Thursday, April 21, 2011

Obama Talks, But Skips the Walk

In his speech last week on the American debt crisis, Barack Obama volunteered that a number of millionaires would be delighted to volunteer to pay more to support the government.

Well, with an income last year  of $1.7 million Mr. Obama is one of those very "millionaires" of which he speaks.  How many dollars is he willing to contribute to his cause? Not a one. Not a dime, not a penny. In fact, quite the opposite.

Mr. and Mrs. Obama paid a small fortune to accountants to generate 53 pages of tax forms designed to avoid paying his "fair share." In those 53 pages, Mr. and Mrs. Obama apparently took advantage of every single tax-minimization tool, every exclusion, every loophole available to them. Deductions? Yep. Capital gains treatment? You bet. Tax credits? Lots.

Mr. Obama wants the wealthy to pay more. Fine and dandy. When's he going to start? The Obama's paid a lot of taxes on their income last year, $454 thousand to be precise, or about 25% of their income. But that left them with $1.3 million free and clear. To parrot Mr. Obama, I have trouble believing they "need" all that. I mean, their rent, medical care and transportation are free, or more accurately, I'm paying the freight. They get a food allowance of, what, $50 thousand a year? That'll buy a burger or two, even a nice arugula salad. Why does he feel he needs to keep so much while he is constantly pointing out the many who need more and getting a free ride to boot?

Granted, the Obama's made a number of generous (and tax deductible) donations last year, but isn't that still pretty selfish of them, making their own decisions on where that money goes? Why not cut out the private charities and put the money where his mouth is by giving it to Treasury secretary Geithner and the other 2.75 million federal bureaucrats to spend as they see right and proper? Isn't that more the American way that Mr. Obama thinks made our nation great? Further granted that spreading an extra couple hundred thousand dollars between nearly 3 million public servants doesn't amount to much, but isn't that the point? It's going to take  ton of money to finance all the "investments" that Mr. Obama outlined in his speech and his budget. Best get started!

To the point, why doesn't Mr. Obama make a really tangible offer to lead, something we ordinary people can see and count? Perhaps he'd pony up at least as much as the maigned Bush tax rates call for while skipping all those horrible "loopholes for the rich?" Volunteering to step up to the top Bush rate of 35% would cost the Obama's an extra $174 thousand, really not much for a family of their wealth.

Even more impressive would be a true feat of leadership. I'd like to see Mr. Obama name his new, fair rate for the wealthy, and then pay it.

UPDATED and BUMPED: Gregg Easterbrook, writing at Reuters, has similar thoughts in Why Obama Should Pay More in Taxes.

No comments: