(2) Ideological Breakthrough

Obama’s ultimate ambition is to break the nation’s 30-year thrall of low taxes — so powerful that those who defied the Reaganite norm paid heavily for it. Walter Mondale’s acceptance speech at the 1984 Democratic convention, promising to raise taxes, ended his campaign before it began. President George H.W. Bush’s no-new-taxes reversal cost him a second term.

On this, too, Obama is succeeding. He not only got his tax increase passed. He did it with public opinion behind him.

Why are higher taxes so important to him?

First, as a means: A high-tax economy is liberalism’s only hope for sustaining and enlarging the entitlement state. It provides the funds for enlightened adventures in everything from algae to Obamacare.

Second, as an end in itself. Fundamentally, Obama is a leveler. The community organizer seeks, above all, to reverse the growing inequality that he dates and attributes to ruthless Reaganism. Now, however, clothed in the immense powers of the presidency, he can actually engage in unadorned redistributionism. As in Tuesday night’s $620 billion wealth transfer.