Americans appreciate success. The popularity of the long-running show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” and the billion dollars Americans spent on lottery tickets last week demonstrate that most people would like to be part of the “1 percent.” President Obama is hanging his re-election hopes on making Americans jealous enough to want to punish winners. It won’t work.
Before leaving on a two-week recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, announced that his top priority on return will be a vote on the “Buffett rule,” a 30 percent tax on all income over $1 million. The president has been lobbying hard for this measure, which he knows will not get the 60 votes needed for passage. “This is yet another sign that the White House is out of ideas and is simply focused on tax hike show-votes,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The White House isn’t backing down. In a speech on Tuesday, Mr. Obama said that, “If you want to keep these tax rates and deductions in place - or give even more tax breaks to the wealthy, as the Republicans in Congress propose - then one of two things happen: Either it means higher deficits, or it means more sacrifice from the middle class.”
He said, “This is math,” but the numbers just don’t add up. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation concluded that the Senate bill would bring in $4.7 billion a year in revenue, which would cover government spending for about 12 hours.
Mr. Obama is calling for a tax hike on those who make over $250,000 that would result in paying an almost 10 percent higher rate than millionaires. He said the revenue was needed “to pay for the investments we need to grow the economy,” which is code for more failed stimulus spending. Three-quarters of small businesses fall into this tax category, so threatening a higher tax bill on Jan. 1 will only slow a recovery.
In his weekly radio address on Saturday, Mr. Obama’s rationale for higher taxes was morality, not economics. He insisted those who make over $1 million a year should pay “at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle-income families do.” They already pay much more.
According to the Internal Revenue Service, the average American pays 11 percent in federal taxes. The top 0.1 percent who make over $668,000 pay an average of 23 percent. Due to our steeply progressive tax system, the one in 1,000 people who earn these high six-figure salaries already pay 17 percent of all revenue into the Treasury, while the bottom 75 percent combined contribute just 13 percent to the nation’s coffers.
In tough economic times, the president should unite the country, not divide it so he can conquer at the next election. Mr. Obama’s class-warfare strategy is bound to fail because it’s contrary to the American dream in which everyone has a shot at success.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.