Sunday, April 15, 2012

Eat The Rich, A Secular Sermon


Just because President Barrack Obama wants to skin the millionaires, this does not mean that he counts no millionaires among his campaign contributors.
The same fat cat one per centers upon whom Mr. Obama is prepared to shower crony capitalist bucks will undoubtedly contribute lavishly to national Democratic campaigns. And even those who are not so favored will be happy to throw a few hundred thousand into the collection basket as a down payment on Mr. Obama’s elephant ears.
Over the years, the purchasing power of the dollar has declined precipitously, the result of inflation brought on by the unwillingness of presidents and congresses to pay down the national debt with tax increases and spending cuts. For this reason, it takes more worthless greenback to buy ear time and a place at the table.
A million bucks ain’t what it used to be.
Even if all the millionaires in the United States were by some swish of the magic wand to become as greedy, selfish and slothful as Mr. Obama and Connecticut’s Democratic congressional delegation imagine them to be, rivers of campaign contributions from the one percenters would continue to flow into Democratic coffers. Even if Mr. Obama and the three Democratic millionaires in Connecticut’s congressional delegation – U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro, among the ten richest legislators in the U.S. House; U.S. Representative Jim Himes, who made his big bucks on Wall Street working for a firm that profited mightily from the sub-prime mortgage collapse; and Senator Richard Blumenthal, who married well – were to invite millionaires to the next Jefferson, Jackson, Bailey fete and cannibalize their assets, campaign funds still would swell the feeder streams that lead to Democratic victories Washington D.C.
Connecticut, as everyone knows, has an abundance of millionaires. Mr. Obama intends to make the eating of millionaires a central part of his political strategy through the eponymous “Buffet Rule,” so named after Warren Buffett, whose secretary is said to have paid more in taxes than the billionaire one percenter. The Buffet Rule, co-sponsored by Mr. Blumenthal, would impose a 30 percent tax rate on all income earned by Americans making more than $1 million a year. This Damoclean sword is not expected to fall upon the necks of the rich anytime soon. A lean and hungry Congress is thinking on it.
Mr. Obama this year escaped flogging as a millionaire because he has been too busy flogging millionaires to write one of his bestselling books, which in the past had pushed him over the edge. Embarrassingly, Mr. Obama’s secretary this year paid more in taxes than the president, according to figures supplied by ABC News.
As a general rule, Americans brought up on the malisons of St. Luke upon the rich – “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation; woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger” – would be happy enough during our long and agonizing “Made in Washington and Wall Street” crony capitalist recession to see the rich hanging on hooks in Hell.

Demagogic politicians have strummed Luke’s chord for decades. Mr. Obama has been much in the habit of affirming the more recent malisons of President Teddy Roosevelt and his fifth cousin Franklin, both of whom were progressives, one an aspiring and the other a born to the purple millionaire.

“Eat the rich” is politically titillating both as a political platform and a bumper sticker. However, appropriating all the riches of Buffet and other one percenters in the United States would not make ascratch in the country’s National, State and Municipal obligations. When operative, the Buffet Rule is expected to bring in $47 billion to the U.S. Treasury, a drop in an ocean of debt.

Total national debt in dollar terms is expected to double between 2008 and 2015 and will grow to nearly 100% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a measure of the value of everything produced in the United States. Not included in this projection are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac obligations; obligations arising from direct investments made in response to the 2000 financial crisis until such time as there is a call on them, and payouts for Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare. Payouts to Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) over the next 75 years will significantly exceed tax revenues and consequently require funding from borrowing or other tax resources.  
The eat the rich demagoguery, to be sure, will draw public attention away from a suicidal spending death spiral, and that is its chief purpose. Winning public office is an irresistible consolation for the lean and hungry politician Shakespeare’s Cesar warns us to be wary of.

The members of Connecticut’s progressive congressional delegation, all Democrats, seem content to spout Mr. Obama’s party line in their own election campaigns, seemingly unaware that the bulk of revenue flowing into Connecticut’s coffers has been supplied by the very hedge fund managers they and the president so easily condemn.

Mr. Blumenthal, who seems to be having a difficult time transitioning from his previous position as Connecticut’s Attorney General to Congress, waxes enthusiastic over the Buffet Rule: “This legislation would ensure that people with the highest income -- including millionaires and billionaires -- pay their fair share of taxes. They should pay the same rates as hard-working, middle-class Americans. Unconscionably, current tax loopholes allow the wealthiest Americans who make most of their income from investments to pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families."
A Connecticut Post reporter notes in his story that the bill, “widely seen as a political device that will enable Democrats who vote for the measure to accuse Republicans who vote against it of coddling millionaires,” will be useful as a campaign instrument.
Eat the rich and their taxable income disappears, at which point Main Street is left holding the tax bag. In the absence of spending cuts, it did not take long for the Woodrow Wilson 1913 income tax, a 1 to 7 percent progressive tax levied to reduce crippling tariffs, initially affecting only one percent of the population, to spread from those favored by Wall Street to those taxed on Main Street. 
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