The Battle the Democrats Cannot Afford to Win
There is one project that liberals never complete -- a task that is talked about all the time, especially during campaigns, but for some reason just can't get done.
It is "making the rich pay their fair share" of taxes. Somehow, even though President Obama and his party found the time to write ObamaCare and a huge plan of spending that included the Stimulus and Recovery Acts, taxing the rich for their fair share just slipped through their fingers.
The IRS reports that the top 10% of wage-earners pay 70 percent of the taxes, and the bottom half pay nothing at all. So that leaves the middle class, those whose income places them between the poor and wealthy, paying 30% of the overall income tax bill. The highest wage-earners seem to have been stuck on that 70% share for quite a number of years. It's been relatively constant.
One can then ask why the proportion paid by wealthy people has been limited to 70%. Why not require them to pay 100%? This would allow middle-class people, who are struggling in this tough economy, to stay above water, keep their homes out of foreclosure, and send their children to good schools. After all, the middle class is the backbone of the country and must be preserved.
We are constantly reminded that the wealthy don't pay their fair share and could be paying more. If they could be paying more, why don't they? Since the president says they could be paying more, he must know that they can afford to pay more. How much more, he doesn't say.
It's interesting to note the rhetoric here; although he says that the rich could pay more, the president has been careful to avoid saying that the middle class should definitely be paying less. So there is a sort of standoff here: while the rich should and could pay more in taxes, the president hasn't forced them to do so. The middle class are struggling along to get by, and the president won't drop their income tax bill.
(The only tax he did drop for them was the Social Security payroll tax -- 2% of it. This is not the entire payroll tax, but it is a significant number. This was done in spite of the fact that for many decades politicians have called Social Security the "third rail" of politics -- touch it and you're dead. But Obama touched it and wasn't seriously affected. Probably because the media didn't do enough to inform the voters of the seriousness of removing $150 billion a year from their Social Security retirement fund. Either way, having the media on his side, Obama was inoculated from the deadly effects of the third rail.)
The next time somebody tells you "the rich should pay their fair share," ask "Why don't they?" The president can't say it's because the Republicans have stopped him from making the rich to pay more; he passed ObamaCare and the Stimulus Act without one Republican vote. He could have greatly increased taxes on the rich, but he chose not to.
He chose, and still chooses, to limit their contribution to 70% of income tax revenue. Why? The answer is not in the dollar amount. The president has shown, through his deficit spending, that dollar amounts don't matter. What can't be borrowed from foreign countries can be printed through quantitative easing.
The real reason why the president will never tax the rich their full "fair share" is because then he can no longer complain that they don't pay their fair share. He stands to lose his "fair share" political card. He needs a scapegoat. If this doesn't seem to make sense, imagine a country where the "rich" paid all the income taxes. Would the president and his party then be satisfied that they achieved their goal?
No, there is no indication that he would. His goal is not to get all the social justice and fairness programs paid for by the rich.
After all, if the rich paid for all the people programs, then whom would President Obama blame for all the problems we face? He has recently stated that the Republicans don't want the rich paying their fair share, that they want dirty air, dirty water, and seniors starving in the streets. Americans need to elect him to protect them, and to maintain the people programs.
The president and his party can't have that. That would mean the end of them. It's a form of good cop-bad cop. The president needs to keep the voters on edge, to keep them perceiving the Republicans as a threat. He must play the cards he has: that only he and his party fight to protect the working class, poor, elderly, and the environment. These cards are the rhetorical tools he needs to stay in power, and staying in power is the main goal.
Paradoxically, then, Obama must continue to tax the middle class, in order to keep them believing that only he will fight to make the rich pay their "fair share." This may seem to contradict his party's values, but is the only plausible explanation for the party's actions.