17.7% on the $46 million that he made in 2006, while his secretary, who earned $60,000, was taxed at 30%. Apart from the fact that any income (even $46 million) is immaterial to a person of his wealth (with an estimated net worth of $37 billion, mostly held in the untaxed form of unrealized capital gains), the first problem with this little tale is that the Sage had not consulted the tax tables regarding his secretary's income. The highest possible tax that anyone would have paid on $60,000 in 2006 would have been 25% -- not 30%. Further, as the columnist Larry Elder pointed out, with a normal set of deductions (including a home mortgage, an IRA and two children), her taxable income was likely to be less than $30,000. That would reduce her tax rate fall to just 2.4%. So much, then, for the claim that she, or the cleaner, would pay a lower rate than the indignantly under-taxed billionaire.
Speaking, as he was, to the rich and smug, the Sage got a big laugh when he went on to say that he chose to become a Democrat because the Republicans insisting upon thinking: "I'm making $80 million a year -- God must have intended me to have a lower tax rate."
That is utter nonsense. It is the same nonsense that Barack Obama is guilty of every time he opens his mouth and says, for the umpty-umpth time, that continuing the Bush tax cuts of a decade ago for the people at all income levels, including the top 2% of earners, constitutes an unreasonable benefit for "millionaires and billionaires." Obama strongly suggests that "middle class" taxpayers are paying far too much because George W. Bush and the Republicans lowered rates on these same millionaires and billionaires. Again, that is false.
Here are the pertinent facts (from the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan tax policy think tank in Washington, D.C.):
• The top 1% of taxpayers accounted for 34% of all income tax revenues at the outset the Bush presidency, while the bottom 95% paid 42%. During the Bush presidency, the top 1% paid a greater and greater share of the tax burden, while the bottom 95% paid a smaller and smaller share. In 2007, the top 1% actually paid more in federal income tax (just over 40% of total income taxes paid) than the bottom 95% (just under 40%). Thus, the truth is the exact opposite of the story told by Obama and the progressives.
• The overwhelming majority of people in the top 2% of taxpayers are not the millionaires and billionaires suggested by Obama and his fellow class warriors. Fully 70% of the top 2% earn more than $250,000 but less than half a million dollars a year. There are hundreds of thousands of people in this category who own and run restaurants, landscaping firms, photographic studios, dental practices and other small businesses. These are people who work extremely hard and who have taken substantial risks to achieve what seems to them (and to most of the rest of the world outside of the beltway, Hollywood and academia) a modest and well-deserved degree of material success. Only one tenth of taxpayers in the top 2% (or 0.2%) have adjusted gross incomes exceeding a million dollars.
With no personal experience in business or free-market enterprise, Obama calls "tax cuts for the wealthy" the Republicans' "holy grail." Clearly, as a politician and former community organizer, class warfare is his holy grail. Obamacare is, among other things, another income redistribution scheme. It will set up a system of subsidies for families earning less than $90,000. Fully 80% of American household earn less than $90,000. So who is going to pay the cost of these subsidies? It can only be the other 20%. Does it make a lot of sense to redistribute income from those making -- say - $95,000 a year -- to those making only $75,000?
Obama and the progressives might justify that on the grounds of "fairness." But the real motivation would seem to be the desire for granting more and more arbitrary power to the Pharaoh -- and all the minions who work for him in government jobs and in government-supported institutions, most especially including the trade unions and colleges and universities.
As for the real billionaires -- like Gates and Buffett -- they have already made their fortunes, so why shouldn't they pull up the ladder that might allow others to do the same?
"When they (the Bush tax cuts) expire in two years, I will fight to end them," Obama vows.
Well, good for him. That's a fight the Republican ought to win -- hands down.
Obama wants to pay people not to work -- by continuing to extend unemployment benefits to the point of permanency. And he wants to penalize people for working -- by raising income taxes. This is not economic policy. It is economic lunacy. And destructive power politics.
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