It's probably poor form to piggyback onto another columnist's work, but Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger's disturbing discoveries about President Barack Obama's budget summary justify an exception. Those not blinded by the Obama cult fog have produced abundant evidence of Obama's grudge against capitalism, but Henninger's revelations are hard to top.
Despite Obama's later denials, he was most serious when he cavalierly told Joe the Plumber he wanted to "spread the wealth around." We've seen it born out in his policies so far and in the promises of those to come.
He will restore the Clinton tax hikes on higher-income earners, but there is so much more. He'll reduce the effective charitable gift deduction, thus reducing charitable giving. This is no surprise, though, because he believes "charity" is the province of government -- not the private sector.
He'll impose a cap and trade tax on corporations under the pretense of making them "greener," raise the tax rates on capital gains and dividends, reverse welfare reform, and nationalize health care.
He'll eliminate the ceiling on payroll tax contributions, which is presently about $110,000. This will be a major hit to those earning more than $110,000, not that Obama cultists will have any sympathy for those greedy beneficiaries of life's lottery, to borrow from the Al Gore vernacular.
Some might argue that this is only fair because the entire income of lower-income earners is subject to that tax. But to make that argument surrenders any illusion that this tax funds Social Security. If you eliminate the ceiling, higher-income earners will pay exorbitant amounts into a mythical fund (it's never been segregated from general revenue) with no expectation of getting appreciably more back on retirement. Fairness? Only if you believe the wealthy should be punished.
Funny you should mention that, because it's precisely what our president appears to believe, which brings me back to Henninger, who took the trouble to read the president's budget summary for lay readers, "A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America's Promise."
Henninger directs us to a chart on Page 11, crafted by French economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez ("rock stars of the intellectual left"), which purports to show that beginning with the Reagan era, the top 1 percent of income earners in the United States have received an increasing share of the national income pie.
Obama regards this trend as necessarily sinister, as indicated by his empathically articulated verdict that the financially successful must have broken the rules. On Page 5, Obama says, "While middle-class families have been playing by the rules, living up to their responsibilities as neighbors and citizens, those at the commanding heights of our economy have not." "Prudent investments in education, clean energy, health care, and infrastructure were sacrificed for huge tax cuts for the wealthy and well-connected." "There's nothing wrong with making money, but there is something wrong when we allow the playing field to be tilted so far in the favor of so few. … It's a legacy of irresponsibility, and it is our duty to change it."
Some economists dispute the Piketty-Saez graph and contend that marginal tax cuts have given higher-income producers less reason to shift their income into tax shelters, thus accounting for some of the higher taxable income shown in the graph.
But a more important point is that Obama is ratcheting up his class warfare to levels that would make Marxists blush. This self-professed uniter is sowing distrust and divisiveness among Americans by demonizing groups of people and appealing to our baser instincts of envy and jealousy, in defiance of God's commandments against coveting.
Obama is sending unmistakable signals that he has an unconventional notion -- to say the least -- about the American dream. It's as if he's saying, "It's fine to aspire to financial success, but only to a point, beyond which you'll incur the punitive wrath of the federal government."
It's one thing to maintain that upper-income earners should pay higher tax rates because they are better able to shoulder the burden for essential government services. But it's constitutional blasphemy to claim that the tax code should be used as a weapon against the wealthy and that the state should be the tyrannical arbiter of how income is distributed.
It's hardly surprising that Obama degenerated into incoherent babbling when unconvincingly denying his socialism to a New York Times reporter. But given his war on capitalism and achievement, isn't it time we brought this subject out in the open instead of closing our eyes and pretending we all accept America's free market traditions?
Or would you prefer not invoking the politically incorrect terms "Marxist" or "socialist" until Obama's statist policies have worked their magic to bankrupt America and spread the misery among Americans in a reverse trickledown effect?
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