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Waging 'class warfare'? [The conversation]

September 20, 2011 |  9:22 am


President Obama put a proposal on the table Monday that aims to reduce the federal deficit in part by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, who, he says, haven’t been paying their fair share. Obama’s calling it the “Buffett rule.” Others are saying it’s “class warfare.” So, which is it? Here’s a round-table discussion, as it were, of opinionators across the political spectrum.

Pros and cons of Obama’s proposal
Obama's proposal has some dubious elements, but he gets the big picture right. The centerpiece of his tax proposal is the same one he's been advocating for years: ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and simplifying the tax code. Winnowing the mass of deductions and loopholes will broaden the tax base, enabling Washington to collect more revenue even if it lowers rates for many businesses and individuals. [...]

Obama's plan may not be the perfect blueprint, but it's built on the right foundation.                                                     
-- Los Angeles Times editorial

Tax the super-rich
The more serious inequality problem facing the United States involves overall wealth, not just income. While the top 1% of Americans earned 21% of the nation's income, they owned a staggering 35% of the wealth in 2006-07, the most recent year for which statistics are available. We should be taxing that wealth directly, and not merely focusing on million-dollar incomes. [...]

There is nothing that prevents us, then, from thinking outside the box, and doing something more than tinker with the status quo. Rather than draconian cuts to Medicaid or Medicare, why not a wealth tax?

-- Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott, Los Angeles Times

Obama’s engaging in 'class warfare' -- and it’s about time
Not only have the forces of the wealthy managed to have their way with relative ease, they've actually been able to convince many of their victims to join their side. […]

As for Obama's engaging in class warfare -- that is now precisely what he's doing.
It's about time and not a moment too soon. In fact, it has been way too long in coming.

-- Rick Ungar, Mother Jones

Actually, ‘class warfare’ is just a symbolic point
And [Obama] is both too sensible and too cautious to argue for class warfare. But he clearly is more than willing to make a symbolic point. For implicit in his proposals is a recognition of the fact that there is something deeply dangerous about the direction in which our economic elites have led us.

-- Ellis Cose, The New York Times

This is about the rich paying their fair share
Republicans accuse the President of instigating "class warfare." But it’s not warfare to demand the rich pay their fair share of taxes to bring down America’s long-term debt.

-- Robert Reich, Salon

It’s time to move beyond disproportionately rewarding the wealthy
In the libertarian view, the rich are entitled to their gains because they worked for them. But this ignores how structural changes in the economy such as globalization, financial deregulation, and the rise of the knowledge-based economy has disproportionately rewarded the wealthy. At the same time, we've failed to reinvest in government programs that once leveled the playing field, such as financing for community colleges and public universities.

-- Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones

Republicans need a reality check
Spare us the histrionics. The GOP and its upper-crust patrons have been waging an undeclared but devastating war against middle-class, working-class and poor Americans for decades. Now they scream bloody murder at the notion that long-suffering victims might finally hit back.

-- Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

Um, actually Buffett is wrong
Let’s hope that Warren Buffett is better at managing funds than he is at tax policy.  After Buffett complained that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does, Barack Obama decided to call his new class-warfare taxes “the Buffett Rule” and emphasize that he wants to make taxes more “fair.”  But was Buffett right?  According to an AP fact check — and just about every ounce of common sense that exists outside of the class-warfare fever swamps of the White House these days — not at all.

-- Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Should Obama be in the business of picking winners and losers?
It’s not just individual wealth redistribution the President is championing here. He’s picking winners and losers in the free market and ensuring that some of the winners he does not like are forced to become losers. It’s corporate wealth redistribution to corporations the President picks.

-- Eric Erickson, RedState

Is Obama’s plan a cover-up?
But listening to Mr. Obama drone on about what’s a “fair share,” one gets the sense he sees tax reform not as a worthy goal in itself but merely as cover for his big tax increase.

-- Ira Stoll, Reason

Obama’s winning hand?
The Buffett Rule isn't a law so much as a foreshadowing. This is the debate the White House wants to have in the next year. This is the debate it thinks it can win.

-- Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

GOP shouldn’t let this distract them
Republicans would be best served by supporting the 'Buffett Rule' -- so they can move on to more important fights, like regaining the White House in 2012.

-- Mark McKinnon, The Daily Beast


President Obama's tax leverage

Editorial: Is it a jobs generator?

Taxing the wealthy to stimulate the economy?

Obama's speech: What about my pothole, Mr. President?

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: President Obama speaks in the White House Rose Garden in Washington on Monday. Credit: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

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