The president seems to think that if he calls class warfare “math,” it’s suddenly not class warfare. Also, the man’s version of the last two decades of economic history has always struck me as at best flawed and, more properly speaking, barmy. During the campaign he assiduously worked to give the impression that the 2008 financial crisis was caused by George W. Bush’s tax cuts (something even the official studies of the crisis never suggested) and that the 1990s economic boom, which didn’t even begin on Clinton’s watch, was launched by Clinton’s tax hikes.
Also, the idea that the rich hadn’t been paying their fair share is at least debatable. When Obama took office in 2009, the richest 5 percent of Americans paid almost 40 percent of all federal taxes, and the richest 1 percent paid 22 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. If you count only federal income taxes, the top 5 percent and top 1 percent paid, respectively, 59 percent and 37 percent.
But none of that matters. Obama was reelected on a twofold promise. Part one was to make the wealthy pay their fair share. Part two: fix our debt crisis, which Obama himself has conceded is chiefly driven by entitlement spending. Right or wrong, he’s done part one, according to the standards he laid out in the campaign (although he did want to raise taxes on incomes starting at $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples but settled for $400,000 and $450,000, respectively). The fiscal-cliff deal raises $41 in taxes for every dollar it cuts in spending — not just by raising rates on the wealthy, but also by raising payroll taxes on everyone. The revenues from making the rich pay their fair share will slow the sinking of America into an ocean of debt about as much as throwing all the swizzle sticks off the Titanic would have delayed the inevitable.
Heck, the deal actually increases spending and the national debt. So, clearly, promise number two remains unfulfilled.
Will Obama act on the second part of his mandate? It doesn’t look good.