WASHINGTON -- President Obama has a real problem with wealth and people who have it -- something this anemic, investment-starved economy needs more of, not less.
He also has trouble understanding growth economics and the recent economic history concerning tax rates, budget deficits and tax revenues, often citing statistics and outcomes that are just plain wrong.
He demonstrated his ignorance anew Monday during a one-hour town hall-style gathering where he took questions from CNBC analyst John Harwood and a studio audience that expressed deep disappointment and skepticism about his handling of the economy.
On the whole, it was a disappointing performance, as many dispirited Americans hoped that he would signal some change in his failed economic policies, more optimism about the economy's near-term future and a hint of compromise with those Republicans and Democrats in Congress who oppose raising taxes on small businesses, investors and anyone who makes more than $250,000 a year in the midst of a jobless recovery that barely deserves the name.
Obama insists he doesn't hate Wall Street, isn't anti-business, still believes in free enterprise and the private sector as the source of most job creation and hasn't been "vilifying business." This from the man who has made Wall Street, the health insurance industry, oil and coal businesses, the medical profession, big banks, credit card companies, mortgage brokers and just about any enterprise that makes, in his words, "obscene profits," his favorite whipping boys.
In the end, he repeated the same arguments he's been making for the past two years. He defended his economic policies, which he said have worked, and stuck to the same specious arguments why he will let the Bush tax-rate cuts on the two highest income brackets expire at the end of this year.
Why? Because he thinks the country can't afford them and the money is needed to reduce the deficit. He's done the math, he says, and whenever tax cuts have been tried, it has made the government poorer.
In fact, history shows just the opposite. Cutting personal income and business tax rates has brought in more revenue as a result of stronger economic growth. When President Kennedy proposed cutting marginal income tax rates across the board "to get America moving again," government economists warned it would worsen the deficit. But as the economy grew, more people were working and tax revenue rose. By the end of the 1960s, the budget was in a surplus.