What is liberalism’s current equivalent of “Of course I’ll still respect you in the morning!,” or, “The [welfare] check is in the mail”?* Without question it is that they only want the “rich” to pay their “fair share.” You can waterboard a liberal, but you’ll never get a specific definition of what constitutes the “fair” tax rate for “the rich” that isn’t always “more than the rate they’re paying now.”
Right now the Obama Administration’s talking point is that they want the rich to pay “a little bit more” to help balance the budget and (somehow) help the economy get back on its feet. So let’s roll the tape: in the 1990 budget deal, liberals demanded that the rich pay “a little bit more” to help reduce the deficit, so President George H.W. Bush agreed to raise the top income tax rate from 28 percent to 31 percent, sacrificing his chances for a second term in the process. But that wasn’t enough: Bill Clinton demanded that the rich pay “a little bit more” in his first budget in 1993, and raised the top marginal income tax rate to 36 percent (though actually an effective rate of 39 percent when all the monkey business with the phase out of certain deductions and credits were considered). President George W. Bush managed to cut rates temporarily back closer to the pre-Clinton levels, but it is these rates that will expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts. Meanwhile, Obamacare will add a 3.8 percent surtax on capital gains and dividends starting January 1.
The big lie is that liberals only want to tax the rich alone, because even a fiscal dunce like Obama knows that complete confiscation of the wealth of the rich won’t begin to come close to filling our fiscal hole. “Tax the rich” is always just misdirection for raising taxes on the middle class, where the real money is. So here are two predictions. Right now everyone thinks Congress will want to avoid the “taxmageddon” of a huge tax increase on January 1, and will make some adjustments in a lame duck session after the election, no matter who wins. I predict that if Obama wins, he will block any tax relief and allow all the Bush tax rates to expire, raising taxes on the middle class as well as those grubby rich folk. Even if Democrats lose the White House and both houses of Congress, the Democratic Senate might block a lame duck fix just out of spite.
But it might get even more extreme than this. I saw an Obama spokesbabe—I forget which one—on TV last night complaining that corporations needed to pay more because they’re sitting on all that cash they’ve earned (she actually left out the “earned” part, but I thought I’d try to be accurate), and ought to be “stepping up” and let the government tax it away so the government can spend it to help revive the economy. It is not enough, apparently, that the U.S. has the world’s highest corporate tax rate, which leads most of our multinationals to keep all of their foreign earnings overseas rather than bringing their capital home. Corporations should still be made to pay “a little bit more.”
This leads to prediction #2: If Obama is re-elected, look for him to propose for the first time ever a general wealth tax, where successful individuals and corporations will be required to pay an excise tax on their net worth. It’s long been a dream of redistributive liberalism, and Obama is nothing if not a “share the wealth” redistributist.
*Of course, “The [welfare] check is in the mail” is one promise liberalism actually does keep, whether there’s money in the treasury to pay for it or not.