"None of the changes I'm proposing are easy or politically convenient," President Obama noted from the Rose Garden on Monday. I've never seen a president less in a hurry to get things done -- or as quick to display his deep reservoir of self-pity.
Consider: Obama's jobs proposal promises payroll tax cuts for most workers and tax increases on millionaires only. That's about as easy and convenient as politics gets. Yet, somehow, the president speaks as if his proposal is courageous. He even tells voters that he's making them share the deficit-reduction burden.
When George W. Bush was president, liberals frequently complained about the impropriety of cutting taxes while America was fighting two wars. With Libya, America is now fighting three wars, and liberals clearly didn't mean what they said about the need for national sacrifice. They supported Obama's provision for a one-year, 2 percent "holiday" in workers' contributions to Social Security payroll taxes. Now, Obama wants to shave off another 1.1 percent and extend the payroll tax reduction through 2012 -- and he'll likely get that.
What will the cuts do to the long-term solvency of Social Security? If Obama succeeds in winning another year of his tax "holiday," it surely will become permanent. Social Security's "lockbox" structure is being picked apart, but the pundit class is more interested in examining whether a certain GOP candidate should use the term "Ponzi scheme."
Obama says his soak-the-rich tax isn't class warfare. He's right. He's not using bullets. His administration has a name for the tax, the "Buffett rule," after the billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who complained that Washington doesn't tax him enough. But the White House hasn't released a specific proposal for its millionaire tax.
As the Concord Coalition's Robert Bixby blogged, the Buffett rule "is, at this stage, a guideline for reform and not a specific proposal. Turning it into legislative language could prove to be quite a challenge and a step away from tax simplification."Last week, 34 senators -- 17 Repubs, 16 Dems and one independent -- announced their intent to support the 12-member deficit-reduction super-committee and urge the panel to focus on "long-term entitlement reforms and pro-growth tax reform."
To a president with an agenda, these senators would be considered allies. They understand that the best way to create American jobs is to lower corporate tax rates -- the second highest among industrialized nations -- and pay for the rate reduction by eliminating special-interest tax loopholes.
Now Obama likes to castigate corporations for not paying their share of taxes and to badmouth tax loopholes. But his allies like the status quo. Observe that Obama named GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt to chair his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. GE failed to pay taxes in a year its profits exceeded $14 billion. Under Immelt, GE laid off American workers while creating jobs in China.
"All I'm saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay their fair share in taxes," Obama orated. Just don't read the fine print. A "fair share" may be a winning talking point, but a "fair share" of an anemic economy is thin gruel.