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Liberal Columnist: Yeah, the Buffett Rule is Kind of a Joke

That headline isn't exactly a bulletin to Townhall denizens, of course, but it's nice to see the liberal "fairness" crack-up continuing apace.  The latest dissenter is Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who isn't especially impressed with the White House's shameless "gimmickry" on an issue that will accomplish virtually nothing -- in the best case scenario:


Obama argued that his plan to make sure that those earning north of $1 million a year don’t pay a lower tax rate than average Americans — although gimmicky and insufficient — is an advance. “The notion that it doesn’t solve the entire problem doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it at all,” he explained. That’s true, to a point. But Obama’s claim that the Buffett Rule “is something that will get us moving in the right direction toward fairness” would be more convincing if he took other steps in that direction, too.

Three years into his presidency, Obama has not introduced a plan for comprehensive tax reform — arguably the most important vehicle for fixing the nation’s finances and boosting long-term economic growth. His opponents haven’t done much better, but that doesn’t excuse the president’s failures: appointing the Simpson-Bowles commission and then disregarding its findings, offering a plan for business tax reform only, and issuing a series of platitudes. The Buffett Rule, rather than overhauling the tax code, would simply add another layer.

With respect, the House-passed Ryan budget does draw on a series of Simpson-Bowles recommendations, including a root-and-branch tax code reform proposal.  Milbank might not love every detail, but at least Republicans have seriously pursued "arguably the most important vehicle for fixing the nation's finances." Indeed, Ryan's big ideas are influenced heavily by the very commission Milbank chides Obama for disregarding.  Obama instead proposes $2 Trillion in tax hikes on businesses and families, and is spending a ton of political capital on this stupid, dead-end Buffett Ruse scheme.  But at least the Senate Democrats have put forward some productive solutions [link not found].  Milbank continues:


A search of the White House Web site yields 17,400 mentions of the Buffett Rule — a proposal that would bring in $47 billion over 10 years, much of that from 22,000 wealthy households. By contrast, the alternative minimum tax gets fewer than 600 mentions on the site. The AMT, if not changed, will take about $1 trillion over a decade from millions of taxpayers, many of whom earn less than $200,000 a year.

Obama’s prioritization is no mystery: The populist Buffett Rule polls well. This explains its inclusion in countless presidential speeches and statements. White House reporters, tiring of the theme, have proposed a Jimmy Buffett Rule (three-drink minimum) and a Buffet Rule (Newt Gingrich would be an obvious candidate). The politics of the Buffett Rule — it has no chance of passing when the Senate takes it up next week — are so overt that Obama’s remarks Wednesday were virtually indistinguishable from a section of his campaign speech in Florida on Tuesday.

Kudos to Milbank for acknowledging that a previous Buffett Ruse-style endeavor has spun entirely out of control, mostly due to Congressional incompetence.  If the Alternative Minimum Tax -- Buffett's policy grandfather -- weren't "patched" every single year, its tentacles would be confiscating wealth from millions of middle class families, even though it was originally intended for the ultra rich.  Today, Obama's AMT spawn would raise almost no revenue and would not create jobs.  Full speed ahead, though -- it's class-warfare-in-a-box for desperate Democrats.  The column concludes:


Nothing is inherently wrong with campaign-style rhetoric from the White House; George W. Bush used it repeatedly to pass his tax cuts and in his attempt at a Social Security overhaul. The pity is that Obama doesn’t use his unrivaled political skill to sell a tax plan of more consequence — and less gimmickry.

Yes, President Bush employed campaign-style rhetoric to sell tax cuts and needed reforms.  That's what politicans do.  Bush used his capital to slash rates across the board for all income groups, resulting in tax relief that helped pull America out of the recession Bush inherited.  He also tried to sell a plan to address the increasing unfunded liability of a sinking entitlement program.  Obama, by contrast, is focusing his energies on a pointless ploy that will do nothing to "stabilize" our deficits (as he claimed last year), nor ameliorate our ongoing jobs mess, which is hitting America's women hardest.  Such bold leadership.

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