Barack Obama got caught.
It wasn’t a flip-flop on the order of John Kerry’s “I voted for the war before I voted against it” moment. But Obama did, for an instant, back away from his own buzz words and “hate speech“ (I‘ll explain the “hate speech“ below), and contradicted himself. This begs an important question: how far will the buzz words and hate speech propel him in a general election cycle?
Let’s first examine the buzz words. Whenever economic issues are a topic of conversation, Obama and other current-day Democratic politicians usually draw from a couple of carefully-honed categories of terminology. One of these categories is devoted to terms that describe America’s “victims,” the other describes America’s “assailants.”
Rarely with the Democrats is there any discussion of the collaborative nature of our economy, the beauty and dignity of human labor, or the unprecedented level of upward mobility that our nation offers its citizens. Forget the stories, both past and present, of immigrants who entered our country with nothing and became wealthy and successful. If you participate in the U.S. economy, you are either a victim, or a victimizer, and there will be no economic justice until Democrats take away money and power from the “bad guys” and give it to those who are deserving.
As for America’s economic victims, Democrats will most often describe these people as “working Americans,” or ‘working families,” or “middle-class Americans.“ This is absurdly broad, and is almost as silly as singling-out “breathing Americans.” Given adequate physical capacity, most Americans breathe, all on their own. Similarly, most able-bodied Americans work - - regardless of our race, socio-economic status, family history, religion, or education - - and most of us are middle-class as well.
But the Democrats’ use of this broad, far-reaching terminology sets-up an interesting political paradigm. By implication, it implies that there are some participants in our American economy who don’t “work” - - they just “get rich” off of other people’s toil. And who would these people be? This leads us to the Democrats’ second category of economic terminology, the “victimizers” category.
One need not follow Democratic politics too carefully to hear who the bad guys are. They are often singled out as a specific class, with the phrases “wealthy Americans” or “the wealthiest of Americans.” This happens most frequently when Democrats, refusing to acknowledge that taxes were cut earlier this decade for all Americans (the poor and the middle class included), decry the so-called “tax-cuts for the wealthy.” But the assailants are also described in other broad, collective terms and phrases, and here‘s a brief list: “corporate America;” “business owners;” “big oil;” “Wall Street;” “executives,” “pharmaceutical companies;” “CEO‘s,” “companies that outsource jobs;” and “mortgage lenders.”
The most subtle, and perhaps the most damaging outcome of this rhetoric, is that ignores the human toil, risk, sacrifice, discipline, and determination that is required for a person to become a business owner, or an executive, or to operate a pharmaceutical company or be a mortgage lender or to participate in global trade. Call it “class warfare,” or “the politics of envy.” It is the left’s most acceptable form of “hate speech,” and it is turning the discontent and fearful in our society against the people and principles that enable economic opportunity for all.
And now, back to Obama. He’s had enormous political success with this rhetoric, especially in front of college students and blue-collar manufacturing workers. But then he sat down for a live interview with Maria Bartiromo, Anchor at the CNBC Cable TV financial news channel, and things went quite differently.
Roughly half-way into the interview, Bartiromo asked Obama about how high he might like to raise the capital gains tax above its current rate of 15%. Obama explained that he has consulted on this issue with Warren Buffet and “others,” and he has been told that a cap gains tax rate of 20 - 25% would not “distort economic decision making” (whatever this means).
“But it’s not just the Warren Buffets of the world who own stocks” Bartiromo replied.
“Of course not” Obama responded.
“..Let’s hypothetically say that…cap gains goes from 15% to 25%….you’re impacting a lot of people…a hundred million Americans own stocks today…”
“Absolutely” exclaimed Obama. “So it’s not just the rich.”
“No, no no, absolutely” Obama insisted. “And that’s why I think that……uh…..for example….you could structure something in which people with certain incomes were exempted from this increase….”
Find the video or transcript and get the full story yourself. The point here is simple: “the politics of envy” works great on the campaign trail, but as fiscal policy it threatens to harm all Americans, and is ultimately untenable. Obama even conveyed to Bartiromo the possibility that taxes might not be raised at all, depending on what the nation’s economic conditions might be next year when he hypothetically would begin his Presidency.
Obama had to back-away from his own rhetoric when he was put to the test. Will a majority of Americans back-away from him before it’s too late?
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.