The King’s Speech

by Rob Roper

At his September 19 speech, Barack Obama decided to cast himself as King George to the Tea Party’s Sons of Liberty for the 2012 election. With his call for $1.5 trillion in tax increases, the wolf has definitely stripped off the sheep’s clothing. As my almost-thirteen-year-old daughter would say, good luck with that.

After Obama’s first speech before a joint session of Congress, he received no bump in the polls as one (especially he) might have expected him to. In fact, the president actually fell below a 40% job approval for the second time in the Gallup poll, and now Marist has the president below 40% as well – a new low.

It should be a cause of great concern for Democrats that the president, often heralded as one of history’s finest orators, has completely lost his power of persuasion. It seems as if the country is no longer buying what Obama is selling. Indeed, the Marist poll concludes that 77% of Americans don’t believe Obama’s plan will improve the unemployment picture.

Nevertheless, it is still worth looking at what the president is saying and how. His speech hinged on one main theme, that of making the “rich” pay their “fair share” by ending the “Buffet rule” – all this coupled with an insistence that he is not inciting class warfare, just applying basic math.

But, let’s look at that math, and also ask the question, what does it mean to pay one’s fair share? (And, when does one cross the line into paying more than their fair share for government?)

First the math…

According to a Fact Check done by the Associated Press,

On average, the wealthiest people in America pay a lot more taxes than the middle class or the poor, according to private and government data. They pay at a higher rate, and as a group, they contribute a much larger share of the overall taxes collected by the federal government.

The president’s principle charge, that Warren Buffet’s secretary should not be paying a larger percentage of her income in taxes than her boss, a notion that may or may not be true in that one particular case, is not reflective of the overwhelming reality.

The AP’s Fact Check provides a breakdown of how much average households actually pay in income taxes, payroll taxes and other taxes as a percentage of income:

More than $1 million – 29.1 percent

$50,000 – $75,000 – 15 percent

$40,000 – $50,000 – 12.5 percent

$20,000 – $30,000 – 5.7 percent

Which brings us to the second question, what is a “fair share” and what’s more than one’s fair share?

This term is bandied about quite often by those desirous of confiscating the property of others, but it is never defined in any real or meaningful way. It was refreshing to hear a young man at the Republican debate in Tampa actually ask the question, what is a fair share? Wolf Blitzer of CNN who was moderating the debate unfortunately did not press the candidates for an answer.

It is also gratifying to see some members of the media (mostly so far on Fox News) echoing the question to their interviewees. Senator Joe Lieberman answered with a perfectly horrible political, “No more than is absolutely necessary.” What does that mean?

But, we as citizens should not allow for such evasive answers. If the entire economic and tax policy for the nation as set out by the President of the United States is to be predicated on each of us paying our fair share, that term needs to be specifically defined. Otherwise, it really is just an invitation to class warfare, based not on facts but on emotion.

Emotions that can backfire. President Obama might want to remember, when George III chose to go to war over raising taxes on the American people, it didn’t go so well for him.