Victor Davis Hanson

After his party's devastating setback in the 2010 midterm elections, Barack Obama was re-elected earlier this month by painting his Republican opponents as heartless in favoring lower taxes for the rich. They were portrayed as nativists for opposing the Dream Act amnesty for illegal immigrants, and as callous in battling the federal takeover of health care.

Republicans countered with arguments that higher taxes on the employer class hurt the economy in general. They assumed most voters knew that amnesties are euphemisms for undermining federal law and in the past have had the effect of promoting more illegal immigration. They tried to point out that there is no such thing as free universal health care, since Obamacare will only shift responsibility from health care practitioners and patients to inefficient government bureaucracies and hide the true costs with higher taxes.

And they utterly failed to convince the American people of any of that.

Why doesn't the Republican-controlled House of Representatives give both voters and President Obama what they wished for?

The current battle over the budget hinges on whether to return to the Clinton-era income tax rates, at least for those who make more than $250,000 a year. Allowing federal income rates to climb to near 40 percent on that cohort would bring in only about $80 billion in revenue a year -- a drop in the bucket when set against the $1.3 trillion annual deficit that grew almost entirely from out-of-control spending since 2009.

Instead, why not agree to hike federal income tax rates only on the true "millionaires and billionaires," "fat cats" and "corporate jet owners" whom Obama has so constantly demonized? In other words, skip over the tire-store owner or dentist, and tax those, for example, who make $1 million or more in annual income. Eight out of the 10 wealthiest counties in the United States voted for Obama. Corporate lawyers and the affluent in Hollywood and on Wall Street should all not mind "paying their fair share."

Upping federal tax rates to well over 40 percent on incomes of more than $1 million a year would also offer a compromise: shielding most of the small businesspeople Republicans wish to protect while allowing Obama to tax the one-percenters whom he believes have so far escaped paying what they owe, and then putting responsibility on the president to keep his part of the bargain in making needed cuts in spending.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.