Jonah Goldberg
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By all accounts, President Obama won the fiscal cliff showdown. Why anyone would take much pride in this kind of "win" is beyond me. It's a bit like being the least filthy toddler in the mud pit.

One of the main reasons Obama won, according not only to Obama but an at times cheering press, is that he had a mandate. He ran on the need for the wealthy to "pay their fair share."

To his credit, Obama never said raising taxes on the "rich" will solve all of our problems. What he did say, however, is that he couldn't in good conscience ask seniors and college students to take a hit from budget cuts without asking the wealthy to pay their fair share. He wanted "shared sacrifice" and a "balanced approach" because we're "all in it together."

Here is what Obama said in his weekly address on July 16, 2011: "The truth is, you can't solve our deficit without cutting spending. But you also can't solve it without asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share."

"This is not class warfare," Obama said in September of 2011. "It's math."

He continued: "Either we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share in taxes, or we're going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare. We can't afford to do both."

And here's what he said just days after he was re-elected: "But as I've said before, we can't just cut our way to prosperity. If we're serious about reducing the deficit, we have to combine spending cuts with revenue. And that means asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes. That's how we did in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president."

Now, I have plenty of disagreements with all of this. The president seems to think that if he calls class warfare "math," it's suddenly not class warfare. Also, the man's version of the last two decades of economic history has always struck me as at best flawed and more properly speaking barmy. During the campaign he assiduously worked to give the impression that the 2008 financial crisis was caused by George W. Bush's tax cuts (something even the official studies of the crisis never suggested) and that the 1990s economic boom, which didn't even begin on Clinton's watch, was launched by Clinton's tax hikes.

Also, the idea that the rich hadn't been paying their fair share is at least debatable. When Obama took office in 2009, the richest 5 percent of Americans paid almost 40 percent of all federal taxes, and the richest 1 percent paid 22 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. If you count only federal income taxes, the top 5 percent and top 1 percent paid, respectively, 59 percent and 37 percent.

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Jonah Goldberg

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