Obama's revengonomics won't help economy

Conn Carroll

There are 1.1 million more unemployed Americans today than when President Obama was sworn into office in 2009. The number of Americans in poverty has risen by 6.4 million.

Unemployment is up 9 percent, the number of food stamp recipients is up 45 percent, and home values are down 13 percent. If Obama were to seek re-election based on his economic record, he would surely lose.

That is why Obama and his political advisers have determined that income inequality, or "fairness" as they call it, is the defining issue of our time.

"In the last few decades, the average income of the top 1 percent has gone up by more than 250 percent to $1.2 million per year," Obama recently said in Osawatomie, Kan.

"Now, this kind of inequality -- a level that we haven't seen since the Great Depression -- hurts us all."

And how does Obama propose to reverse this income inequality? Through something he calls "the Buffett Rule," which would force all Americans making more than $1 million a year to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.

Defending this tax hike in Nevada this week, Obama said, "This has nothing to do with envy. It has everything to do with math." Which sounds like a nice line until you realize that Obama is refusing to show his work.

When White House press secretary Jay Carney was pressed to provide the numbers on how much revenue Obama's Buffett Rule would raise, he refused. "I'm not going to give you a schedule of how broad individual tax reform would break down and what impact it would have," Carney said. "The president simply believes that as a matter of principle that unfairness ought to be changed."

What unfairness? According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 20 percent of earners paid almost 70 percent of all federal taxes (that includes income, payroll, estate and corporate taxes).

That is already a higher percentage than the almost 55 percent of all income they earned. Despite Obama's heated rhetoric, America already has the most progressive tax system in the developed world. In no other country do the wealthy pay a higher percentage of income tax revenue than those in the United States.

Sure, some millionaires may game the system to pay a lower rate. But on average, the top 1 percent of earners already pay a 29.5 percent effective tax rate. That is compared with a 14.3 percent rate for middle-income Americans and a 4 percent rate for the lowest-income Americans.

The reality is that Obama's agenda would do nothing to stop rising income inequality. Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, told Talking Points Memo:

"His policies are really trivial. Yes, it would be good to maintain the estate tax and get the top tax rate to the Clinton-era level, but the vast majority of the story was in before-tax income, not changes in tax rates. Here Obama has been as bad as Bush."

Obama's economic agenda is not about creating more jobs, spurring economic growth or even reducing the deficit. Liberal economists have already readily admitted that.

Obama's "fairness" agenda has nothing to do with "fairness" as most Americans understand it. The meat of his agenda, the tax hikes, the banker prosecutions, the punitive energy producer regulations, all have one purpose: to drive Obama's liberal base to the polls on the promise that he will bring "justice" to the hated 1 percent.

Voting for Obama's revengonomics may make liberals feel better, but it won't put more money in anyone's pocket and it won't put anyone back to work.

Conn Carroll is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at

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