White House seeks to ‘balance campaign rhetoric with governing’

Traveling the television talk-show circuit this weekend, Barack Obama’s aides and advisers tested the waters for likely public response should the new president completely gut his campaign pledge to middle-class Americans that “You will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime.”

Mr. Obama has already signed tax hikes on alcohol and cigarettes, with no exemptions for the middle class. But the aides indicated the president now contemplates going much further.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Sunday said he cannot rule out higher taxes to help tame an exploding budget deficit. Meantime, President Obama’s chief economic adviser, National Economic Council Director Larry Summers, would not dismiss raising them on middle-class Americans as part of a health-care overhaul.

On network TV Sunday, both Mr. Geithner and Mr. Summers sidestepped direct questions on Obama’s intentions about taxes. But Mr. Geithner said the White House was not ready to rule out a tax hike to lower the federal deficit; Mr. Summers said Obama’s proposed health-care overhaul needs funding from somewhere.

This was all completely predictable. Idealistic leftists (that is to say, would-be-looters with intellectual manners and pretensions) have been arguing for a century that they could fund massive and popular hand-outs to the masses — free schooling, free retirement pensions, free medical care, whatever — merely by increasing taxes on “the rich.” And for more than a century, the little men with the green eyeshades and the slide rules have been pointing out to them, “No you can’t.”

As you increase tax rates on “the rich,” the first thing you learn is that “the rich” are not a fixed target. “The rich” hire bankers and lawyers to help them find legal ways to move their money — and, if it gets bad enough, themselves — into “tax shelters,” out of the local jurisdiction, or (finally) offshore.

Raise taxes high enough, and receipts can actually drop.

In the former Soviet Union, combined taxes could often add up to more than 100 percent of a person’s income. How could anyone pay such rates? The answer is that they didn’t. They fled, they hid their assets, they bribed officials to look the other way. They doubtless still do.

But the first casualty was something American politicians still count on — that most citizens will want to voluntarily “pay what they owe.”

Second, and more importantly, what the number crunchers are also at endless pains to point out to their unhappy political bosses is that Ð even, if by some miracle, you could round up all “the rich” at once, hold them upside down and shake them, setting them loose with nothing but their underwear and a begging bowl — it STILL wouldn’t provide enough to fund their endlessly multiplying welfare schemes.

To do that, you have to tax the same “middle class” to whom you’re promising all those benefits.

“The simple reality remains that his ambitious overhaul of how Americans receive health care — promised without increasing the federal deficit — must be paid for,” concluded Philip Elliott of The Associated Press Sunday night, in what purported to be a piece of “straight” news reporting on the network TV appearances.

But in the first place, if the goal is to change health care so it costs less, why does that have to be “paid for”? This is like reducing your family budget by eating cold cereal for supper on Friday night instead of steak dinners, and then whining that somehow the transition to cold cereal must be “paid for.” If the steak dinners used to cost $100 and the cold cereal with milk now costs $3, you’ve saved $97 for some other purpose. What do you need new money to “pay for”?

But probably the most accomplished piece of siren song in Mr. Elliott’s AP report was his explanation that the president’s men hit the TV trail this weekend to float tax-hike trial balloons “as the White House sought to balance campaign rhetoric with governing.”

Wow. When public figures get into trouble for cheating on their wives, do we report that they were “seeking to balance their marriage vows with the need to find some action while they’re away from home?” Do we then admire those who have managed the best “balancing” act?

Of course not. Humans may be fallible, but if someone breaks a marriage vow, they’re breaking it, not “balancing” it against some other, equally legitimate “need.”

Similarly, the notion that breaking a vital, make-or-break, unambiguous campaign promise somehow merely shows a statesmanlike grasp of the need to “balance” campaign-trail promises that the boobs should never have been dumb enough to believe in the first place, against the vital current need to loot more from their pockets, is appalling, repulsive, and utterly corrosive to anything that remains of Americans’ civic virtue and trust in government.

If the goal were accuracy, what should have been reported is that Messrs. Geithner and Summers this weekend floated tax-hike trial balloons “as the White House sought to learn whether it can break the most important campaign promise Mr. Obama made last year in order to get elected, without suffering the kind of defeat in 2010 that could make Ron Paul the Speaker of the House and Rush Limbaugh the majority leader of the U.S. Senate.”

Mr. Obama is under no “obligation” to break his campaign pledge and seek tax hikes. He could simply ask Congress to start repealing the most expensive parts of our current socialized medical scheme for the poor and the elderly, informing doctors and patients they’re just going to have to go back to negotiating their own payment arrangements as they did before 1965, without any 35-hour-a-week government bureaucrats overseeing the process.

The whole scheme is going to collapse, eventually. Why not start taking it apart while it can still be done in an orderly manner?

One Comment to “White House seeks to ‘balance campaign rhetoric with governing’”

  1. jbrook Says:

    In principle, I concur. It’s just a hard pill to swallow after having paid “premiums” for 45 years. Probably we should progressively decrement benefits reaching zero for those now 20 and younger.

    However, I won’t lose any sleep over this, because Congress doesn’t have the will to face the issue.

    Buy gold and silver – invest in your future!