The President's Strange Obsession with Millionaires and Billionaires

Austin Hill

9/25/2011 12:01:00 AM - Austin Hill

 

If you were posting a Facebook relationship status update about President Obama and rich people,  you'd have to check "it's complicated."  

On the surface it seems like politics as usual, but in reality it is much more complex.

In the realm of organizational management, conventional wisdom suggests that it is productive for a manager to praise his staffers publicly, and if and when it is necessary to criticize or correct a staffer, to do that privately.

And while it is true the President of the United States is not merely a leader of “an organization,” and the American people are not the President’s staffers, it is nonetheless intriguing that Barack Obama construes his relationship with wealthy Americans in a fashion exactly the opposite of what good management training recommends He vilifies “rich people” publicly, while praising them and thanking them privately.

The past ten days, alone, have provided several examples of this duplicitous behavior.  In the September 17thedition of his weekly video and radio address to the nation, President Obama had this to say, in part, about his latest “job creation” legislation:

“…This jobs bill cuts taxes for every small business owner in America.. And it cuts taxes for every working family in America so that you’ll have more money in your pockets…It will create new jobs. It will cut taxes for every American worker…”

This was noteworthy because prior to his September 17th address, President Obama had already stated that his job creation bill would “ask millionaires and billionaires” to pay their “fair share” in taxes, which is his way of saying that he wants to raise taxes on the wealthy (note: government never “asks” anybody to pay taxes – it requires payment, lest one be subject to prosecution).  Thus President Obama has juxtaposed “American workers,” “working families,” and “small business owners,” with “millionaires and billionaires” – the first category of us deserve a tax cut, and the latter category – the “millionaires and billionaires” – deserve to have more of their money taken away by the government.

The President’s rhetoric also implies some bizarre attributes of the wealthy.  Apparently in President Obama’s view, wealthy Americans don’t work, don’t live in the context of “working families,” and don’t own small businesses.  It suggests that they constitute some idle, slovenly, sub-human life form that poses problems which the government must mitigate (is there any wonder why the wealthy aren’t investing in new business start-ups right now?).

But here is an interesting bit of reality that transcends the political rhetoric:  President Obama’s job creation bill seeks to raise income taxes and eliminate charitable tax deductions for individuals earning $200,000 a year, and for households earning $250,000 a year.  So where do these two-hundred-thousand a year folks fit in to the “working Americans versus millionaires and billionaires” juxtaposition? They obviously don’t fit in with “working Americans,” the category to which the President has already promised tax cuts. 

Are they lumped in with the millionaires and billionaires? Certainly a person earning $200,000 a year could amass a million dollars in savings if they lived frugally and saved lots of money for a sufficient number of years, but simply earning this level of annual income does not instantly make one a millionaire. 

 

And why are the millionaires and billionaires lumped together anyway?  According to my non-Ivy League mathematics, one has to earn a million dollars a thousand times in order to have a billion dollars.  Being a “millionaire” and a “billionaire” are hardly the same thing.

But never mind the simple math of it all.  After spouting his lines about lowering taxes for working Americans and small business owners and raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires, President Obama spoke at a fundraiser for his re-election campaign that was held in the private Manhattan home of Jane Hartley, CEO of the Observatory Group LLC, and Ralph Schlosstein, president and CEO of the investment banking firm Evercore Partners Inc.

As you would expect, the President made no reference to his tax increase plans when he spoke to the crowd that paid between $2,500 and $35,800 to see him.  But here’s what we don’t know about the President and his audience of rich people:  does he suppose that these folks are “working Americans?”  Does he consider Ms. Hartley, who heads up an “LLC,” to be a “small business owner?”  Does he imagine that any of these people live in “working families?”

Barack Obama’s rhetoric makes for some interesting politics, but it amounts to destructive public policy.  And a president who seeks to patronize one section of American society by demonizing another, does a grave disservice to our country.