Class warfare proved to be the winner in this election cycle as it was a key component of Obama’s policies and re-election rhetoric. The components of such a tactic were easily recognized: 1) the political opponent (Romney) will hurt those among us who are most vulnerable (elderly, poor, etc); 2) the political opponent (Romney) does not care about the “middle class”; 3) the political opponent (Romney) wants to benefit those most advantaged (the rich/elite).
The third point of this strategy was the one that resonated most with Obama supporters; he continuously and intentionally railed against “millionaires and billionaires”, and talked about “the wealthy paying their fair share” in order to create a divide and separate that particular fiscal population from the rest of “mainstream America”.
Besides the obvious baseness of such an argument coming from the President of the United States, it is critically important to note the amount of true millionaires and billionaires are so few in number, that taxing them more – as Obama plans to do – will not help with any significant deficit reduction. His assertion was pure dishonest political speech; you cannot possibly create enough revenue from the millionaire/billionaire population even if you were to tax them at 100%. Our fiscal situation is so dire in this country that an increased tax on this group in any large or small amount solves nothing in the long-term.
Unfortunately, none of this mattered to Obama. He intentionally threw the labels around so that they conveniently fit whatever emotive language would coerce voters and supporters to rally behind his outrageous monetary policies. It was classical class-warfare: antagonizing lower socio-economic groups against the “rich”. Simultaneously, he added record numbers of citizens to entitlement rolls, thereby creating a further divide. And it worked to win.
Obama has stated his intent to raise the marginal rates on the top income earners, (aka the “rich”, “wealthy”, or “top 2%”). Yet history shows us that higher tax rates results in less – not more – tax collections. Democrats like to wax poetic about the high rates of 70% and even 91%. What they fail to comprehend or deliberately don’t explain is that at those times, there were an enormous amount of tax shelters such as real estate, so that people could legally lower that taxable income and would not have to actually pay the outrageous tax rates.
With the IRC reforms of 1986, Reagan reduced the tax rates to 28% in exchange for getting rid of the tax shelters. As a result, the amount of federal income collected was more at 28% and a clean tax code than at 91% and tax shelters, because at 28%, it really wasn’t worth the time, cost, and effort to hide money. We need comprehensive tax reform, but not the type that Obama is pushing. His policies of more “tax credits” (which is government spending run through the tax code) and marginal rate increases hampers our recovery. If the federal tax rates are going to rise again – and they will – in addition to state and local tax hikes, the tax burden in this country will be staggering. People will do one of two things: 1) start finding ways not to pay it like they did when the rates were outrageous or 2) stop working and investing so much because it’s just going to get taken away from them. When that happens, the economy worsens — and it is already suffering enough.
Blindly vilifying the rich was simply a tactic Obama used to pit classes against one another for political gain. But putting it into practice? Imposing higher taxes on that segment of the population most able to invest in and aid our recovery is true economic ignorance. Why take additional money from those taxpayers who have been able to create wealth and employment successfully and give it to the government and politicians who have proven their ability to mismanage and squander income? What worked to win the White House will not work to win the economy back.
Crossposted at alanjoelny.com