“President Barack Obama struck a confrontational tone with Republicans as he attended a high-dollar fund-raiser Monday night on Park Avenue.
“‘We are in a battle — a battle for the hearts and minds of America,’ Obama told about 60 guests who anted up $35,800 each to attend the dinner. ‘This is going to be a tough fight over the next 16 months.’…
“‘We have not had a willing partner,’ Obama said.”
“So here we are back at the same old political stand, though even Mr. Obama concedes that today those he routinely calls ‘millionaires and billionaires’ pay at least some tax. The President’s complaint, echoing billionaire Warren Buffett, is that too many billionaires pay a lower rate than regular salary earners. So even as he endorsed tax reform in general yesterday, Mr. Obama insisted that one of his reform ‘principles’ is that people who make more than $1 million must pay a higher tax rate than middle-class earners.
“There’s one small problem: The entire Buffett Rule premise is false, as the nearby table shows. In 2008, the last year for which such data are available, the IRS reports that those who made more than $1 million in adjusted gross income paid an average income tax rate of 23.3%.
“That’s slightly lower than the 24.1% rate paid by those making between $500,000 and $1 million, probably because the richest are like Mr. Buffett and earn more from capital gains and dividends. The rate for a relative handful of the rich—400 people—fell to 18%, the modern equivalent of Barr’s Gang of 21. But nearly all millionaires still paid a rate that is more than twice the 8.9% average rate paid by those earning between $50,000 and $100,000, and more than three times the 7.2% average rate paid by those earning less than $50,000. The larger point is that the claim that CEOs are routinely paying lower tax rates than their secretaries is Omaha hokum.”
“President Obama has tried for months to convince critics on the left that entitlement programs such as Medicare had to be cut in order to save the programs, but he seems to have yielded under pressure from his political base.
“In his new $1.5 trillion deficit-cutting plan, unveiled Monday at the White House, Obama backed away from the changes he had been talking about for months.
“Those changes had been part of Obama’s pitch as recently as Sept. 8, when in his speech to a joint session of Congress Obama called for changes to the popular insurance program for Americans age 65 and over…
“‘He’s pulled way back on those proposals specifically on Medicare, Medicaid,’ says Alison Fraser of the conservative Heritage Foundation, ‘Even on Social Security, which at one point was in the mix, now it’s completely off the table. So it’s a disappointing step, rather than an encouraging one.'”
“When the president unveiled the second half of his stimulus it became clear that this package has nothing to do with helping people right away or averting a double dip. This is a campaign marker, not a jobs bill…
“This wasn’t a speech to get something done. This was the sort of speech that sounded better when Ted Kennedy was delivering it. The result is that we will get neither short-term stimulus nor long-term debt reduction anytime soon, and I’m a sap for thinking it was possible.
“Yes, I’m a sap. I believed Obama when he said he wanted to move beyond the stale ideological debates that have paralyzed this country. I always believe that Obama is on the verge of breaking out of the conventional categories and embracing one of the many bipartisan reform packages that are floating around…
“The White House has decided to wage the campaign as fighting liberals. I guess I understand the choice, but I still believe in the governing style Obama talked about in 2008. I may be the last one. I’m a sap.”
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From August 2009.