Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 20, 2010

OBAMA ON GOP'S TAX DEMANDS: 'I DON'T HAVE THE MATH'.... President Obama participated in a town-hall discussion on the economy today on CNBC, and heard from some folks who weren't necessarily pleased with him.

But given the debate on Capitol Hill about tax policy, the president's remarks on the subject may have been the most noteworthy. "Here's what I can't do," Obama said. "I can't give tax cuts to the top 2% of Americans -- 86% of that money going people making $1 million or more -- and lower the deficit at the same time. I don't have the math.

"I'd love to do it. Anybody in elected office would love nothing more than to give everybody tax cuts -- not cut services, make sure that I'm providing help to student loans, make sure that we're keeping our roads safe and our bridges safe, make sure that we're paying for our veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. At some point, the numbers just don't work, so what I've said is very simple. Let's go ahead and move forward on what we agree to -- which is tax relief for 97% of Americans, in fact, everybody would get tax relief, just up to $250,000 a year or more -- and let's the economy moving faster. Let's get it growing faster.

"At some point in the future, if we want to have discussions about further lowering tax rates, let's do so at a time when we can actually afford it."

Watching this, my first instinct is to wonder whether the American public in general will find this persuasive, which is why it's probably worth re-emphasizing that they already do.

At the same event, the president took note of the ambiguities of the Tea Partiers' agenda. He summarized their pitch this way: "We're going to control government spending. We're going to propose $4 trillion in additional tax cuts and somehow magically this is all going to work." Obama would like to know if these same activists would want to cut veterans benefits, Social Security, and/or Medicare. "The challenge for the Tea Party movement is to identify what exactly would you do," he said.

Sounds like a challenge. What do you say, conservatives?

Steve Benen 3:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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If you don't cut taxes for rich people, then people like me won't have an incentive to work hard and become rich.

Posted by: Al on September 20, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Got that, the only thing holding Al back is taxes, otherwise he would rich.

Posted by: ScottW714 on September 20, 2010 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

You usually don't become rich through hard work. That is just to get your foot in the door. You become rich by talking BS, or inheriting it, or being just plain lucky in picking just the right product at just the right time.

Posted by: Carol on September 20, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

"The challenge for the Tea Party movement is to identify what exactly would you do," he said.

Exactly, and thank you Mr. President for saying so. The right and tea partiers are great at making statements that everyone can agree with: we're for freedom, liberty, lower taxes and cutting the deficit, against terrorists, etc., etc. yet they come forth with either no ideas on how to achieve them or the ideas they do have won't work or have the opposite effect. Or they're against new laws (Affordable Care) because they "cost too much" yet those very new laws actually cut the deficit.

Posted by: Hannah on September 20, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Why would anyone want Al to get rich?

Why should tea partiers say what they'd do? Specifics would only hurt them. Their followers will only find out how clueless these guys are after they're elected.

Posted by: Bat of Moon on September 20, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

I'm in the tax bracket just below the top. I'd be delighted to be in the top bracket. I would love to pay six figures in income taxes. I'd be delirious to pay seven figures. Until they invent the 101% tax bracket, you're always better off making more money. Maybe as a practical matter, you won't bother at a 90% marginal rate, but nobody is suggesting anything close to that.

Posted by: CJColucci on September 20, 2010 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

You can fool most of the people all of the time, but you can fool some of the people only some of the time.

This is one of those moments in American Politics.

The way to pay for the Tax Cuts For The Rich is to: privatize Social Security, dismantle the Affordable Care Act, increase military spending, turn a blind eye to federal regulations so that businesses are free to earn more of their own money, gut a slew of other social safety net type programs like Food Stamps, and don't forget praying that sentient people are too dumb to recognize this bullshit come November 2010.

Heck, for that matter, why not a little bit of witchcraft? If that doesn't work, try sexual purity.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on September 20, 2010 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

And it's not just the GuanoNutz screaming about "Stop Spending!" Rick Santelli, a CNBC Bond trader, said the same thing, with the same fervor.

But when asked exactly WHAT spending to cut, they stand mute.

Posted by: DAY on September 20, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

They will cut taxes and magically revenue will increase.

Please, this new bunch lives in lala land.

Posted by: mikefromArlington on September 20, 2010 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe as a practical matter, you won't bother [to work] at a 90% marginal rate, but nobody is suggesting anything close to that.

Usually by that point every need and most desires below the level of pure opulence are being met. Additional income goes only to status symbols (including philanthropy) or inheritance. In other words, money is mostly to keep score.

For that reason, I don't see many multimillionaires going Galt, except for short-term spite. At some point the urge to outearn the millionaire in the McMansion next door is too great.

Hell, if it would help the cause of equity, I'd replace progressive taxation with compulsory "philanthropy": You fund education or health care and you get a freeway overpass named after your parents.

Posted by: Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 20, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Obama participated in a town-hall discussion on the economy today on CNBC, and heard from some folks who weren't necessarily pleased with him.

Yep...Obama's just like Bush!

Posted by: Gregory on September 20, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Hard to say what those septuagenarian young rebels in the Tea Party will say in reply to this fiscal policy challenge, but my guess is it will have something to do with birth certificates or Sharia.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on September 20, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

He didn't mention Dawn Johnson, or the public option. And that's after slapping my face with his appointment of Elizabeth Warren last week.

I'm staying home in November.

Nach Boehner, uns!

Posted by: A. Progressive on September 20, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

"I can't give tax cuts to the top 2% of Americans -- 86% of that money going people making $1 million or more -- and lower the deficit at the same time"

I wonder why someone doesn't propose letting the tax cuts expire JUST on incomes over $1 million (therefore keeping 86% of the expected revenues). Seems like it would be easier to sell.

Posted by: flubber on September 20, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

If you don't cut taxes for rich people, then people like me won't have an incentive to work hard and become rich.
Posted by: Al on September 20, 2010 at 3:16 PM

Dear Al,
I just got off the phone; I called the President to bring your concerns to your attention. He has promised me, on his honor, not to raise taxes on pipe dreams. So, you can go ahead, and bust your gut working as hard as you can. When you become rich, let us know and we'll talk to him again.
Best e-reg@rds,

Posted by: exlibra on September 20, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

The answer is that some conservatives believe in the tax fairy, aka the Laffer Curve, in which tax cuts magically cause so much economic growth that the amount of revenue collected by the feds goes up. But only some conservatives; evidently even 50% of Republicans don't think we can afford to give the rich a tax cut.

Posted by: Joe Buck on September 20, 2010 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I saw Peter Orszag on Charlie Rose saying that taxes had to up in the US, period.

He wants even the middle class Bush cuts ended: “If we actually ended the Bush-era tax cuts, that would pretty much [close the budget deficit] for the medium term,” Orszag said. “And if you do a bit on the spending side and then end the tax cuts, you pretty much get" to sustainable debt levels.

But his message is higher taxes for all along with spending cuts. I'm putting my money on his analysis, so it will be interesting to see how the US gets there, or should I say as it gets dragged there kicking and screaming.

Posted by: Bob M on September 20, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I hope all those so bitterly disappointed in Obama at least notice this about the top tax rate and quit picking on him so much, or we'll end up getting a big "boehner" up the hiney.

Posted by: neil b on September 20, 2010 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Getting rich is seldom done in one generation....the US has become one of the countries of the world where it happens in less time.....The old world riches are almost always "old family" riches.....several generations....The Middle Class riches in the U.S. have mostly been created since the end of WWII......The recent Wall Steet rich came about from lack of government supervision.....The administrations in power helped to perpetrate it.....The purpose was to create jobs and promote wealth.....It had very limited success....and unfortunately created a CLASS of citizens who will NEVER again have their wealth in jeopardy.....It is liquid investment wealth.....97% of America does not have this type of wealth or income...

A large group of the wishful citizens continue to vote for Tea Party types who have no idea about what to do to solve the complex problem.....they just make loud noise.....and hope it works.....

Posted by: Mo Erlich on September 20, 2010 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like a challenge. What do you say, conservatives?

Knuckledragging Neanderthal Teabagger say: "Satanic Yemeni Nazi Socialist!!!"

Which is pretty much most of your average teaparty-activist's vocabulary....

Posted by: S. Waybright on September 20, 2010 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK


Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times best selling author.
Obama Will Triumph -- So Will America
By Frank Schaeffer

Before he'd served even one year President Obama lost the support of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds -- including this white, straight, 57-year-old, former religious right wing agitator, now progressive writer and (given my background as the son of a famous evangelical leader) this unlikely Obama supporter -- are sticking with our President.
Why?-- because he is succeeding.

We faithful Obama supporters still trust our initial impression of him as a great, good and uniquely qualified man to lead us.

Obama's steady supporters will be proved right. Obama's critics will be remembered as easily panicked and prematurely discouraged at best and shriveled hate mongers at worst.

The Context of the Obama Presidency

Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe, the Second World War and the Depression has any president faced more adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial integration has any president faced a more consistently short-sighted and willfully ignorant opposition - from both the right and left.

As the President's poll numbers have fallen so has his support from some on the left that were hailing him as a Messiah not long ago; all those lefty websites and commentators that were falling all over themselves on behalf of our first black president during the 2008 election.

The left's lack of faith has become a self-fulfilling "prophecy"-- snipe at the President and then watch the poll numbers fall and then pretend you didn't have anything to do with it!

Here is what Obama faced when he took office-- none of which was his fault:

# An ideologically divided country to the point that America was really two countries

# Two wars; one that was mishandled from the start, the other that was unnecessary and immoral

# The worst economic crisis since the depression

# America's standing in the world at the lowest point in history

# A country that had been misled into accepting the use of torture of prisoners of war

# A health care system in free fall

# An educational system in free fall

# A global environmental crisis of history-altering proportions (about which the Bush administration and the Republicans had done nothing)

# An impasse between culture warriors from the right and left

# A huge financial deficit inherited from the terminally
irresponsible Bush administration.

And those were only some of the problems sitting on the
President's desk!

"Help" from the Right?

What did the Republicans and the religious right, libertarians and half-baked conspiracy theorists -- that is what the Republicans were reduced to by the time Obama took office -- do to "help" our new president (and our country) succeed? They claimed that he wasn't a real American, didn't have an American birth certificate, wasn't born here, was secretly a Muslim, was white-hating "racist", was secretly a communist, was actually the Anti-Christ, (!) and was a reincarnation of Hitler and wanted "death panels" to kill the elderly!

They not-so-subtly called for his assassination through the not-so-subtle use of vile signs held at their rallies and even a bumper sticker quoting Psalm 109:8. They organized "tea parties" to sound off against imagined insults and all government in general and gathered to howl at the moon. They were led by insurance industry lobbyists and deranged (but well financed) "commentators" from Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh.

The utterly discredited Roman Catholic bishops teamed up with the utterly discredited evangelical leaders to denounce a president who was trying to actually do something about the poor, the environment, to diminish the number of abortions through compassionate programs to help women and to care for the sick! And in Congress the Republican leadership only knew one word: "No!"

In other words the reactionary white, rube, uneducated, crazy American far right, combined with the educated but obtuse neoconservative war mongers, religious right shills for big business, libertarian Fed Reserve-hating gold bug, gun-loving crazies, child-molesting acquiescent "bishops", frontier loons and evangelical gay-hating flakes found one thing to briefly unite them: their desire to stop an uppity black man from succeeding at all costs!

"Help" from the Left?

What did the left do to help their newly elected president? Some of them excoriated the President because they disagreed with the bad choices he was being forced to make regarding a war in Afghanistan that he'd inherited from the worst president in modern history!

Others stood up and bravely proclaimed that the President's economic policies had "failed" before the President even instituted them! Others said that since all gay rights battles had not been fully won within virtually minutes of the President taking office, they'd been "betrayed"! (Never mind that Obama's vocal support to the gay community is stronger than any other president's has been. Never mind that he signed a new hate crimes law!)

Those that had stood in transfixed legions weeping with beatific emotion on election night turned into an angry mob saying how "disappointed" they were that they'd not all immediately been translated to heaven the moment Obama stepped into the White House! Where was the "change"? Contrary to their expectations they were still mere mortals!

And the legion of young new supporters was too busy texting to pay attention for longer than a nanosecond. "Governing"?! What the hell does that word, uh, like mean?"

The President's critics left and right all had one thing in common: impatience laced with little-to-no sense of history (let alone reality) thrown in for good measure. Then of course there were the white, snide know-it-all commentators/talking heads who just couldn't imagine that maybe, just maybe, they weren't as smart as they thought they were and certainly not as smart as their president. He hadn't consulted them, had he? So he must be wrong!

The Obama critics' ideological ideas defined their idea of reality rather than reality defining their ideas-say, about what is possible in one year in office after the hand that the President had been dealt by fate, or to be exact by the American idiot nation that voted Bush into office. Twice!

Meanwhile back in the reality-based community - in just 12 short months -- President Obama:

#Continued to draw down the misbegotten war in Iraq (But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Thoughtfully and decisively picked the best of several bad choices regarding the war in Afghanistan
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay rights (But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Restored America 's image around the globe
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Banned torture of American prisoners
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Stopped the free fall of the American economy
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Put the USA squarely back in the bilateral international community
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Put the USA squarely into the middle of the international effort to halt global warming
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Stood up for educational reform
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Won a Nobel peace prize
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Moved the trial of terrorists back into the American judicial
system of checks and balances
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Did what had to be done to start the slow, torturous and almost impossible process of health care reform that 7 presidents had failed to even begin (But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Responded to hatred from the right and left with measured good humor and patience (But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Stopped the free fall of job losses (But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Showed immense personal courage in the face of an armed and dangerous far right opposition that included the sort of disgusting people that show up at public meetings carrying loaded weapons and carrying Timothy McVeigh-inspired signs about the "blood of tyrants" needing to "water the tree of liberty".
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

#Showed that he could not only make the tough military choices but explain and defend them brilliantly
(But that wasn't good enough for his critics)

Other than those "disappointing" accomplishments -- IN ONE YEAR -- President Obama "failed"! Other than that he didn't "live up to expectations"!

Who actually has failed...

...are the Americans that can't see the beginning of a miracle of national rebirth right under their jaded noses. Who failed are the smart-ass ideologues of the left and right who began rooting for this President to fail so that they could be proved right in their dire and morbid predictions. Who failed are the movers and shakers behind our obscenely dumb news cycles that have turned "news" into just more stupid entertainment for an entertainment-besotted infantile country.

Here's the good news: President Obama is succeeding without the help of his lefty "supporters" or hate-filled Republican detractors!

The Future Looks Good

After Obama has served two full terms, (and he will), after his wisdom in moving deliberately and cautiously with great subtlety on all fronts -- with a canny and calculating eye to the possible succeeds, (it will), after the economy is booming and new industries are burgeoning, (they will be), after the doomsayers are all proved not just wrong but silly: let the record show that not all Americans were panicked into thinking the sky was falling.

Just because we didn't get everything we wanted in the first short and fraught year Obama was in office not all of us gave up. Some of us stayed the course. And we will be proved right.

PS. if you agree that Obama is shaping up to be a great president, please pass this on and hang in there! Pass it on anyway to ensure that his "report card" gets the attention it deserves.

Have a good day.

Posted by: robert on September 21, 2010 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK
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