When Bill Clinton used his 1996 State of the Union address to kick off his ultimately successful re-election campaign, he uttered one of the few SOTU lines that people still remember: “The era of big government is over.” It did not matter narrowly that this was another Clinton lie; he went on in that speech to outline something like 97 small ways government could get bigger, from school uniforms to v-chips. (Whatever happened to the v-chip anyway?) The importance of the line was that it was a signal to the swing voters who had delivered the 1994 Republican landslide that it would be safe to re-elect him; he wasn’t going to try a second-term re-run of Hillarycare. The swinging Clinton was nothing if not skilled in wooing swing voters.
Obama tried for his equivalent last night with the line, “No bailouts, no handouts, no cop-outs.” This, from a specialist in all three departments. I don’t think I need to dilate this point much further. About his argument for “fairness” in the tax code, however, it ought to be pointed out that the perceived inequities of the tax system is the system liberals built. It was liberals, decades ago, who insisted on the payroll tax system for entitlement programs that delivers the perverse result that many working Americans pay more in payroll taxes than income taxes (actually nearly half of American households pay no federal income tax right now, so a truly “shared burden” would mean raising their taxes). And as for Obama’s call for a “minimum tax rate” on “millionaires and billionaires” (which I have a hunch is somehow going to start at $250,000), um, didn’t we already try that with the Alternative Minimum Tax? Gee, that’s been a real success.
One wonders, by the way, how a new 30 percent minimum tax rate on the rich might affect state and local governments, for one simple reason. In all the fuss about Mitt Romney’s 14 percent tax rate, I’m curious why no one recalls that in 1992 Ross Perot’s tax returns showed that he paid almost no income tax at all because he’d invested something like $700 million of his fortune in tax-free municipal bonds. (Take note, Team Romney and everyone else: somehow this didn’t stop millions of working class voters from voting for Perot.) Question: Would Obama’s minimum tax rate for the rich strip the tax-exemption from municipal bonds, and if so, what effect will that have on the borrowing costs for state and local governments? This could get interesting. (There’s an interesting corollary question here: if we keep the tax-exemption on municipal bonds, what does it say that you can still get a big income tax break if you invest in government, but must pay a much higher rate for investing in the private sector? That will tell you all you need to know, as if you don’t already, about liberalism. I’ve already got my bet placed on where liberals will come down on this question.)
There’s one other glaring contrast with Clinton that is becoming more apparent: the Obama Administration’s hostility toward people of faith, which Clinton did not share. We saw already how the Supreme Court unanimously smacked down the Obama Justice Department, which wanted to extend anti-discrimination law to churches to the effect that churches would be restricted from hiring people of their own faith for key positions. Last week the Obama Administration announced its intent to compel health care providers, including Catholic hospitals, to provide contraception services that go against their religious doctrine. Michael Greve takes up the story in the LibertyLawBlog:
[T]he IFR [interim final rule] is obviously unconstitutional and unlawful, and the administration will receive another judicial trashing for its “extreme” and “extraordinary” positions on matters of religious freedom (see the Supreme Court’s recent, unanimous decision and opinion in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church v. EEOC). Let’s pause, though, over the so-called process that produced this abomination: it’s a perfect illustration of Obamacare in action. . .
This “process” has been playing out while Mrs. Sebelius’s office has issued hundreds of waivers for employer health plans that fail to comply with the ACA’s and HHS’s exalted standards, such as “mini-med” plans used by McDonald’s. Without those waivers, the ranks of the uninsured would swell. Hiding the ACA’s inanity is sufficient reason to suspend the legal requirements; First Amendment objections apparently aren’t.
One of Clinton’s few good points was his support for religious freedom. He backed legislative acts, and issued administrative rules, to support religious freedom and autonomy from government during his eight years in office—a disposition that largely went unnoticed by friends and critics alike. I ascribe this to Clinton’s Arkansas upbringing and membership in the Southern Baptist Church—a decentralized Protestant denomination that is very harmonious with America’s democratic character. As is well known, Obama’s religious outlook is thoroughly imbued with the radical liberation theology of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Wright’s liberation theology is not really theological at all (I used to call liberation theology “Marxism with salsa” back in its Latin American incarnation in the 1980s), but above all it supports massively increased political power over everyone, including especially fellow people of faith suffering from false consciousness. If there’s anything that liberals hate more than the rich these days, its people of faith who are unwilling to see the divinity of government.
It’s almost enough to make you miss Bill Clinton. Almost.