Barack Obama is convinced that the Buffett Rule is a political winner — and he won’t stop talking about it. He and his team are sure that it casts him in a rosy glow — and that its light is harsh on millionaire Mitt Romney (as if Obama isn’t also a millionaire!).
The Senate will vote on the Paying a Fair Share Act Friday. Regardless of whether it passes there, it won’t pass the House. The Obama camp is counting on that Republican resistance:
Though the legislation is probably doomed in the Republican-led House even if it succeeds in the Senate, the White House believes the bill appeals to the public’s sense of economic fairness, a theme that Obama has sought to accentuate as he ramps up his reelection campaign in a sluggish economy.
The Obama campaign has been eager to paint the president as a champion of the middle class and cast his prospective GOP challenger, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who earned a personal fortune as manager of a private equity firm, as out of touch with ordinary Americans.
“Republicans thus far, by and large, have not supported the idea that we should eliminate the capacity for hedge fund managers to pay taxes on their income at a remarkably lower rate than average Americans,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday. “The president thinks as a matter of fairness that we should do away with that and that millionaires and billionaires should pay at a rate that’s not lower than secretaries or other folks who are just trying to make ends meet.”
As a reminder, the Paying a Fair Share Act would require anyone earning at least $1 million a year to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. While the president touts it as a deficit-reduction idea, it would actually raise just $47 billion in new revenue, barely a dent in the $15.6 trillion debt.
Many liberals hit conservatives with the “hypocrite” label for opposing the Buffett Rule because it barely affects the deficit. Don’t conservatives supposedly like anything that reduces the deficit by any amount at all? The elimination of the slightest bit of waste, for example, counts with conservatives. Why don’t we like a slight tax increase on those most able to pay it?
We’re not hypocritical to criticize the president for the Buffett Rule for two reasons: (1) As The Washington Examiner’s Phil Klein recently pointed out, when we tout the elimination of waste, it’s usually for its own sake, not for the sake of deficit reduction, whereas the president repeatedly introduces the Buffett Rule as one of his principal ideas for shrinking the deficit and (2) We have good reason to suspect the Buffett Rule is just the beginning of Obama’s tax reforms and we know the final product of those reforms would be counterproductive for deficit reduction because the president would have subordinated the correct priority of economic growth to his priority of fairness. If the goal is deficit reduction, growth is most important.
The president thinks this rule appeals to Americans’ sense of “economic fairness,” but at least one crucial group of voters — swing independents — profess themselves unimpressed with measures that aim primarily at fairness. As more people grasp the importance of growth to both employment and deficit reduction, they’ll agree with those swing voters: The president’s priorities are off, especially in this economy.