Why does Obama insist upon raising taxes? Not because he believes it will improve the economy, and not because he believes it will increase receipts to the Treasury. The proposed taxes would bring in about $80 billion a year, a trivial number compared with our 1.3 trillion deficits. Making the books balance is (obviously) not Obama's goal. In 2008, when it was pointed out to him that President Clinton's cut in the capital gains rate increased the revenue from the tax (because lower rates encouraged more transactions), Obama was unmoved. He'd still favor an increase in the capital gains rate, he explained, for the sake of "fairness." In another famous and revealing moment, he told Joe the Plumber that he prefers to "spread the wealth around."
That's his lodestar. The Washington Post waited until the election was safely behind us to run a story by Zachary Goldfarb examining the president's governing philosophy. "[B]eneath his tactical maneuvering lies a consistent and unifying principle: to use the powers of his office to shrink the growing gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else." The president, the article tells us (not that we didn't surmise this already), is determined to reduce income inequality.
The president has "an acute awareness of recent research" the Post continues, showing that the changing economy has increased the value of a college education and made it harder for those without a degree to succeed. Obama's solution? Despite budget pressures, he made a goal of having every student receive at least one year of college."
Is inequality a problem if prosperity is broadly shared? As John F. Kennedy observed, "A rising tide lifts all boats." Improving the life chances of those at the bottom should be a priority. But the way to do that is to focus on education, family structure, and expanding private sector employment, not on redistribution of income.
True to Obama's philosophy, we are pumping cash into the hands of students wishing to attend college. As the Wall Street Journal reports, "Nearly all student loans -- 93 percent of them last year -- are made directly by the government, which asks little or nothing about borrowers' ability to repay or about what sort of education they intend to pursue."