If President Obama’s recent speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, is any indication (of course, what this president says is frequently incongruent with what he says later or what he does), his re-election campaign will highlight his bold and courageous opposition to … inequality.
Or perhaps his fierce anti-inequality stance is simply a pre-election gambit to rally his base, since Democrats seem to be the only identifiable group that views income inequality as a serious problem. In a recent New Republic article William Galston concisely reviews recent Gallup poll data that consistently show “Democrats are the outliers” in their views of inequality.
Let me start with a Gallup survey released on December 15, which showed that the number of Americans who see American society as divided into haves and have-nots has decreased significantly since the 2008 election….
Significantly, most of the reduction in those seeing the country as economically divided has occurred in the middle of the political spectrum. In 2008, 48 percent of independents saw an economic divide; today it’s 37 percent. In 2008, 51 percent of moderates saw a divide, versus only 38 percent now. Liberals are the only group that has become more likely to see a divided society—63 percent in 2008, 66 percent today.
Similarly, he writes, a December 16 Gallup poll asked respondents to rank three economic objectives — growing and expanding the economy, increasing economic opportunity, and reducing the income and wealth gap — as either extremely/very important or somewhat/not important. The result?
Regardless of partisanship, substantial majorities of Americans saw expanding the economy and increasing equality of opportunity as extremely or very important. Not so for reducing income and wealth gaps—21 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of independents. Only Democrats gave this goal a high priority, by a margin of 72 to 27.
When Gallup asked a sample of Americans in 1998 whether the gap between the rich and the poor was a problem that needed to be fixed, 52 percent said yes, while 45 percent regarded it as an acceptable part of the economic system. Today, those numbers are reversed: Only 45 percent see the gap as in need of fixing, while 52 percent don’t. Again, Democrats are the outliers: 62 percent of them want it fixed, versus 24 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of independents.
Thus Democrats, with President Obama either leading or following them, place a very high value on reducing economic inequality, spreading the wealth, taking from those with more and giving it to those with less. The “ultimate Occupy Wall Street slogan,” pointed to by Ann Althouse in a New York Times article: “You have more; we want more.”
This desire to take from those who have and give to those who don’t usually finds expression in President Obama’s single-minded desire to tax the rich, you know, those “millionaires and billionaires” making over $200,000 or $250,000. Obama has even acknowledged, for example, that he would consider raising the capital gains tax even if doing so produced no additional revenue:
During a 2008 debate, ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson asked the candidate if he would raise the capital gains tax on the wealthy, even if this policy resulted in lower revenue for the government. Obama answered: “I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”
But the presidential mantra of taxing the rich has become tiresome, especially in the face of growing recognition that doing so wouldn’t do much to reduce the deficit. The Wall Street Journal, for example, quotes the following calculations from a reader:
He says a 45% rate on incomes of more than $1 million would generate $31 billion, while an even more progressive tax, with rates of 50%, 60%, 70% on incomes of $500,000, $5 million, $10 million respectively would generate an added $133 billion.
That is roughly 10% of the current annual budget deficit.
But, Democrats, don’t despair. With the unwitting help of Ruth Marcus, liberal Washington Post opinion writer, I have a suggestion for you: revive and increase the marriage tax.
“The marriage gap presents a real cost,” Marcus writes.
If current trends hold, within a few years, less than half the U.S. adult population will be married. This precipitous decline isn’t just a social problem. It’s also an economic problem.
Specifically, it’s an income-inequality and economic-mobility problem. The steadily dropping marriage rate both contributes to income inequality and further entrenches it.
That’s because the educated and rich are marrying more and getting richer; the uneducated and poor are marrying less and falling further behind. “Family structure,” Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution told Marcus, “is a new dividing line in American society.”
As marriage increasingly becomes a phenomenon of the better-off and better-educated, the incomes of two-earner married couples diverge more and more from those of struggling single adults….
It’s not only that those at higher education levels are far more likely to marry — they’re far more likely to marry each other. “Men used to marry their secretaries,” Sawhill observed. “Now they marry the woman they met in med school.”
As a result, Sawhill said, “These two-earner couples at the top are just making out like bandits and these single parents at the bottom have miserable lives. If the single parents were married, their life wouldn’t be so miserable. And at the top, if these high-earning professionals weren’t getting together and forming little collaboratives, they’d be worse off.”
This new marriage gap seems tailor-made for the Democrats’ tax-and-share approach to all social problems. If about half the adults are married, and are getting richer as a result, and half are not and are thus falling further behind, how long can it be before Obama calls for a marriage tax in the name of “fairness”? In fact, he could make it a progressive, graduated tax by including a Graduate Tax: couples where both spouses have college degrees pay more, those who both have graduate degrees pay even more, etc.
Why should some be allowed to make out like bandits while others are condemned to leading miserable lives when their conditions could be equalized, in the name of fairness, by some simple tweaks to the tax code?
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