President Barack Obama blasted Republican budget reform proposals in his national address Wednesday and announced his plan for solving the budget deficit, which can be summarized as: Tax rich people because they should bear “a greater share of this burden.”
Obama’s class-warfare rhetoric painted a portrait of two Americas, two competing ideologies and two visions for the nation’s future. The battle, he said, is “about changing the basic social compact in America.”
His vision of a government taking ever-more from its productive citizens, then acting as a kind of national conscience and clearinghouse that decides who should get the spoils, left us chilled and wanting a different America, one of individual initiative and self-responsibility, of voluntary participation in our community life, and of voluntary contributions of time and money to our fellow citizens in need.
“From our first days as a nation,” he said, “we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity.” He went on, “we are a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.”
But then, almost dismissive of the American traditions he had just described, the president said, “There has always been another thread running throughout our history — a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.”
And so he outlined all the many tasks of government that should be preserved. His plan relies on demanding more-prosperous Americans pay more in taxes, and he would further complicate an already objectionable tax code by “limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans” — another attempt to divide the country based on economic status.
President Obama mostly correctly diagnosed the problem when he said the “debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.” The nation faces a budget deficit this year of $1.65 trillion and a national debt of $14.2 trillion.
Higher taxes historically have not always yielded more in tax revenue to government. The opposite is true. As economist Thomas Sowell noted this week, “Cuts in very high taxes ended up bringing in more revenue to government in the Coolidge, Kennedy, Reagan and Bush 43 administrations.”
President Obama’s approach is not a vision consistent with our nation’s founding. Perhaps, as foreseen by Benjamin Franklin, “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” President Obama is correct that there are two competing visions for the future of the nation; one born of our nation’s founders and that honors individual achievement and prosperity, or one that extorts from it.