Also, the Bush tax cuts made the tax code more, not less, progressive. More than 8 million taxpayers were relieved of paying taxes altogether because the Bush reforms doubled the child tax credit and expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit. That may have been a political miscalculation as it insulated more Americans from the cost of government. But it's certainly at odds with the conventional wisdom that Republicans didn't consider the needs of working Americans when they were in power.
As for the rich, yes, the rates went down. But the percent of the total tax burden shouldered by the top 1 percent of earners increased from 37 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2007. The bottom 50 percent of taxpayers paid 16 percent less in 2007 than they had in 2000. Their share of the total burden fell from 3.9 percent to 2.9 percent.
Mr. Obama has successfully deluded people into believing that the rich pay fewer taxes than their secretaries. In fact, as Steve Moore has shown, the top 5 percent of taxpayers earn 37 percent of national income but pay 61 percent of income taxes.
Democrats, especially this president, have scorned the Bush years for their accumulated debt and for raging inequality. Yet, as Professor Emmanuel Saez of Berkeley (yes Berkeley) has shown, the income gap during Obama's first term has been far more pronounced than it was during the Bush years. As Alexander Eichler of the Huffington Post put it, "The rising tide has lifted fewer boats during the Obama years -- and the ones it's lifted have been mostly yachts."
The demonization of the rich paid electoral dividends: Obama will get his way on tax rates. But the problem he conjured -- the rich getting richer at the expense of everyone else -- was a crude fiction. It's the kind of class warfare appeal that has worked all over the globe. We used to be an exception. No more.