Obama's Underhanded Budget Endgame
Barack Obama, after extending the Bush-era tax cuts in the lame duck session last year against his wishes, is seeking to redeem himself by launching an all new (but oh-so-familiar) assault upon wealthy Americans. And this time, in his desperation, the attacks are all the more venomous, and concentrated on Republican support of the extremely wealthy. He has gone to great lengths to assure America that while Democrats support children, safe food, weather technology, and medical research, Republicans support corporate jets.
Of course, the big, bad corporate billionaire that gallivants around the globe on a personal jet burning carbon and money makes a great enemy of the people. And best of all, with a $10-million average price tag, it's probably safe to say that you don't know anyone who owns a private jet, and therefore have no reason to defend anyone who does. But all the "corporate jet" talk is nothing more than a flamboyant diversion.
After all, if we eliminate "accelerated depreciation" deductions for corporate jet owners, it will account for a mere 0.03% of the $9.5 trillion that Obama proposes we budget to spend in the coming decade. So it's not at all likely that Obama would have chosen this talking point on the fiscal substance. No, this rhetoric is designed to make Americans think that only the extremely wealthy are the targets of the president's current tax ambition, when in reality his ambition is the same today as it was last year when it was broadly rejected in the lame duck session: he wants to raise taxes by repealing the Bush-era tax cuts. Essentially, it's just a do-over with a more focused smear campaign to support the misdirection.
White House spokesman Jay Carney uncomfortably admits this in a recent interview. After happily parroting the president's rhetoric about ending deductions for corporate jets and hedge fund managers, he uneasily verifies that the president's proposal does include provisions to eliminate deductions for people who make more than $200K annually ("not just millionaires and billionaires") and that among the other provisions of the package, "not renewing the Bush-era tax cuts" is included.
So essentially, this proposal includes a backdoor attempt to legislate an unpopular tax increase that could not be passed when presented in open forum last year. A tax increase that Republican constituents have declared that they will not tolerate. Yet Barack Obama refuses to move into further negotiation until Republicans agree to the proposal, and be willing to raise taxes in 2012.
Apparently, Senator McConnell believes that the president does not fully understand why Republicans cannot accept his devious proposal, and that is why he re-invited him to speak with Congress this week, after the president declined last week in favor of attending a fundraiser in Pennsylvania.
But it's unlikely that Obama will unplug his ears and venture to the Hill to consider Republican interests. As I have argued before, the left believes that seizing wealth from the rich for communal redistribution is a moral imperative -- an act of vengeance and compassion all at once. And they overcome any ethical conflict in stealing from the rich by trusting that confiscating money from the wealthy provides their greedy souls some sort of atonement for the audacity to achieve success beyond the level of their neighbors.
So Obama knows that in terms of legacy and reelection, this budget fight is for all the marbles -- a feverish and desperate effort to make good on his campaign promises and to energize his voting base in an environment that unquestionably signifies the failures of his administration's policies. His stimulus didn't stimulate the job market as he predicted. His healthcare bill is being challenged on every front. His foreign policy is unpopular and legally questionable. And to top it all off, there is an increasing awareness among Americans of the distinct correlation between increased government spending and fiscal failure, as evidenced by diseased entitlement programs and the waning quality of public education.
Political currents and economic realities are distancing the president and the American people, and they drift further apart every day. If Barack Obama wants to secure the tax hikes that finance "social justice," I think he knows that this may be his last chance. And he's pulling out all the stops to do it.
William Sullivan blogs at politicalpalaverblog.blogspot.com.