Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 19, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

BOLD? INNOVATIVE?....Here's Barack Obama's "bold and innovative plan to reform America's tax code":

  1. A new $500 income tax credit for everyone who works and pays payroll taxes.

  2. A new mortgage interest tax credit for homeowners who can't currently take advantage of the existing mortgage tax deduction.

  3. Elimination of all income tax for seniors with incomes under $50,000 per year.

  4. A new program in which the IRS sends prefilled tax returns to people with simple taxes.

I know that it's unfair to expect Obama to live up to his own hype every day. Not every proposal from his campaign is really going to be bold and innovative, even if he says it is. But really, if he's planning to campaign as the guy with fresh ideas, he's going to have to do better than this.

#1 is basically a convoluted way of reducing payroll taxes. It's OK, I guess. #2 is dumb. Why should homeowners get even more special treatment than they get now? #3 is just special interest group pandering. There's no reason a senior citizen making $45,000 should be exempt from paying income tax. #4 is fine, but trivial, and doesn't actually change the tax code at all.

I know the Obama fans out there are going to jump all over this, but I have to say that the guy's losing me. He's an inspiring speaker, and given the realities of how presidents exercise power that's no small thing. But he sure is cautious to a fault. His big foreign policy speech was fine, but cautious and mainstream. His big healthcare speech was fine, but cautious and mainstream. And now his big tax speech is....just cautious and mainstream. I really want to hear something big and controversial from Obama, something that demonstrates a desire to shake up the status quo. But he just doesn't seem to be willing to take any chances. That's a shame.

Kevin Drum 12:29 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (81)

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Comments

Amen, Kevin

Posted by: reino on September 19, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

It's easy to be an armchair candidate. At this stage of the game; you have to be cautious.

You know the old saw about opinions...

Posted by: Pure Life on September 19, 2007 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

He should promise if elected to have Bush arrested and turned over to the proper authorities for prosecution of war crimes. He'd have my vote and that of millions of other people that think genocide and murder deserve punishment. That would constitute a bold, moral and badly needed initiative. Imagine the instant respect we'd gain throughout the Arab world for such a move. Respect from the very people we want to come over to our side of the ledger.

Posted by: steve duncan on September 19, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Reino says...Amen, Kevin

Is there an echo in here?

Kevin is my boy and all, but he's is from Cali., which puts him in a slightly different universe.

Posted by: Pure Life on September 19, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

From the Obama website:
"Obama would pay for his tax reform plan by closing corporate loopholes, cracking down on international tax havens, closing the carried interest loophole, and increasing the dividends and capital gains rate for the top bracket."

So why no details? Are captial gains going to be taxed the same as any other kind or income, or is it a token increase? That's a far bigger deal than those reckless tax cut provisions.

Posted by: Tom Veil on September 19, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not a huge Obama fan, but I find it curious that we're looking for something 'big and controversial' from the first realistic black candidate, named Barack Hussein Obama. I really, -really-, wish he'd show some progressive passion in his policy proposals, but I'm not sure I"m right to overlook the fact that he -embodies- a tremendous change to the status quo.

Posted by: gussie on September 19, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

A new $500 income tax credit for everyone who works and pays payroll taxes.

So even people who don't pay $500 in payroll tax gets the "tax credit"? This isn't a tax cut. It's really a welfare check.

A new program in which the IRS sends prefilled tax returns to people with simple taxes.

This is just a trick to get people to pay the prefilled tax the IRS says they owe so that people will pay more taxes. Horrible plan.

Posted by: Al on September 19, 2007 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Obama needs to get ELECTED first. After he gets elected, then you'll see some truly bold and progressive policies enacted. You know, like when Bill Clinton elected.

Posted by: Fornborn McDinkweed on September 19, 2007 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

REthugs love taxcuts, yes? Almost Never vote against them?

How about a tax refund of $200 or so for everyone who votes, for every year that they vote. Better than penalizing non-voters. And gets people interesting in protecting voting rights.

Posted by: blarney505 on September 19, 2007 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I feel that now may be the time for craigie to throw his hat into the ring.

Posted by: craigie on September 19, 2007 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Looks to me like a two-pronged and desperate attempt to (1) draw the attention of the media away from Hillary (not very successful there; WaPo blogged his tax proposals, but ignored them in their dead tree), and (2) draw votes away from Edwards by out-liberaling him.

If Obama were a starting pitcher, you'd want to be calling the bullpen now.

Posted by: penalcolony on September 19, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Looks more like another tax plan from an anti-tax Democrat.

Why is it that Americans don't want to pay for the services they demand? You want schools? Pay for them. You want national defence and police? Pay for them.

Americans act like a guy that goes into a restaurant orders his meal, eats it, then complains about the bill by saying "send it to my kids".

Posted by: Dicksknee on September 19, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Ditto Pure Life. Expect neither bold nor innovative from ANYONE this early on.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on September 19, 2007 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

It's hard to blame Obama for being cautious at this stage. Of the three "favorites" in the Democratic field Edwards has made the boldest proposals, but look how he's getting treated. Man, these days the media really have it in for populists, actually anyone who questions the status quo. Well, unless they're a Republican.

Posted by: Ralph on September 19, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

correction: "...from ANYONE with a chance."

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on September 19, 2007 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

He's been running for VP since at least the start of the summer. Much easier to inherit the mantle than to wrest it from Hillary now.

Posted by: JD on September 19, 2007 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

I would say that Obama's Cuba policy is not cautious and mainstream. It's not big, but it's certainly not cautious.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot on September 19, 2007 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin et al: Maybe I'm off-base here, but it seems to me that Obama is having to walk a very fine line. His candidacy, in and of itself, is a very HUGE change (Jackson, Sharpton, Keyes didn't have a realistic chance of winning). While he wants to be bold, the reality is, if he is TOO bold, he will alienate or otherwise feed into individuals fears that he is going to go crazy when he gets to the White House--which is probably why Jackson, Sharptom or Keyes had a snowball's chance in hell of being elected. So it's a little unfair to "grade him" against your expectations, at least without acknowledging what I said above. Plus, I think all of these policy statements, are just that--statements. The final policy, if any, will be dramatically different. That's just politic reality (nothing is passed in a vaccuum).

Posted by: Keith on September 19, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see the point of #3 except for pandering — why do, e.g., young people with families making under $50,000 need tax relief less than seniors making the same amount?

Of course, tinkering with the tax code is never going to have much substantive beneficial effect until you take on the preferential treatment of income resulting from accumulated wealth over income through work, and obama's plan doesn't (from the description here) even seem to begin to do that, aside from the half-hearted symbolic gesture in #1.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 19, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'll grant this tax thing is kind of weak. And I'm feeling sad because the general trend has been anti-Obama lately and I think he would be the best president of the 3--being best doesn't always mean being boldest--I think it means being "rightest" AND "armtwistingest".

But...it doesn't change the fact that the trend *is* anti-Obama. And it's not like he's been doing anything particularly wrong. Perhaps being who he is, he couldn't really have chased Clinton. (Could anyone? possibly not, but for various reasons, someone like Mark Warner might have had a better, or at least different, chance)

I would love to see this turn around. My personal opinion of him hasn't changed--I still think he's the best man for the job, but well, let's see, you know, there is still one thing he hasn't tried...humility maybe? I guess that's counter-intuitive--we don't want to vote for someone who seems "weak", but I wonder--I think Obama should start apologizing to people--maybe just at random and for stuff he's not responsible for...couldn't hurt him worse than how things are going now, could it?

Posted by: JMS on September 19, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK
Are captial gains going to be taxed the same as any other kind or income, or is it a token increase?

Pretty clearly not the former if he says he would increase the capital gains tax in the top bracket (there are, IIRC, two capital gains tax brackets).

Posted by: cmdicely on September 19, 2007 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

Seems I'll have to support Hillary in 2008

Posted by: richard on September 19, 2007 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

**

Posted by: mhr on September 19, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe Obama's been reading The Politico:

For the past couple of decades, the most successful national Democrats have been practitioners of defensive politics. These candidates practiced the politics of reassurance- letting independent voters know that they were not as secular, not as dovish, not as socially liberal as the popular perception of national Democrats.

Which, as Mike Lux at OpenLeft points out, is bullshit. If you don't give voters a reason to vote for you that sets you apart from the other candidates, then they won't vote for you.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on September 19, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Senator Emptysuit strikes again.

Posted by: Brian on September 19, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Amen Kevin, and guessing you're right JD.

Obama does appear to be all talk and no action (except for Cuba, but you need something for the other 49 states).

Hillary has the biggest Democratic machine behind her. From Bill Clinton on down, she's got the cash, the organization, and the discipline. To get the nomination Obama has to set himself apart. He's had lots of chances to do that: the Iraq Vote, habeas corpus, etc. But he just isn't taking any risks. And you don't pull an upset without taking risks.

Edwards appears to understand that.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on September 19, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK
I'm not a huge Obama fan, but I find it curious that we're looking for something 'big and controversial' from the first realistic black candidate, named Barack Hussein Obama.

What does his race and name have anything to do with it? He's a United States Senator running for President, the issue should be will he be a good President. If he is afraid of championing important issues, and made timid by fear of how people will react to important ideas with him as the messenger, because of his name or his race or for any other reason, then he shouldn't be seeking the job of President.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 19, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Eliminate the payroll tax as it funds general spending.

Increase the income tax to offset.

I can hear Mr. Money Bags howling already.

Posted by: racersave on September 19, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

"I really want to hear something big and controversial from Obama, something that demonstrates a desire to shake up the status quo."

Maybe the status quo doesn't need shaking up? Besides, I'm a geezer. In a few years, no tax on earnings under $50 thou is going to look awfully sweet. More pandering, please!

Posted by: Alan Vanneman on September 19, 2007 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is very well educated and went from achievement to achievement his entire life. You don't get into Harvard Law School and make the Law Review by taking risks. You very cautiously work conscientiously in order to achieve. Doing something risky inherently endangers everything you've spent your life building on. He'd have made a great candidate for a federal judge a few years down the line.

On one hand, there's no reason to expect Obama to act any differently now than he did at any other stage in his life. On the other hand, he's someone with so many gifts and with so much opportunity that you would hope that he would use all the credibility he's built up to advocate something more daring.

Posted by: Tyro on September 19, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Cmdicely: You are either unaware of the pervasiveness of racism in America (institutional or otherwise) or being particularly naive about the trepidation experienced by many Americans (white, latino, asian) about having an African-American president. Hell, African-Americans aren't supporting him largely because they don't believe non-blacks will support his candidacy. As an African-American, I can tell you that presumption is real and palatable. I'm encouraged by his candidacy, but realistic about his opportunity to be elected.

Posted by: Keith on September 19, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

While I don't disagree with most of what you say in this post, Kevin, who among the Democrats is NOT cautious? For God's sakes, they can't even find the courage to bring Articles of Impeachment against the most deserving occupant of the Oval Office in history!

If Obama were to so much as deviate one inch from the party line, he would lose 90% of the sheeple who now call themselves Democrats. Although they are pale shadows of the New Deal Democrats of 70 years ago...

Very sad. Vote Green.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 19, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Will someone do something about SS Our retirment money is paying for day to day operations for our goverment and that is wrong.If your going to do this then tax everyones income not just up to 100,000 dollars.I HATE RICH PEOPLE.

Posted by: john john on September 19, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I humbly suggest that the "bold" thing is a canard. "Fresh," maybe; "bold," not. I don't think people who saw his 2004 convention speech came away thinking that this was the next John McCain. He came off as someone inspiring, intelligent, compassionate -- you know, someone who would think long and hard about the merits of every part of his policies.

Obama is cautious, yes, but we knew this. Don't kill the guy for having specific political assets that aren't what some hype machine seems to demand.

Posted by: Martin on September 19, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

"just doesn't seem to be willing to take any chances."

Is that going to be another narrative, Kevin?

Posted by: harry on September 19, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

"I still think he's the best man for the job"

Jeeeeez.

To a great extent, I see several worthy Democratic candidates, and it might be a fine hair that separates them when I vote. (But since I vote in Texas, the Democratic primaries will already likely have decided who the nominee is.)

I've not been impressed with Obama's ideas as all that fresh, which is the danger of such a self-proclamation: the expectations are raised (and not unfairly).

The one thing about Obama that I often think about comes his book, when he admits to being impatient. Yes, I think he was a bit impatient, like Edwards, to run for president, but my far greater concern is that his impatience will manifest elsewhere.

All of the candidates are ambitious, but the thing I still retain from White's "Making of a President" books is that we can tell a lot about the candidates' administrations by looking at their personal traits. This is exactly what I saw with Bush: everything I saw in him as governor as a person has been true and magnified as president: the unwillingness to listen to reason, the preference for the most wealthy, the ego, the cronyism, the pursuit of an ideological agenda, and the lies.

We know Hillary's faults far better than almost anyone's, but I'm not convinced they're worse than any other candidate's. I'm still learning Obama's. (And I have never found the willingness to change a weakness.)

Posted by: tx bubba on September 19, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Marketing Marketing Marketing

Obama's chanced have depended - and will depend - upon whether or not he is the "Un-Hillary."

And there certainly is nothing about special tax breaks for seniors, etc., that help establish that.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on September 19, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

The sad thing is that this is what the candidates are saying when they pander to Democrats. Whoever wins the nomination will start catering to swing voters, and the weak policies we've heard so far will get even weaker.

And what is the point with that senior citizens proposal? Do they need the money more than somebody who is saving up so they can buy their first house or have their first child?

Posted by: reino on September 19, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, given the current Dem majority and likelihood of an increase in that, it will be interesting to see the fate of GWB's tax "sunsets".

Posted by: Matt on September 19, 2007 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

While I agree with the argument Kevin makes about Obama's lack of boldness, I take issue with his response to #2, mortgage interest tax credit. I assume this refers to people who don't file a long form, who make so little they are better off taking the Earned Income Tax Credit, and leaving the mortgage interest deduction sitting on the table. If so, #2 would allow those people to have the same tax advantage as everyone else who pays a mortgage, regardless of income, and sounds fair to me. And if you think that's double-dipping, try working for minimum wage for awhile.

Posted by: MC on September 19, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK
Cmdicely: You are either unaware of the pervasiveness of racism in America (institutional or otherwise) or being particularly naive about the trepidation experienced by many Americans (white, latino, asian) about having an African-American president.

Er, neither; I'm non-white enough that I'm perceived as "Black" by most strangers (I'm only half as black as Obama, but plenty of american indian mixed in too). I'm quite aware of racism in America.

I just don't think that the fact of racism justifies lowering expectations of a candidate just because they happen to be Black.

I want a good President, though being Black (or Hispanic, American Indian, female, or, really anything other than White Male Protestant) might be a nice bonus. I don't want a Black (etc.) President and view actually being suited by talent, inclination, and character to the position as a mere bonus.


Hell, African-Americans aren't supporting him largely because they don't believe non-blacks will support his candidacy.

Where is the evidence that that's the reason, and not perception that he doesn't represent their interests well or some other reasons?

As an African-American, I can tell you that presumption is real and palatable.

I wasn't aware that you'd been elected spokesman for the entire race.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 19, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I don't expect anything sensible on taxes from political candidates. It's a complete panderfest all around.

That said, it wasn't too long ago that mainstreamers were lamenting Obama's aggressive stance toward Pakistan, his controversial willingness to meet with evil foreign leaders, his desire to reverse our Cuba policy ...

Posted by: moodmovesmarkets on September 19, 2007 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

One of the reasons I have been a cautious supporter of Obama is because, along with his ability to rebrand our country internationally and to our own underclass, he appears to be temprementally as conservative as Joementum, Dick Gephardt, Steny Hoyer or the rest of that wing of the Democratic Party. If you want a contrast, here's a blurb about Hillary:

*The national crisis with African-Americans, she said, concerned the "1.4 million young men of color between the ages of 16 and 24 who are out of school, and out of work and too often out of hope. It includes nearly one out of every three young African-American men. They're not earning legal wages or learning marketable skills; many grow up without fathers, locked up in prisons, or end up losing their lives, or taking lives, due to guns and violence."

Clinton said the problem is not a "moral crisis but an economic crisis," rejecting the "broad-brush" notion that paints the young black male "as a threat, as a headache or as a lost cause.*

I disagree and I think Obama would disagree - the problem is fundementally a moral crisis, and throwing all the money in the federal treasury at it would not offer a cure without a cathartic event like white America electing a black man President.

Posted by: minion on September 19, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Cautious and mainstream" combined with "Uplifting rhetoric" is fine. I don't expect the Fifth International from our Presidential candidates.

And there's nothing wrong with caution.


Lame policy is another matter. Exempting the elderly with middle class incomes and unknown wealth sounds inequitable.


Replacing the mortgage tax deduction with a mortgage tax credit would be a good thing (but would be fiercely opposed by the homebuilders, since upmarket houses apparently have upmarket profit margins). I'm not sure whether Obama's plan represents a step in the right direction or not.

Regardless, boldness is not the standard: I'll stick with soundness.
-----------------

Tx Bubba: "All of the candidates are ambitious, but the thing I still retain from White's "Making of a President" books is that we can tell a lot about the candidates' administrations by looking at their personal traits."

Ok, but remember that the media pretends to cover personal traits ad nausum, but actually does a terrible job of it. The only character flaw of W's that was highlighted in 2000 was a lack of curiosity.


To be honest though, I really don't know how to choose the best President, other than to look for basic intellectual and background qualifications. By that standard, GWBush, Reagan and Carter would fail while Clinton, Bush I, Ford, Nixon, Johnson and Eisenhower would pass.

Posted by: Measure for Measure on September 19, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

He is just amazing. What a pander-bear. Instead of vowing to IMMEDIATELY ROLL BACK these unfair, divisive, class-warfare tax cuts of the Bush era, he has decided to make matters worse.

I won't vote for this jerk that's for sure.

Posted by: POed Lib on September 19, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: "... I have to say that the guy's losing me. He's an inspiring speaker, and given the realities of how presidents exercise power that's no small thing. But he sure is cautious to a fault."

Right. Clinton votes to authorize the war, and rationalizes it by saying it was the president's decision -- not hers -- but it's Obama who's overly cautious because his tax policy doesn't keep you at the edge of your seat. As moodmovesmarkets suggests, Obama gets trashed for being rash & inexperienced when his positions cut against conventional wisdom, but then he gets nailed for not being bold enough on -- of all things -- tax policy. Honestly, grow up.

Posted by: junebug on September 19, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

He's an inspiring speaker ... But he sure is cautious to a fault.

—Kevin Drum

I'm sympathetic to Obama's plight. Far more than most candidates, his strategy had to thread the needle. Faced with a strong, some would say presumptive, nominee with whom he agrees on most matters, and the very real and complicated issues of race, he had to get it just right.

Hindsight is always 20-20 but, looking back, I think his campaign will see that their fatal error was caution. Throwing out really big, bold ideas that embodied real change would have matched the promise that his supporters saw in him. It would have relieved him of the burden of attacking HRC directly, with the only downside being branded as expecting too much change, too soon. But, in his case, that would have cut both ways.

The contradiction inside Obama, by his own admission, is that he very much wants to be seen as BOTH practical and visionary. He wants to be seen as one who can "get things done" and simultaneously be seen as "an agent of change." That is nearly impossible at the campaign stage.

The upside of Obama's caution is that he will indeed be seen as practical. The downside, however, is that he will not have laid out his vision of what America could be with him at the helm.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 19, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Nope, we sure wouldn't want to simply lower payroll tax rates, especially, on the first $15K in wages, and really, is there enough being done yet to aid non-poor retirees? Maybe we can give them free pony rides too!

Posted by: Will Allen on September 19, 2007 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

@Measure:

"Ok, but remember that the media pretends to cover personal traits ad nausum, but actually does a terrible job of it. The only character flaw of W's that was highlighted in 2000 was a lack of curiosity."

Well, I'm not stupid, and I never said anything about relying on the intentional messages the media communicates. :)

The fact is that practically all of Bush's flaws were there for anyone to see who was willing to, regardless of what was reported. True, I "benefited" from having him for governor, but if people were willing to look at his actions, comments, and behaviors prior to the election, the flaws were there. Just look at two well publicized parts of his private life, neither of which he was honest about: his addictions and his military service (or lack of). Not only did he lie, but he showed an inability to admit errors. And I saw this pattern with him.

To a great extent, I think the role of the president as the IDEA person is bogus to begin with. It's about how she picks the people around here or how he makes decisions. Setting an agenda is also different from coming up with the ideas to implement that agenda.

As a voter, I feel it's way too early at this point to decide because I've not seen enough, particularly from Obama. That doesn't mean he's slow or bad, just that I think he has more to reveal, intentionally or not.

Posted by: tx bubba on September 19, 2007 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

#4 really isn't that trivial. There are a lot of people with very simple returns paying H&R Block to do them and maybe getting ripped off on a refund anticipation loan into the bargain. That's basically pure waste, and getting rid of it would be an awfully easy way to keep a few more bucks in people's pockets at very little cost to the government. There are other, similar opportunities that would improve tax administration and save people money (e.g. allowing e-filing directly through the IRS website) that have been blocked by the tax preparation industry, too.

Posted by: DaveL on September 19, 2007 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think this is pretty absurd. Anything that Obama comes out with that isn't brand new or revolutionary is getting attacked. How high are we going to set the bar, here? Unfortunately, he's stuck between people like you who are looking for him to be both realistic and innovative and the beltway elite, who will jump on him for any creativity (how dare he talk with leaders of states we don't like).

Is there any room there for success? Why are we judging policy initiatives on a curve?

Posted by: Crusty Dem on September 19, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

After two terms of Bush's reckless radicalism, what's wrong with cautious and mainstream?

Posted by: Fidelio on September 19, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Plus, to recap the narrative, Barack Obama Thinks He's Too Good For The Rest Of Us...

Posted by: PTate in FR on September 19, 2007 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm I don't think you want to be caught.

...also Sullivan is already having hives over "the government doing your taxes for you!" It's pretty funny.

Posted by: MNPundit on September 19, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I have to say in tone at least I agree. I really want to like Obama, but this proposal is, frankly, nothing at all like what I'd like to see in tax reform. His healthcare plan is worse than Hillary's and Edwards. He has a record of being right on Iraq (which is probably his biggest asset) but he's not out there lobbying hard for withdrawl (and I'm sorry but anything short of defunding/refusing to fund without firm withdrawl time table simply will not work).

Frankly, right now I think Dodd may be closest to my positions. He's not only voting the right way, he's sponsoring and co-sponsoring legislation that sends the right message. That's demonstrating in a concrete way that he knows what the score is.

Rhetoric is not enough!

Posted by: IMU on September 19, 2007 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Of all the disgusting things minion of Rove has posted here, the notion that he imagines himself fit to speak for Obama, whose toilet minion isn't fit to clean, could top them all.

Posted by: Gregory on September 19, 2007 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's background and temperament seems perfectly suited for a Judge. He, at heart, is a moderate almost conservative. In his book, he talks about how he understood the appeal of Reagan. It was "the same appeal that the military bases back in Hawaii had always held for me as a young boy, with their tidy streets and well-oiled machinery, the crisp uniforms and crisper salutes."

His temperament likes caution, neatness, tidiness, no rancor, soft words, pleasant audiences. He's not an agitator and never will be. His time is not now. We are in too much trouble. We need to make a "radical turn back to traditional liberalism" as even John McLaughlin said. Right now we are in need of a warrior.

Oh, and I'd like to correct the record. Jesse Jackson won 11 primaries and made it all the way to the convention. Imagine if Jesse had run back in 1988? I betcha anything he would have done better than Dukakis. People who had never voted came out to greet him every where he went. He was building a movement, a rainbow coalition without shedding his principles.
Tom Paine said "moderation in temper always. Moderation in principle never."

Posted by: Feral Cat on September 19, 2007 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Feral Cat: agreed !

Posted by: bob on September 19, 2007 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK
Clinton votes to authorize the war, and rationalizes it by saying it was the president's decision -- not hers -- but it's Obama who's overly cautious because his tax policy doesn't keep you at the edge of your seat.

Saying that Obama is overly cautious is not saying that Clinton isn't similarly (or moreso) overly cautious. Its possible for them both to be bad candidates, for the same or different reasons.

Posted by: cmdicely on September 19, 2007 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - I trust you are still part of what Brad DeLong calls the deficit hawk wing of our party. Over at Angrybear, I express the concerns of the deficit hawks that we don't want tax cuts unless we find some offsets. Obama did talk about a few - such as closing down on those tax havens (read transfer pricing enforcement), which I guess is a good thing. But if he thinks this will eliminate the deficit and pay for tax cuts for the average Joe, he needs to rethink. No, I agree that this proposal is ho-hum but at least he's trying to be fiscally neutral. Unlike those loud mouth clowns running for the GOP nomination - where the slogan should be money grows on trees.

Posted by: pgl on September 19, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Taking on the tax prep industry is not that small a thing.

For contrast, the Romney administration got rid of the auto-entry PDFs that Mass DOR used to have on it's web site.

Posted by: snoey on September 19, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Eliminate all deductions except charitable contributions and lower all tax rates accordingly and maybe members of Congress could walk the Capitol without being tackled by a lobbyist and taken on a "fact finding mission" to Tahiti. Oh wait, that's why it'll never happen.

Posted by: Blue Moon on September 19, 2007 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

I like bin Laden's 2.5% flat tax in his last vlog. He's better'n Steve Forbes!

Posted by: Luther on September 19, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

I've never understood what progressives see in Obama myself. Even the storied 2004 convention speech that made his rep was basically a call for the Democratic Party to move to the right.

He's running for VP now, and positioning himself for 2016.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on September 19, 2007 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Al: "This is just a trick to get people to pay the prefilled tax the IRS says they owe so that people will pay more taxes. Horrible plan."

Even though you're still an asshole, Al, I must reluctantly concur. I found it to be a remarkably dumb proposal on its face, and I'm rather shocked that it came from Sen. Obama himself. I'm interested in hearing his reasoning behind this.

On second thought, no, I wouldn't. This completely regressive procedure will impact disproportionally and unfairly the poor and lower middle classes, countless many of whom are quite trusting of their government in such matters, and thus will never review the numbers provided by the IRS prior to their sign-off. Even if you would construe such trust as ignorance or laziness, it is still no rationale for allowing our own government the means to fleece our fellow man.

While I might trust Obama himself to never abuse that pre-fab tax process while serving as president, the junior senator from Illinois is certainly in no position to speak for any of his successors. Therefore, why even fashion such a potentially corrosive fiscal weapon for the government's arsenal? Precedent means everything to rule-making and the law, and there are certain Rubicons that should never be crossed, never mind the senator's noble intent.

I'm going to continue to keep an open mind regarding Obama's candidacy for the White House, but will have to mark this off as his mulligan. One more, and as far as I'm concerned this primary season, he's not ready for prime time.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on September 19, 2007 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

I'd say this is evidence for the wonderfulness of the extended campaign. I started off as an Obama supporter and I still like him and wish him the best. But the truth is that he really is falling short now, and for the reasons Kevin says. And as much as I have problems with her, I have to say that Hillary is running a very impressive campaign, suggesting she might be very good as a President.

We only know this because the campaign is lasting months and months, giving us time to watch all the candidates closely. And we have months to go, so Obama can still turn it around.

All praise the permanent campaign!

Posted by: santamonicamr on September 19, 2007 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Most of you remember me as a big time Hillary basher, and Obama supporter; but I have to say, I've been fairly underwhelmed by Obama's positions lately. Sorry. I like his fiery rhetoric. If only he lived up to it when he whipped out the pencils and paper.

I'd still rather have Obama/Edwards than Hillary/Hillary's-left-tit.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on September 19, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's a pussy. If he had shown any inclination to take on the Republican scumbags he might have ignited some real passion. Instead he played it "safe", parroted the Republican line about cutting funding for soldiers in the field, and basically just pussied out.

There's no there there. I've been waiting for months to see what all the excitement's about and I haven't seen a thing.

Posted by: The Fool on September 20, 2007 at 1:38 AM | PERMALINK

The worst thing is, you don't get to be the candidate of change twice. In 2012, he's not going to be the fresh young face he was this time around.

Posted by: brooksfoe on September 20, 2007 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

How important is being an inspiring speaker? Ask Jimmy Carter, Nuclear Engineer, sitting President how he did against that know-nothing actor.

Being a polished, inspiring speaker is far more important than having wonky policy proposals. Being able to memorize the script and say your lines with genuine faked emotion helps, too.

Posted by: OwnedByTwoCats on September 20, 2007 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

Here's bold:

Not a flat tax, that is a rich-man's rip-off of the poor, no. A simple, tiered tax system with no deductions and that applies to ANY income, even trust fund, inheritance, etc. No tax for anyone at or under the poverty level IN THEIR LOCATION ($30,000/yr is a decent income in Louisiana, but crap in California). 15% tax on income up to $200,000/yr, then 25% for income between $200,000 - $400,000/yr, and 33$ for income above $400,000/yr. Period. ALL income counts.
If you MUST throw in a credit of some sort for kids, then you ONLY get a deduction for the first 2. After that they are fully on your dime.
Something like that would be bold. Instead we get tinkering around the margins.

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on September 20, 2007 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK
A simple, tiered tax system with no deductions and that applies to ANY income, even trust fund, inheritance, etc. No tax for anyone at or under the poverty level IN THEIR LOCATION

So you clearly have at least one special deduction or exemption; generally, I see no benefit to the "no deductions" approach, though applying a single income tax to all income with appropriate and well-considered deductions, exemptions, and credits is a good idea, though to be fair you need a mechanism (either in terms of advance recognition or delayed recognition, possibly both) to spread out income to reasonably fold long-term capital gains and inheritance into the system (if you allow advance recognition, there is no reason it can't be applied equally to all forms of income, but you need something like that if you are going to have a progressive tax that applies to capital income to avoid punitive treatment of small capital holders that have occasional sales of long-term assets.)

Posted by: cmdicely on September 20, 2007 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see how his foreign policy plan is cautious. He said he'd attack Pakistan if necessary! Hillary - possibly THE most cautious candidate running - jumped on him for it, only to have to backtrack when people actually thought, "How could any American president with actionable intelligence on bin Laden NOT act?"
And while not a part of his policy, Obama's statements that he would meet with rogue leaders and would not use nuclear weapons against terrorists were not cautious. And again Hillary jumped on them only to have to backtrack when the reasonableness of his "cautious" ideas became obvious to everyone.

Posted by: John on September 20, 2007 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

junebug said:Right. Clinton votes to authorize the war, and rationalizes it by saying it was the president's decision -- not hers -- but it's Obama who's overly cautious because his tax policy doesn't keep you at the edge of your seat. As moodmovesmarkets suggests, Obama gets trashed for being rash & inexperienced when his positions cut against conventional wisdom, but then he gets nailed for not being bold enough on -- of all things -- tax policy. Honestly, grow up.

AMEN! Wake up, people!

Posted by: John on September 20, 2007 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

"He's not an agitator and never will be. His time is not now."

What bullshit. Obama's the only person running for president who's actually knocked on a poor person's door asking them to something beside vote for him based on a bag of promises. He was a community organizer and organized massive voter registration. And he's the only candidate who can go to black and other minority communities with a message that doesn't reek of liberal noblesse oblige, which isn't what folks at the margins need at this point.

He also understands and speaks explicitly to the limitations of anyone elected to the presidency if there aren't social movements pushing them. Absolutely crucial bit of honesty - and a key to understanding why he doesn't strive to put the most "left-sounding" policies on the table among the big 3. This crap about dueling policy papers is the height of naivete.

Obama is the ONLY candidate who could motivate non-voters, the marginalized and young people to get more involved in THEIR OWN FUTURE. Obama has a great record in the Illinois legislature and understands grubby politics as well as he understands the social context that frames and limits our politics.

Some of the commenters here strike me as the height of predictable "progressive" naivete in assesing Obama and the differences. There also seems to be a tendency to fall into the kind of fuzzy narratives that reek of Mathews, Russert or Dowd. Among other things, what sets Obama apart is that unlike Hillary and Edwards he didn't come out of school and immediately join a law firm that would make him a bunch of money. He's always chosen to engage in organizing, education or energetic and pragmatic politics that have been more reliably progressive than other top-tier types.

Plus, being against the war - particularly compared to the Hillary-Edwards record of caving and parroting BushCo bullshit when it when it really mattered - is a big deal with me. An absolutely key test of judgement on the biggest disaster of our era. The rest of them are recycled stereotypes from the familiar and to me very unsatisfying and uninspiring political past - including Edwards' canned populism.

Posted by: brucds on September 20, 2007 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is the presidential equivalent of Oakland -- not Black Panther Oakland, but Gertrude Stein's. No there there.

Posted by: Vincent on September 20, 2007 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

I've followed him attentively beginning with his Senate campaign, with high hopes at first that have steadily drained away. I no longer trust him to make the right choice even if he thinks it might cost him votes someday.

Posted by: John G. Fought on September 20, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Your comprehension of Obama is about as astute as your reading of Gertrude Stein. I happen to live in Oakland and it's a great city with some of the best residential neighborhoods in the Bay Area. Gertrude Stein wasn't dissiing Oakland - she was commenting on the remnants of her childhood.

In any event, for my money Edwards is the "no there" guy of this campaign. If he had any balls, he wouldn't have bailed out of the Senate. All talk...and didn't have the guts to oppose the war, for purely political reasons. But he's got lots of position papers...

Posted by: brucds on September 20, 2007 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

the top two media-selected candidates for Democrats are mainstream. this country doesn't need mainstream.

Posted by: Patrick on September 21, 2007 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

Both party establishments have their heads up their asses when it comes to tax "reform." The GOP wants "across the board" tax cuts that go overwhelmingly to the plutocracy. The Democrats, on the other hand, like targeted tax credits to promote social engineering goals. Why do we have to choose between a candidate who's a poorly disguised shill for Daddy Warbucks, and a candidate who views the government as Pavlov and us as the dogs?

If a major candidate ever proposes something as simple AND populist as raising the standard deduction to $30,000 and paying for it by eliminating all corporate welfare, he'll win by a landslide.

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