Saturday, February 28, 2009

Class Warfare, 2009 Budget Style

In the car a few minutes ago, I caught the tail end of an NPR story about Obama's budget and the plan to raise taxes on the top earners.

Publius already mentioned that the brilliance of Obama's tax plan is that it separates tax cuts for most of America--those of us earning under $200,000 a year--from tax cuts for the rich. By proposing to cut taxes for most of America while raising taxes on the rich, Obama is splitting Reagan's coalition.

Publius referenced this excellent NYT Magazine piece, and I'll requote:

Dating back to Reagan, Republicans have packaged tax cuts on high earners with more modest middle-class tax cuts and then maneuvered the Democrats into an unwinnable choice: are you for tax cuts or against them? Obama, however, argues that this is the moment when the politics of taxes can be changed.

To do this, he is proposing tax cuts for most families that are significantly larger than those McCain is offering, along with major tax increases for families making more than $250,000 a year. “That’s essentially a major part of our economic plan,” Obama said. “But it’s also a political message.” Economically, he is trying to use the tax code to spread the bounty from the market-based American economy to a far wider group of families. Politically, he is trying to drive a wedge through the great Reagan tax gambit.

Anyway, the mainstream media--even the publicly funded mainstream media--is used to treating every political move as one part of a binary. Obama debuts a budget, automatically the Republicans get to respond. This, I'm used to. It's not quite the Fairness Doctrine, but it's what passes for "balance," which is the closest we can get to "objectivity." (Never mind verifying the facts, that's way too hard).

But this story crossed a line. In addition to noting that the Republicans plan to "torpedo" the budget, NPR followed up by saying that nonprofits are concerned with Obama's tax increase because it will impact, and this is a quote, "high net-worth individuals," who are the ones who donate to nonprofits.

See, we shouldn't raise taxes on those "high net-worth individuals" because they'll donate money to the nonprofits that are going to take care of the soup lines we'll be having in the not-too-distant future.

The kicker, of course, is that they then have to admit that donations are already down just now when they're needed the most. Because even though those "high net-worth individuals" still have plenty of cash around (it's the economy! Really! it's sooo hard to buy less caviar!) they're not donating as much. With the Bush tax cuts in place.

The answer to all this is fairly bloody obvious, really. You cannot rely on rich people--even "progressive" rich people--to take care of poor people in an economic downturn (or any other time). When it's panic time, everyone takes care of herself first. The only entity that doesn't is the government.

But you know, even NPR has to recycle Reagan-era arguments that have long been disproved.

Sharpening the pitchforks, indeed.