Sunday, January 6, 2013

Barack Obama: Manchurian Candidate For the... Wealthy?

So I was just browsing the National Review's website, when I came across an article from my recent new best friend, Kevin Williamson. The article in question, titled "Democrats Raise Taxes on Poor to Subsidize Millionaires" immediately caught my interest, and I decided to take a gander...

There are basically two ways of looking at the fiscal-cliff deal. One possible headline reads:
“Congress does basically nothing.”
For all of the operatic angst and wailing surrounding the negotiations, what was produced was essentially a status quo, kick-the-can extension of most current policies, with a few minor changes that will have very little impact on the long-term fiscal health of the country.
But there is another possible headline:
Democrats insist on raising taxes on poor to protect millionaires and billionaires.”

Sounds intriguing. Do go on.

That is not how the New York Times put it, but it is true.

Of all the tax cuts of the Bush-Obama era, the income-tax cuts for the so-called rich (households earning $250,000 or more) were the least expensive in terms of forgone revenue. The Bush tax cuts for $250,000-plus were estimated by the CBO to deprive the Treasury of about $80 billion a year; the income-tax cuts for the middle class were estimated to cost $220 billion a year; the payroll-tax holiday, which disproportionately benefits the poor and middle class, cost about $120 billion a year.
 Not that important in relation to the main thesis in the piece, but I'd like to quickly comment on two things. 1) I like the use of the phrase "so-called rich" that tends to be used a lot on conservative outlets. Mind you, I suppose there can be a case made that people who make $250k/yr should not be considered rich, but I am curious as to what the threshold is that one becomes officially rich. 2) It appears for the first time in 40 years we have conservatives actually acknowledging that tax cuts aren't free (Williamson isn't the only saying this, mind you). Apparently all it took was to have Obama support those tax cuts. Now it suddenly costs money and hell, probably even adds to the deficit!

Let's continue:

Extending the payroll-tax holiday was on almost nobody’s radar during the fiscal-cliff debate. Why? The cynical answer is that nobody really cares very much about the interests of poor people, and there is something to that. But I think the answer is a bit more complex: Republicans believe (correctly) that temporary tax holidays are bad economic policy, contributing very little in the way of stimulus or long-term growth prospects but increasing uncertainly about future tax conditions. Democrats dislike payroll-tax reductions because they undermine the myth that Social Security is a self-funding investment (payroll taxes allegedly fund Social Security) rather than what it is: a deficit-expanding welfare program for the middle class. And everybody had a good reason to knock that $120 billion a year off of their CBO scoring.

Admittedly, I'm not sure what Williamson means by the "myth" of payroll taxes funding SS, but other than that I don't disagree too much here.

 The expiration of the payroll-tax holiday will reduce the real income of middle-class and working-poor households by around 1.5 percent on average. So while the fiscal-cliff deal raises taxes on those making $400,000 and up, it also raises taxes on workers in the bottom (0.00 percent) income-tax bracket, who do pay payroll taxes. Republicans would have been happy to extend all of those tax cuts into the future, but President Obama and his Democratic allies insisted on tax increases — knowing full well that would mean tax increases on the poor as well as on the high-income.

I can't really comment on this part since I haven't read any reports about Obama and the Dems not wanting an extension. I'd like to see Williamson cite a source.

But not all the rich folks got a tax hike. As usual, well-connected special interest groups — from Hollywood to the booze lobby — secured sweetheart deals for their own narrow interests. So the industry that employs Sean Penn and Ed Asner gets a nice fat tax break, and poor people with jobs get the shaft. The people who rail against “corporate welfare” and “crony capitalism” took the time to cut a nice side deal for the rum industry. You will notice that the Bacardi family is not poor. That’s Washington.
Okay, here we go.

So turns out all that talk about wealth redistributing, and class war waging by Chairman ObaMAO and the Dems for the past four years was a mere ruse this whole time? In fact, they were secretly fighting on behalf of the wealthy all along? That's a twist worthy of that Indian guy who makes those awful movies.

I absolutely love it when people on the Right do this. You see this sort of thing attempted by these folk every so often. See, while many on the Right devote a lot of time trying to fight on behalf of the wealthy, it turns out that it's actually quite difficult to get the filthy masses to sympathize for such a (clearly noble) cause. So this results in the need for pieces like this to appear from time to time, that try and argue that these same people (conservatives) are in fact trying to fight for them (the poor). It's that whole up-is-down, black-is-white, topsy turvy shit from the Karl Rove school of political jiujitsu.

I mean, there's so much that's laughably wrong with this. We're supposed to believe that the same people who lambasted 47% of the country for being leeches and moochers, are saddened that their taxes are going up? LOL. And once again, Obama, who is the most anti-business, anti-success, anti-capitalist, and anti-American dream president to have ever sullied the oval office, that Obama is in fact, a secret ally for the wealthy? Really?

The most generous interpretation of Williamson's complaint I can provide is another line of attack that I see pretty frequently by the same people. In this version Obama still despises the rich, but because of his misguided big government policies trying to tax them in order to help the poor, they inadvertently end up hurting those same people. But even that doesn't work because Williamson clearly pointed to all the corporate welfare goodies that Democrats were handing out, so I'm not sure what he's getting at, exactly.

Kevin, if you get a chance to read this, just know that I don't want to jeopardize our relationship as BFFs, but come on amigo. Let's stick to stereotypes we're all familiar with, ja?

Also, can I just comment on one more thing? One of the biggest problems I have with many right wing outlets: attacking your enemies with descriptors that tend to be incompatible. For example: "Obama's a muslim AND an atheist!". Can't be both. "Obama's a fascist and communist!". Doesn't work that way. "Obama's anti-rich AND anti-poor!". Once again, you can't have it both ways.

Shouldn't be that hard, people.


  1. Hey, now. This is hardly the first time I've written that Republicans are very often wrong about the relationship between tax rates and deficits:

    Or that neither party really has very much interest in the poor:

    Also, it is so hard to believe that a politician can be a spread-the-wealth redistributionist when it suits him, and also hand out favors to rich, politically connected friends when it suits him?

  2. But Obama did try to extend the payroll tax holiday.

    "The proposal marked an opening salvo in negotiations over the fiscal cliff and represented a particularly expansive version of the White House's wish list, with a heavy focus on tax increases and spending proposals—including keeping in place a payroll-tax cut and extended unemployment benefits."


    I hope the left wing rag The Washington Journal will suffice.

    What say you, Mr. Kevin D. Williamson?