The Magazine

Rich Irony

On taxes, the president is all talk and no action.

May 23, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 34 • By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
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But the more the measure was argued, the less people liked it. The money it raised from ordinary Washingtonians was supposed to go to education—a worthy enough goal, but it also happens to be the new family business of Gates’s son, the second-richest man in the world. And while the tax hike was great for egalitarian symbolism, it was disappointingly short on revenue. If it was revenue you wanted, well then, the tax would need to be extended to people further and further down the income scale. Initiative 1098 established the principle and the infrastructure for a state income tax that could in time be levied on anyone. By the end of the campaign season, voters were talking of a “slippery slope,” and 1098 was very unpopular. On Election Day, it was not just rejected but crushed, with two-thirds of voters opposing it.

That is why President Obama wants to avoid the issue. George W. Bush’s tax cuts were reckless. Any serious budget-balancing plan must undo them. But to act to undo a few of them is to make it plain that even undoing all of them—raising taxes on rich and poor alike—will constitute the merest down payment on getting our fiscal house in order. And in the short term that is a political truth that no politician, not even President Obama, will benefit from acknowledging.

 

Christopher Caldwell is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.


 

 

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