The president’s political basis for seeking tax increases

Can Republicans convince President Obama that the best approach to fixing the federal government’s long-term budget and debt problems does not involve tax increases?

An article from Kevin D. Williamson in the latest National Review suggests the president might not care.

We have learned a few useful things from the debt-ceiling debate. The most important is that Pres. Barack Obama’s insistence upon tax increases as part of a debt-ceiling plan is largely political rather than ideological or economic. Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner had worked out the basics of a medium-term deal without tax increases, but the president dismissed it out of hand when his fellow Democrat presented it to him. For the president, taxes aren’t about revenue — they’re a cultural issue. Soak-the-rich talk is to Democrats what promises to kill the National Endowment for the Arts are to Republicans: a way to fire up the partisans. And Obama needs them fired up. A July poll found that only 31 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats expressed “strong support” for the president, down from a majority, while the number of black voters who believe Obama’s policies have helped the economy declined from 77 percent to about half. With Gitmo still open for business and U.S. bombs dropping unilaterally around the Muslim world, President Obama’s natural loyalists are hungry for some red meat. But President Obama, in addition to continuing the larger part of George W. Bush’s counterterrorism program, also oversaw the extension of Bush’s tax cuts. He owes the Left some scalps. This is worth knowing, since it means that sensible tax reforms of the sort sought by the Simpson-Bowles commission or Paul Ryan’s plan will be difficult to achieve, because they are exercises in revenue-raising rather than in class warfare. The president is positively fixated on the amortization schedule for corporate jets.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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