Jonah Goldberg

"We are the ones we've been waiting for," Barack Obama proclaimed many times during the campaign. He and his throngs of supporters preened in the glow of their own righteousness like cats in a puddle of sunlight. They were for "shared sacrifice" and a "new era of responsibility." They wanted to put aside the "old politics" and the "tired arguments" of the past.

Well, where are those people now?

Obama brags -- albeit dishonestly -- that he's only raising taxes on rich people. Ninety-five percent of the American people will get a tax cut, the president insists.

Well, which is it? Do the times demand shared sacrifice from us all, or from just 5 percent of Americans?

If I say to 10 co-workers, "We all need to chip in together to get this done," and then say, "So, Todd, open your wallet and give five bucks to everyone else in the room," it would sound ridiculous. But when Obama says the same thing to 300 million Americans it's called "leadership."

"The problem with socialism," Margaret Thatcher once said, "is that you eventually run out of other people's money." What Obama is proposing isn't socialism -- yet -- but it runs into the same problem. You could take all of the money made by the richest 1 percent in this country and it wouldn't come close to covering government's expenses -- even if those rich people for some reason kept working.

Our income tax system is already extremely progressive, and it provides roughly half of all government revenue (add corporate income taxes, and it covers nearly three-fifths of all government revenue). The top 5 percent of earners pay more than 60 percent of income taxes. The top 10 percent of earners pay more than 70 percent. And the top half of earners pay just shy of 100 percent of income taxes. Estate and gift taxes are even more progressive.

Now, it's true that the low wage earners who pay no income taxes do contribute in other ways. Sales taxes, payroll taxes and other hidden taxes take a mighty bite out of the working poor and lower-middle class.

And, thanks to Obama, the poor will pay even more. President Obama's proposed carbon tax will raise the price of energy. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in early 2008, candidate Obama admitted as much: "Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."

Liberals will defend Obama's carbon tax by saying it's vitally necessary to combat climate change, end our dependence on foreign oil and boost our embryonic green industries like wind and solar. Fine, fine. We can have that argument, as weak as I think it may be.

But why isn't Obama honest about the fact that he's asking the working poor and middle class to pay even more? He's the guy who talks such a big game about shared sacrifice. He's the one talking about a "new era of responsibility." Heck, that's the title of his proposed budget -- you know, the one that will irresponsibly explode the deficit?

Instead, Obama sticks to his promise that everyone who isn't rich will get a "tax cut." That tax cut, by the way, amounts to $13 dollars more a week for the typical worker, according to the Associated Press. In 2010, that cut will be worth $7.70 a week. Will that cover "skyrocketing" electricity rates? Or higher gas prices? How about higher prices for things that use energy to get manufactured, i.e. everything?

I don't know the answer myself. Maybe $1.85 a day in 2009 and $1.10 in 2010 will cover that. But I doubt it, particularly when your job is outsourced to carbon-tax-free China or India. The point is that Obama's rhetoric about shared sacrifice is bogus on every level.

He tells people they are the upright ones for supporting his policies when what he's actually saying is that he's taking from the rich and giving it to them. "Shared sacrifice" really means taking other people's money, while "greed" is not wanting to give it up and "responsibility" is when the government takes it anyway.

In reality, he's giving with one hand and taking with the other. He's telling the poor he's only soaking the rich, when he's in fact soaking everyone. The amazing thing is that his supporters, rich and poor alike, buy it. No wonder they're the ones they've been waiting for.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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