- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It’s rather amusing watching the liberal media launch a full-scale attack on George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson, with Gen. Tom Shales of The Washington Post leading the charge.

ABC’s Messrs. Stephanopoulos and Gibson had the audacity to ask Barack Obama some tough questions during the Democratic debate last Tuesday night.Challenge Mr. Obama with well-informed questions on tax policy and politics? Wound the media favorite? How dare they?

The fallout is fascinating. With members of the mainstream liberal media lunging at each other’s throats, it’s kind of like watching Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama go at it.

But here’s the deal: During the debate, Mr. Obama bungled his answers on tax policy, big time. Period. End of sentence. End of story. To my liberal friends in the media, all I can say is: Get over it. Your guy has a very poor grasp of basic economic principles.

First off, you don’t raise taxes during a recession. That’s a no-brainer. Second, doubling the capital-gains tax rate will affect Americans up and down the income ladder, not just rich hedge-fund managers. And capital-gains tax cuts are self-financing, and they stimulate jobs and the economy. You want to raise budget revenues and spark economic growth? Cut the cap-gains tax rate. That’s what history shows.

The Wall Street Journal’s Steve Moore points out that in 2005, almost half of all tax returns reporting capital gains came from households with incomes under $50,000, while more than three-quarters came from households earning less than $100,000.

Mr. Obama also proposed uncapping the payroll tax, another blunder that will hit people up and down the income ladder. While Mr. Obama pledges tax increases only for folks earning more that $200,000 a year, his tax raise on payrolls would actually slam middle-income earners. The cap on wages subject to the payroll tax is presently $102,000. By eliminating that cap, Mr. Obama will be soaking veteran firemen, cops, teachers and health-service workers, along with a variety of other occupations.

In fact, in America’s largest cities, a firefighter married to a school teacher can earn close to $200,000 filing jointly. So not only will each spouse separately pay more for Social Security and health care under Mr. Obama’s plan, together they’ll also be slammed by Mr. Obama’s cap-gains tax increase.

This is more than just a failure to understand the Laffer Curve. It’s another cultural misstep by Mr. Obama. I can’t help but wonder if the senator knows any cops or firemen. His appeal is to well-educated latte liberals. That remark about middle-income folks having turned to God, faith and guns because of economic setbacks? Not only was it ill-advised, it illustrates the wide cultural chasm that exists between the candidate and the rest of America.

In effect, Mr. Obama’s economics are bad and his social circle is very limited. This is one of many reasons a quarter of Hillary Democrats tell pollsters they’ll likely move to John McCain in the general election.

Mr. Obama’s real agenda is far-liberal left. It’s an ideology that places income redistribution above economic growth. That’s his real message. And it’s the same one that sank Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry. Bill Clinton? He was a growth Democrat. So he won twice. But Mr. Obama is aligning himself with the Democratic losers. That will make him a loser as well.

The Gallup poll taken after the Democratic debate reveals that Hillary’s pit-bull routine may have worked. We’ll learn more on that front today when Pennsylvanians head to the voting booths.

But that’s a different issue. I’m saying liberals need to quit blaming Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos for Mr. Obama’s shortcomings. Instead, they need to blame Mr. Obama for failing to grasp how tax penalties on upward mobility will hurt the very people he thinks he’s going to help.

Jack Kemp has effectively made the point that African-American communities desperately need capital to create new businesses and jobs. Yet as Mr. Obama takes the capital out of capitalism, all those who are not rich will be hurt when the rich folks with capital have less of it — after tax — to invest in those new businesses and new jobs.

That’s exactly why wealth-redistribution plans always backfire. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is a surefire economic loser. So is putting government in charge of the economy, as Mr. Obama proselytizes.

This marks the third mistake for the Illinois senator. Not only does he not understand economics; not only is he set apart from middle-class values and beliefs; he apparently hasn’t read much history either.

Did someone say inexperience?

Lawrence Kudlow is host of CNBC’s “Kudlow & Company” and is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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