- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

TAXING THE POOR

” ‘I can make a firm pledge … no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase.’ Remember that? It was Barack Obama, campaigning to become president last Sept. 12 in Dover, N.H.,”Brad Schiller wrote Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, he promised repeatedly that 95 percent of American families would get a tax cut. So it’s especially fitting that he chose April Fools Day to implement his first tax increase - which will fall mostly on individuals and families who do not make anywhere near $250,000 per year,” said Mr. Schiller, a professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Reno, and author of “The Economy Today.”

“Early in February, the president signed a law to triple the federal excise tax on cigarettes - which will jump from 39 cents per pack to $1.01 today. His administration projects this tax increase will bring in at least $38 billion over the next five years.

“If you don’t smoke, maybe you don’t care. Maybe you even think a higher ‘sin tax’ is a good thing. But health issues aren’t the only concern here. There are also questions of fairness, federalism, macroeconomic impact and crime.

“The fairness issue is particularly troubling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one in five Americans smokes, so the excise targets a minority - and over half of all smokers are low income, and one of four are officially classified as poor.

“Mr. Obama prefers to tout his tax cuts for low-income households. But his ‘stimulative’ Make Work Pay tax cut gets dribbled out at $8-$10 a week. A pack-a-day smoker will pay half of that back in higher cigarette taxes. Smokers getting welfare, unemployment or disability checks instead of paychecks won’t get as much in tax cuts, but they will still pay the whole cigarette tax increase. Anyone concerned about widening income inequality should have second thoughts about this distribution of the tax burden.”

HOLDER’S POLITICS

”The nomination of hard-left crusader Dawn Johnsen to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the department’s top legal adviser, is stalled in the Senate. No matter. Attorney General Eric Holder has simply taken the job of politicizing DOJ to reflect the Democrats’ partisan agenda into his own hands,” Andy McCarthy writes in a blog at National Review Online (www.national review.com).

”The Washington Post reports [Wednesday] that Holder has overruled OLC’s objective, well-reasoned, constitutionally rooted opinion that the controversial D.C. voting-rights bill pending in Congress is unconstitutional. OLC’s conclusion, if accepted by the attorney general, as is customary, would likely have doomed passage of the measure, which is strongly favored by President Obama and Democrats,” Mr. McCarthy said.

“The bill would give the District of Columbia representation in Congress, specifically one member of the House of Representatives - and, that accomplished, the way would be paved to add two Senate seats down the line. As the District is small and heavily Democrat, this would pull the Congress deeper into Democrat control.

“But the problem is that the Constitution clearly forbids the scheme. It expressly provides, in Article I, Section 2, ‘The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States.’ The District of Columbia is not a State. It is thus ineligible for representation in the House. (By the way, Art. I, Sec. 3, similarly provides that senators shall come ‘from each State, elected by the people thereof.’)”

MAGIC DUST

”Someone tore up the script,” London Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland writes.

”Here’s how it was meant to go. Barack Obama was supposed to sweep into Europe on his first major trip abroad as the new JFK, greeted by adoring fans moistly waving little American flags. His progress would be part celebrity world tour, part celebration of the end of the Bush era. A needy Gordon Brown would bask in the Obama glow, hoping its rays would improve his own deathly pallor. Meanwhile, the rest of Europe’s leaders would fall to their knees, humbly agreeing to any request made by the visiting emperor, mindful that in a choice between them and Obama, their own electorates would choose Obama every time,” Mr. Freedland said.

“That was the way it was supposed to be. Instead, Obama arrived [Tuesday] night on the eve of what organizers promise will be a raucous day of anti-globalization protest on London’s streets, the demonstrators’ previous loathing of George Bush rapidly transferred to the commanders of the ailing world economy.

“Brown will still crave the Obama magic dust, but he may find his American visitor has less of it to sprinkle around, beleaguered as he is by rising opposition from both left and right at home, even the first muttered grumbles that the 44th president might turn out to be neither a new FDR nor a JFK, but a JEC - Jimmy Carter. To cap it all, the Europeans are refusing to bow down before him.”

HINGE OF HISTORY

”In an interview conducted shortly before he was sworn in [Tuesday] as prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu laid down a challenge for Barack Obama,” Jeffrey Goldberg writes at www.theatlantic.com.

”The American president, he said, must stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons - and quickly - or an imperiled Israel may be forced to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities itself.

“ ‘The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,’ Netanyahu told me. He said the Iranian nuclear challenge represents a ‘hinge of history’ and added that ‘Western civilization’ will have failed if Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

“In unusually blunt language, Netanyahu said of the Iranian leadership, ‘You don’t want a messianic, apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.’ …

”Neither Netanyahu nor his principal military advisers would suggest a deadline for American progress on the Iran nuclear program, though one aide said pointedly that Israeli time lines are now drawn in months, ‘not years.’ ”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or e-mail [email protected] .com.

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