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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

"This is not Class Warfare, This is Math" – The President on the Jobs Plan – Open Thread

President Obama went on the air today and argued for his Jobs Bill. His argument is based on the idea that taxes for the rich should not be less than taxes for the middle class.

Radical idea.

I forecast extreme resistance to the idea. Because it is, well, his.

What do you think, Mooses? Is there any hope for a plan supported by the President to pass through the House of No?


  1. Strummerson

    I submitted to sricki’s diary as if basically encapsulates my current thinking on the subject.  I apologize for the redundancy.  But I think the president is taking the most likely route.  I think his image has been so poisoned by the professional right that he’ll find more success with independents by being a fiery pragmatist.  His moral vision must be communicated through pragmatic arguments, not the other way around.

    There seem to be two interwoven but distinct arguments against taxing the ultra-rich.  

    One poses as pragmatic economics.  This is the ‘government is wasteful and inefficient and the wealthy are job creators’ argument.  Basically, it stands on two premises:

    1) When the government takes money from the rich, they cease to invest.

    2) The wealthy, motivated by the profit motive, spend their money in more economically sound (read stimulative) fashion than the inefficient wasteful government.

    Both of these can be readily countered with historical arguments.  When the government lowers taxes on the rich to historic levels and the economy flounders, they go into hoarding mode.  Secondly, government investment in infrastructure and in the health and education of impoverished communities ultimately benefits the economy, especially those who hold the majority of the wealth.

    We might consider how to work with these premises more effectively, crafting tax policy to incentivize investment and penalize hoarding (thought not middle class savings).  If we don’t want to tax those whom we want to be investing in the economy because it will impede the flow of capital, then fine.  But if they sit on their savings, they rates on those sums go up…way up.

    The problem is the pivot to the second argument against taxing the wealthy, which is a populist moralist discourse.  This is the “class warfare” argument that stresses how the majority of tax revenues already come from the wealthy and compares taxes to government theft.  Of course, the government is responsible for the whole system and the rise in income inequality is becoming unsustainable.  Greed is killing the golden goose.  

    But I fear that this area of debate is a loser.  This is where Americans are encouraged by right wing populists to identify not with the society as a whole, or with the class to which they currently belong, but with that to which they aspire and with a fantasy of equality that is distinctly NOT egalitarian.  Since I am the equal of Buffet, Gates, Soros, the Kochs, Forbes et al, taking their money is the same as taking mine.  It’s immoral and threatens MY economic liberty.  Now, we know that it doesn’t.  NOT taking more of their money to sustain the system and facilitate participation in the system threatens the economic liberty of the middle class.  And remember, the poor don’t have economic liberty.  No one is less free than an impoverished family.  Arguing otherwise is the proverbial “let ’em eat cake” argument.  Nonetheless, refuting this argument requires such a cultural sea-change that it is doomed to fail.  Most people prefer the self-aggrandizing delusion that we are all Steinbrenners (notice no one ever complains that the owners are overpaid in baseball?) at least morally and in potential.

    It really seems to me that we’ve got to resist all efforts to argue on the grounds of fairness and morality and argue on the basis of economics.  We can make the moral argument through these debates.  But we’ve got to foreground pragmatic economics and even consider ways to craft policy to reflect that more explicitly, even at the risk of accepting the “job creators” premise.  

    Finally, to historicize this, the second argument actually extends back to the foundation of the republic, to the conflicting visions of Hamilton (urban banker) and Jefferson (rural libertarian planter).  For a great and quick explanation, see Chris Ladd’s piece on frumforum (  Of course, what he doesn’t quite get to is the simple fact that Jefferson may have had a point 200 years ago, but we have developed into a society that resembles Hamilton’s vision.  Our economy, and our position on the world stage, cannot thrive according to Jeffersonian principles.  We are driven by urban capitalist institutions, not the prosperity of independent rural (slave owning) communities for whom cities are necessary evils justified primarily in their position as markets for rural goods. Every time any right wing populist panders to small town America as the authentic America, every time we employ the term “heartland” we validate a Jeffersonian perspective that doesn’t conform to contemporary reality, that is not only conservative but fatally out of date.

  2. jsfox

    Well since a certain class neither believe in Math or Science is this really true 🙂

    How dare Obama trot out all that mathy stuff against the “job creators.”

    Republicans keeping millions out of work to throw one man out of a job.

  3. Stipes

    in the Republican’s interest politically to pass it.  We know they don’t give a shit about the US as a whole, so their obstruction is pretty much a given at this point.

    This jobs plan will never be passed, and that will become part of Obama’s campaign for reelection, (as well as his rationale for retaking the House:  So that a bill like this can pass in 2013).  Too late to help now, but it at least brings aware independents into the fold and will probably ensure that we do take congress back.

  4. but remember, when the Republicans obstruct it is because they are just doing the President’s bidding…or is it the other way around?

    Seriously, I think the President has proposed some very good legislation over the last few weeks.  Tying tax breaks to job creation and or wage increases, love it!  Unfortunately, the TP will do what they do.

    I do look forward to see how they will spin this to make it seem like Obama wants to hurt white, hard-working people…

    BTW – I have a diary up – a series about Slavery…look for those memes to pop-up…

  5. jsfox

    … shows that the American public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy as part of a package to cut the deficit. The margins are staggering: the NYT poll shows a majority of 74 – 21; even Rasmussen shows a majority of 56 – 34. What the president proposed this morning is simply where the American people are at. If he keeps at it, if he turns his administration into a permanent campaign for structural fiscal reform, I don’t see how he loses the argument.


  6. Moozmuse

    It’s going viral, I understand. Do you think his communications people might have just woken up?

    Unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll pass, because this tactic has worked for the Repubs too well so far. Somehow, though, I think their luck may have run out, but he needs to keep this front and center to remind people every day who is to blame for the stagnation.

  7. DTOzone

    Liberals on and off Capitol Hill are hammering President Obama’s proposal to scale back Medicare and Medicaid benefits as part of his newly released strategy to cut deficit spending.

    Except they’re not

    “While we support cutting waste, fraud and abuse, we reject any proposal that cuts benefits in Medicare or Medicaid,” Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement.

    “We reject false Republican assertions that the solution to our deficit is deep cuts to programs that millions of Americans rely on, and we would hope President Obama would as well.”

    Still, a number of liberals are wary that Obama’s entitlement cuts go too far to accommodate conservatives at the expense of the middle class. Some are hinging their support for the package on the exclusion of those benefit cuts.

    “To be clear, we would fight any deal that cuts Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “But if those are taken off the table and the president advocates to tax the rich and invest in jobs, he will have a lot of support.”

  8. louisprandtl

    “The poor don’t pay taxes”..

    “They are poor because they are lazy”..

    “The welfare queens…”

    Sounds familiar?

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