Commentary Magazine


Topic: class warfare

Is Hillary Ashamed of Her Vast Wealth?

In Hillary Clinton’s recent interview with the Guardian, she gave an interesting answer when pressed on whether her exceedingly rich lifestyle is in conflict at all with her party’s class warfare. “But they don’t see me as part of the problem,” she said, “because we pay ordinary income tax.”

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In Hillary Clinton’s recent interview with the Guardian, she gave an interesting answer when pressed on whether her exceedingly rich lifestyle is in conflict at all with her party’s class warfare. “But they don’t see me as part of the problem,” she said, “because we pay ordinary income tax.”

Such is the mind of the leftist: good works are done through the government. She didn’t say she’s a good example of the deserving rich because she gives charity. She said she pays her taxes. She surrenders enough of her money to the government, and therefore she gets to keep the rest, no complaints. It’s a bit of a non sequitur: if the concern is income inequality, paying your taxes doesn’t exactly get at the root of the issue, does it?

But then Clinton protested too much: “and we’ve done it through dint of hard work,” she continued. No one really doubts Clinton herself earned her salary as secretary of state, but that’s not where most of the family wealth comes from. It comes from, instead, wealthy donors shoveling money at the Clintons, often through speaking fees. Paying Bill Clinton millions of dollars to talk about himself is honest work, sure–but it’s doubtful the public thinks the Clintons had it tough.

That’s the upshot of the Washington Post’s story laying out just how the Clintons amassed all this post-presidential wealth:

Bill Clinton has been paid $104.9 million for 542 speeches around the world between January 2001, when he left the White House, and January 2013, when Hillary stepped down as secretary of state, according to a Washington Post review of the family’s federal financial disclosures.

Although slightly more than half of his appearances were in the United States, the majority of his speaking income, $56.3 million, came from foreign speeches, many of them in China, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom, the Post review found.

The financial industry has been Clinton’s most frequent sponsor. The Post review showed that Wall Street banks and other financial services firms have hired Clinton for at least 102 appearances and paid him a total of $19.6 million.

Since leaving the State Department, Hillary Clinton has followed her husband and a roster of recent presidents and secretaries of state in this profitable line of work, addressing dozens of industry groups, banks and other organizations for pay. Records of her earnings are not publicly available, but executives familiar with the engagements said her standard fee is $200,000 and up, and that she has been in higher demand than her husband.

Here’s the thing: It’s actually OK that the Clintons are filthy rich–at least it’s OK with conservatives. There’s nothing wrong with the fact that the Clintons are rolling in money basically handed to them by the lords of American finance and Wall Street’s heavy hitters. That’s because contrary to the left’s hysterical propaganda, the financial industry is not evil; it in fact creates wealth and jobs, not to mention keeps New York humming along.

It’s perfectly fine if the Clintons go home to a giant vat of cash from Goldman Sachs and swim around in it, Scrooge McDuck-style. It’s good exercise! And there’s nothing criminal about being paid to hang out at fancy resorts and make jokes and hobnob in return for gobs and gobs of money. But the Clintons leave the impression that something’s not quite right by the way they try to spin their fees. For example:

The Clintons also sometimes request that sponsors pay their fee as a donation to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the family’s nonprofit group that leads global philanthropic initiatives. Hillary Clinton is doing this with her $225,000 fee for a speech this fall at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, according to her office.

Oh come on. The American people don’t enjoy having their intelligence insulted so brazenly. And again, there’s really no reason to be rude: the Clintons did not steal their fabulous wealth. They were paid more money than most Americans can even imagine to show up, say a few words, and maybe take some pictures. They can be proud of the lives they’ve made for themselves. The Clintons are very, very rich–completely out of the orbit of most of the country, to say nothing of the planet.

Sure, it’s not as though–like, say, Mitt Romney–the Clintons were creating jobs or helping businesses adapt to new climates, or turning around failed ventures. And it’s also true that the Clintons are generally paid tons of money just because they’re the Clintons. But trading on celebrity isn’t illegal.

Now, of course it’s possible that voters won’t love the fact that the Clintons essentially used their political power and connections, not to mention the fact that many donors believe Hillary will be the next president, to convince the wealthy to give them lots of money. But what’s the alternative? That the Clintons would get private-sector employment creating wealth, learning skills, helping local communities, and making sure workers have jobs and benefits? Liberals treated the last guy who tried that like he was the spawn of Satan. The Clintons are acting this way because they hope to capture the Democratic Party nomination, and they know their audience.

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Class Warfare Has Its Limits

In his entertaining book on the societal impact of James Bond on Britain, Simon Winder describes the Depression-era part of Ian Fleming’s life as so elite and disproportionately privileged that it seemed less realistic than a Soviet satire of Western capitalism would be. “Fleming wandered through life as a sort of walking reproach to capitalism as a rational system based on competitive Darwinian struggle,” Winder writes. “In many cradles of European civilization it had been okay for at least a hundred and fifty years to carve up people like Fleming and set fire to their mansions as a legitimate form of central heating. Somehow in Britain they survived.”

The lack of sufficient desire to eat the rich earned Britain a stability that eventually played a key role in saving Western civilization. “And if this stability was bought at the price of a few thousand Ian Flemings then that was surely an acceptable price,” Winder writes, adding: “Nobody really wanted Buckingham Palace to become People’s Sausage Factory No. 1.”

We have no such tradition of carving up successful people in America, so the affluent in the U.S. generally have less reason to worry when the non-affluent start getting antsy. But it also means that when they warn of grave societal consequences of extreme class warfare they must reach for comparisons to a bygone era in European affairs, and that means they sound like they’ve taken leave of their senses. That’s happened a couple of times recently, and the latest is contained in today’s Politico story on the rich trying to mitigate the Democrats’ unhinged politics of resentment:

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In his entertaining book on the societal impact of James Bond on Britain, Simon Winder describes the Depression-era part of Ian Fleming’s life as so elite and disproportionately privileged that it seemed less realistic than a Soviet satire of Western capitalism would be. “Fleming wandered through life as a sort of walking reproach to capitalism as a rational system based on competitive Darwinian struggle,” Winder writes. “In many cradles of European civilization it had been okay for at least a hundred and fifty years to carve up people like Fleming and set fire to their mansions as a legitimate form of central heating. Somehow in Britain they survived.”

The lack of sufficient desire to eat the rich earned Britain a stability that eventually played a key role in saving Western civilization. “And if this stability was bought at the price of a few thousand Ian Flemings then that was surely an acceptable price,” Winder writes, adding: “Nobody really wanted Buckingham Palace to become People’s Sausage Factory No. 1.”

We have no such tradition of carving up successful people in America, so the affluent in the U.S. generally have less reason to worry when the non-affluent start getting antsy. But it also means that when they warn of grave societal consequences of extreme class warfare they must reach for comparisons to a bygone era in European affairs, and that means they sound like they’ve taken leave of their senses. That’s happened a couple of times recently, and the latest is contained in today’s Politico story on the rich trying to mitigate the Democrats’ unhinged politics of resentment:

In two-dozen interviews, the denizens of Wall Street and wealthy precincts around the nation said they are still plenty worried about the shift in tone toward top earners and the popularity of class-based appeals. On the right, the rise of populists including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz still makes wealthy donors eyeing 2016 uncomfortable. But wealthy Republicans — who were having a collective meltdown just two months ago — also say they see signs that the political zeitgeist may be shifting back their way and hope the trend continues.

“I hope it’s not working,” Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot and major GOP donor, said of populist political appeals. “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

There are a great many foolish and irresponsible populist politicians in America, but they are not Nazis and they are not looking to put Ken Langone and his friends in camps. The class warfare, waged mostly by Democrats, is quite harmful enough without possessing any Hitlerite parallels. And certainly the well-to-do will not help their public image by casting themselves as victims.

But if successful Americans have begun to see the tide of class war retreat a bit, as the Politico story claims, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that their accusers on the left must themselves resort to demented behavior to try to sufficiently rile up their base because in America, like in Fleming’s Britain, the people just generally do not feel like murdering their neighbors. And this rhetorical excess does plenty on its own to dull its effects, because Americans are also not lunatics, and so are less susceptible to some of the petty frauds trying to stir up hate on a massive scale in order to remain in power.

Like Harry Reid, for example. Pete has discussed Reid’s McCarthyite campaign to tar politically conservative activists as “un-American”–a very important milestone in the Obama-era left’s use of government to assault the lives and careers of Americans who dare exercise their right to participate in the political process. Reid’s latest bout of conspiracist paranoia was to blame the Koch brothers for the American government’s debate over aid to Ukraine.

And so I have no doubt that, as Politico writes, American business owners are working to defend themselves from the creepy behavior of the Harry Reid/Elizabeth Warren/Bill de Blasio Democrats in power. But I would also submit that such attacks have limited purchase in the United States. There were not enough Harry Reids in Ian Fleming’s Britain to turn Buckingham Palace into People’s Sausage Factory No. 1, and I have enough faith in Americans to believe there aren’t enough Harry Reids here to do the same to the Kochs’ philanthropic empire.

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Inequality’s Inconvenient Truths

Pop quiz: which Tea Party fiscal conservative said the following: “If you want to live in a more equal community, it might mean living in a more moribund economy.” Since this is obviously a trick question, here’s the answer: Annie Lowrey, the economics writer for the New York Times. Lowrey was offering a bit of common sense and basic economics. As such, the Times is a strange place for it: this sort of talk is usually the province of conservatives trying to explain how market economies work.

Lowrey’s piece was occasioned by the release of a study on inequality in American cities by the left-leaning Brookings Institution. To be sure, the study’s author, Alan Berube, does not think a city with high inequality is in the clear: “It may struggle to maintain mixed-income school environments that produce better outcomes for low-income kids. It may have too narrow a tax base from which to sustainably raise the revenues necessary for essential city services. And it may fail to produce housing and neighborhoods accessible to middle-class workers and families, so that those who move up or down the income ladder ultimately have no choice but to move out.”

But the causes of that inequality, the conditions that foster it, and the surest means to reduce it all throw cold water on President Obama’s inequality rhetoric and the class-warfare battle lines the Democrats have drawn. Contrary to the rich-getting-richer rhetoric the president relies on, Berube found that between 2007 and 2012, of the cities that saw dramatic increases in inequality, “most were not places where the rich made astronomical gains, but where low-income households suffered most from the recession and weak recovery…. Inequality increased across cities despite the fact that rich households were less rich in 2012 than in 2007.”

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Pop quiz: which Tea Party fiscal conservative said the following: “If you want to live in a more equal community, it might mean living in a more moribund economy.” Since this is obviously a trick question, here’s the answer: Annie Lowrey, the economics writer for the New York Times. Lowrey was offering a bit of common sense and basic economics. As such, the Times is a strange place for it: this sort of talk is usually the province of conservatives trying to explain how market economies work.

Lowrey’s piece was occasioned by the release of a study on inequality in American cities by the left-leaning Brookings Institution. To be sure, the study’s author, Alan Berube, does not think a city with high inequality is in the clear: “It may struggle to maintain mixed-income school environments that produce better outcomes for low-income kids. It may have too narrow a tax base from which to sustainably raise the revenues necessary for essential city services. And it may fail to produce housing and neighborhoods accessible to middle-class workers and families, so that those who move up or down the income ladder ultimately have no choice but to move out.”

But the causes of that inequality, the conditions that foster it, and the surest means to reduce it all throw cold water on President Obama’s inequality rhetoric and the class-warfare battle lines the Democrats have drawn. Contrary to the rich-getting-richer rhetoric the president relies on, Berube found that between 2007 and 2012, of the cities that saw dramatic increases in inequality, “most were not places where the rich made astronomical gains, but where low-income households suffered most from the recession and weak recovery…. Inequality increased across cities despite the fact that rich households were less rich in 2012 than in 2007.”

What they need most, then, is job creation. The Brookings study finds that cities with high inequality are better at producing wealth–and for good reason. The job market in such cities tends more toward growth industries. Lowrey’s follow-up on the report includes comments from Berube on the desirability of some of the causes of inequality, even if some of its effects are undesirable:

But in some cases, higher income inequality might go hand in hand with economic vibrancy, the study found. “These more equal cities — they’re not home to the sectors driving economic growth, like technology and finance,” said its author, Alan Berube. “These are places that are home to sectors like transportation, logistics, warehousing.”

He added, “In terms of actual per capita income growth, these are not places that would be high up the list.”

Lowrey is of course not far behind with the caveats and qualifications. “That does not mean that measures intended to mitigate inequality will necessarily reduce the vibrancy of a local community,” she chimes in. But she leaves it at that. It’s not much of a defense of efforts to combat inequality. It basically amounts to: Efforts to reduce inequality will very likely pose a threat to economic growth and employment, but it’s possible, certainly, that not every attempt to mitigate inequality will crush the poor and unemployed under the counterproductive weight of liberals’ good intentions.

Roundabout rhetoric on this issue is necessary for the left because they can’t just come out and say what they mean without losing elections. Namely, that their desire to feel morally superior to others is more important than the actual welfare of their intended beneficiaries.

In fairness, elsewhere in the Times piece we do get a suggestion for reducing urban inequality without confiscating the wealth of others or destroying economic growth: “But New York and many other cities have promised to tackle inequality, in part by shifting the tax burden, but also through initiatives aimed at attracting middle-class families with cheaper housing and better schools.”

How do you cut inequality without destroying the economy? You simply import people who aren’t rich and aren’t poor! But what does this tell us about the concentration on income inequality? That it’s a case of misplaced priorities. Importing not-rich-but-not-poor residents doesn’t make any structural change to the city’s economy so much as it papers over the causes of inequality by gaming the numbers.

Democrats and the president make the case that the key to fighting inequality is making the poor un-poor. Importing middle-class folks from the suburbs doesn’t do that, does it? Sure, it may have peripheral benefits for the less well-off. But it doesn’t rescue others from poverty. It simply makes it look like poverty is less endemic. It’s a cosmetic façade, in other words. Which is what may make it so attractive to liberal policymakers.

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The Right Way to Reduce Inequality

The most recent Gallup poll, which shows a majority of Americans believe that some of their neighbors have too much money and that the government should therefore confiscate and redistribute some of it, is likely to please the president, who based his reelection campaign on class resentment. Though Gallup paints this as vindication for the president on the message, it does expose the problem with how we tend to conduct the conversation of basing policy on that message. Gallup pronounces:

Inequality is and will continue to be one of the most important domestic political issues. President Barack Obama has consistently pushed for measures that he believes would provide those at the bottom end of the socioeconomic spectrum a fairer chance to succeed, and has coupled that with consistent arguments for higher taxes on those with high incomes and wealth. At this point, the American public would generally agree with Obama that wealth should ideally be more evenly distributed — and a modest majority, consisting mainly of Democrats and independents, appears to support the idea of bringing about that redistribution through heavier taxes on the rich.

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The most recent Gallup poll, which shows a majority of Americans believe that some of their neighbors have too much money and that the government should therefore confiscate and redistribute some of it, is likely to please the president, who based his reelection campaign on class resentment. Though Gallup paints this as vindication for the president on the message, it does expose the problem with how we tend to conduct the conversation of basing policy on that message. Gallup pronounces:

Inequality is and will continue to be one of the most important domestic political issues. President Barack Obama has consistently pushed for measures that he believes would provide those at the bottom end of the socioeconomic spectrum a fairer chance to succeed, and has coupled that with consistent arguments for higher taxes on those with high incomes and wealth. At this point, the American public would generally agree with Obama that wealth should ideally be more evenly distributed — and a modest majority, consisting mainly of Democrats and independents, appears to support the idea of bringing about that redistribution through heavier taxes on the rich.

There are generally two weaknesses with how liberals talk about inequality. The first is that they usually begin by assuming inequality is detrimental to society without establishing that it is. They may be right, but it would be unwise to build redistributive policies on class warfare and demonization instead of data. An exception in this regard is the Washington Post’s Brad Plumer, who wrote an interesting piece a few weeks back about new research into “trickle-down consumption.” One example, according to Plumer: “In cities like New York, the wealthiest are competing for the most valuable apartments and bidding up prices — which has broader ripple effects.” The concept is not new, but Plumer’s post adds some interesting context.

Trickle-down consumption, of course, is really a problem in unequal spending which is enabled by, but not the same thing as, unequal income. Additionally, there are advantages to having the wealthy consume instead of save: they support businesses owned by the less wealthy, which increases the income of less well-off, and when they purchase property that will often result in an increase in their taxes. The latter is a result those on the left claim to want, and it comes about through consumption and sometimes job creation (construction, etc.) instead of confiscation. Nonetheless, the discussion is worth having and Plumer’s piece brings hard data to the table instead of stories about Warren Buffett’s secretaries.

Yet it also raises the second issue with how inequality is too often discussed: how it should be rectified. Gallup demonstrates this perfectly when it only proposes one way to redistribute income: by taxing “the rich” more. But there are all sorts of ways to try and level the playing field. Gallup is noticeably vague in giving Obama credit for proposing ways to give the poor a fair shake. There’s a good reason for that.

As I noted in December, referencing an important article on taxing the rich by Joel Kotkin, Obama’s soak-the-rich approach to taxation can easily exacerbate existing inequality. Many high-earners live in cities, where there are also a large number of low-income residents. As Kotkin explains, this makes these economies heavily dependent on the consumption of the wealthy, and raising taxes on them would hit the very industries that typically offer income-class mobility to the poor.

There’s also the issue of education. Obama sought to end the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which was designed to give low-income youth stuck in D.C.’s failing schools a chance at a better education. His party remains broadly hostile to school choice, siding with public union bosses instead.

And no discussion of inequality should omit crime. The successful policing innovations in New York City have benefited low-income neighborhoods above all. Yet politicians and leftist activists are falling all over themselves to find ways to undo the incredible work of the NYPD. As Fred Siegel wrote recently in the New York Observer:

The Kimani Gray case may fade, but the intertwined issues of crime and race will remain high on the electoral agenda. If the politicians fail to thread the needle, the danger ahead is that New York could regress to a Chicago-like situation, where the well-to-do areas are reasonably well-policed while the minority areas are left to fend for themselves regarding crime. The liberal champions of equality will have once again produced greater inequality.

So by all means, let’s talk about rectifying inequality. But Gallup’s refusal to connect any issue other than taxation with inequality mirrors the left’s own, and ensures that so many worthy policy objectives remain ignored.

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Is Warren’s Class Warfare Working?

The disconnect between the polls that show Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in a dead heat and the media conventional wisdom desperately pronouncing Obama the easy victor is being turned on its head in the Massachusetts Senate race. There, it is Republican Scott Brown that seems to be running the better campaign, yet the polls are starting to show a consistent lead by his challenger, Elizabeth Warren.

Though Brown’s approval rating is no longer the stratospheric 73 percent it was only last year according to a Democratic committee poll, he is still above water at 55 percent among registered voters and 57 percent among likely voters. A new poll shows Massachusetts voters think Brown is running the more positive campaign, 35 percent to 21 for Warren. And Brown’s strong ties to the state are not lost on voters, nor is Warren’s lack of same; only 13 percent of voters think she has a strong connection to the state. Brown’s approval rating among independents is 67 percent and 30 percent among Democrats. So what’s causing Brown’s poll slide?

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The disconnect between the polls that show Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in a dead heat and the media conventional wisdom desperately pronouncing Obama the easy victor is being turned on its head in the Massachusetts Senate race. There, it is Republican Scott Brown that seems to be running the better campaign, yet the polls are starting to show a consistent lead by his challenger, Elizabeth Warren.

Though Brown’s approval rating is no longer the stratospheric 73 percent it was only last year according to a Democratic committee poll, he is still above water at 55 percent among registered voters and 57 percent among likely voters. A new poll shows Massachusetts voters think Brown is running the more positive campaign, 35 percent to 21 for Warren. And Brown’s strong ties to the state are not lost on voters, nor is Warren’s lack of same; only 13 percent of voters think she has a strong connection to the state. Brown’s approval rating among independents is 67 percent and 30 percent among Democrats. So what’s causing Brown’s poll slide?

Alex Burns thinks it’s the natural outgrowth of running as a Republican in a deep blue state: “It’s a state so strongly Democratic that the 2010 GOP wave had little impact there, and where Brown’s 14-point lead among independents in the WBUR still leaves him trailing by 5 points overall,” he writes. That’s true: the MassLive.com report on Brown’s approval notes that he gets 92 percent support from his own party, but that only represents about one in every ten Massachusetts voters.

There’s another possibility, however, and it’s one that should concern the Brown campaign. Warren is this campaign season’s original class warrior. It was her pro-government rant that laid the ground work for Obama’s “you didn’t build that” speech, and she is only running for the Senate because the GOP blocked Democrats’ original plan for her: as the head of a new consumer watchdog bureaucracy. And true to form, her current advertising campaign attacks Brown for sticking up for private industry and business owners while Brown ties Warren to Occupy Wall Street.

But that may play right into Warren’s hands. The Boston Globe reports that Warren’s populism may be working:

In the survey, 39 percent of likely voters believed Warren “will stand up for regular people when in the Senate,” an improvement from 30 percent from a poll in February.

On the same question, Brown’s support dropped to 29 percent from 33 percent.

In what the station described as a sign that Warren’s campaign themes seem to be resonating with voters, the poll found that 35 percent of voters view Warren as the candidate who best “understands the needs of middle-class families.” Only 27 percent said that phrase described Brown.

That “regular people” question showed a 13-point swing. The fallout from Romney’s fundraiser remarks may be overstated by the media, but if the GOP gets successfully tagged as the party for the rich, Brown will be put in the uncomfortable position of having to either distance himself from his party’s presidential ticket or struggle to fight Warren’s class warfare. Brown probably never expected to be in this situation; he’s the pickup-driving local guy and Warren is the tenured Harvard professor from out of state. In almost every way, Brown is running the superior campaign. But if Warren has the right message, that might be all the overwhelmingly liberal electorate there is looking for.

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Obama’s Tax Plan Irking Donors?

You don’t have to look far for the source of Obama’s fundraising problems. His class warfare strategy, attacks on Romney’s wealth and plan to raise taxes on people making over $250,000 a year isn’t the best bait to reel in big donors. Even one top Obama bundler, R. Donahue Peebles, is opening fire on Obama’s tax plan, according to the Huffington Post. Peebles says he still supports the president, but is sick of hearing that he doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes (h/t Washington Examiner):

“I’m so tired of hearing that the rich are not paying their fair share of taxes. Yeah we are,” Peebles said. “The super vast majority of wealthy Americans do not wake up every day and say, ‘Let’s see how we can pay less than our fair share of taxes.’ They say, ‘We’re going to follow the law and we’re going to hire some good accountants to tell us how to do it. And we’re going to pay no more or no less than our fair share.’

“So to say that wealthy individuals are not paying their fair is unfair and delusional,” he said. “So what should be said is that the wealthy Americans should have their tax rates raised because we need more money. Now by the way, if they got all these tax raises it still wouldn’t put a dent in the national debt.”

Is Peebles sure he still supports Obama? Judging from his comments, it’s hard to understand why.

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You don’t have to look far for the source of Obama’s fundraising problems. His class warfare strategy, attacks on Romney’s wealth and plan to raise taxes on people making over $250,000 a year isn’t the best bait to reel in big donors. Even one top Obama bundler, R. Donahue Peebles, is opening fire on Obama’s tax plan, according to the Huffington Post. Peebles says he still supports the president, but is sick of hearing that he doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes (h/t Washington Examiner):

“I’m so tired of hearing that the rich are not paying their fair share of taxes. Yeah we are,” Peebles said. “The super vast majority of wealthy Americans do not wake up every day and say, ‘Let’s see how we can pay less than our fair share of taxes.’ They say, ‘We’re going to follow the law and we’re going to hire some good accountants to tell us how to do it. And we’re going to pay no more or no less than our fair share.’

“So to say that wealthy individuals are not paying their fair is unfair and delusional,” he said. “So what should be said is that the wealthy Americans should have their tax rates raised because we need more money. Now by the way, if they got all these tax raises it still wouldn’t put a dent in the national debt.”

Is Peebles sure he still supports Obama? Judging from his comments, it’s hard to understand why.

The president has spent the last year promoting the “Buffet rule” and claiming that raising taxes on high earners is crucial for fairness and closing the deficit. If Peebles thinks both of those positions are “unfair and delusional,” why is he bundling money for the president in the first place?

It also makes you wonder how many 2008 Obama supporters feel the same way Peebles does, but are expressing their dissatisfaction by shutting their wallets instead of talking to the press:

“What I get concerned about is the message from the Obama campaign that we only want someone who has not been successful to run for president. What do we want here? You can’t be successful and run the country? We don’t want somebody who has been successful to run it? That doesn’t make sense,” Peebles said. “So I look at that and I see that those things are becoming offensive to some of his strongest supporters, financially.

“It would be unrealistic to think that that kind of thing would not impact the enthusiasm for those who are supportive of the president, financially, and certainly would turn off others who were on the fence to say, ‘You know, what the heck with it. I’m done,'” Peebles continued. “And they go on to Romney.

Even Senate Democrats can’t bring themselves to support the president’s tax plan, which is why they blocked a vote on it this week. If Obama can’t scrape together enough votes from his own party to pass his plan yet, he’s going to have a hard time convincing the donors who would actually get hit with the tax.

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Can Class Warfare Sink Romney?

With a sinking economy and few accomplishments to his credit, President Obama has been doing the only thing an incumbent in his position can do: trash his opponent. Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record have taken a toll on the Republican candidate, but the assault on his record as an investor can only go so far. The president’s base may buy into the claims that Romney’s wealth was gained only by outsourcing American jobs abroad, but most are not that gullible. The line between throwing mud at Romney and trashing capitalism is very thin. If the president is going to go to the polls as the champion of propping up doomed businesses with bailouts as opposed to creating wealth and jobs by promoting those that can succeed, Romney will win. However, Romney’s problem is not so much his record at Bain Capital as it is the idea that he is an out of touch rich guy. And that, rather than Bain, is the real Democrat target, as today’s front page story in the Sunday New York Times rightly points out.

Seen in that light, Democratic strategists had to be pleased this week when photos of a shirt-sleeved President Obama on his working class bus tour of Ohio were contrasted with pictures of Romney jet-skiing on a New Hampshire lake while on a July 4th vacation with his family. Republicans who remember the points they scored when photographers caught John Kerry windsurfing during the 2004 campaign probably winced when they saw Romney cavorting on the water. But it remains to be seen whether Barack Obama–the candidate of Hollywood elites and who recently was hosted at a gala fundraiser in New York by Sarah Jessica Parker where his candidacy was touted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour–can convince wavering independent voters he is the champion of the working class. The question for the country is not so much who’s the rich guy in the race as who is the one who is out of touch with the country’s economic dilemma. While Romney’s weakness has always been his inability to connect with ordinary voters, Obama’s is that he is the guy in charge of an economy where employment is shrinking rather than growing.

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With a sinking economy and few accomplishments to his credit, President Obama has been doing the only thing an incumbent in his position can do: trash his opponent. Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney’s business record have taken a toll on the Republican candidate, but the assault on his record as an investor can only go so far. The president’s base may buy into the claims that Romney’s wealth was gained only by outsourcing American jobs abroad, but most are not that gullible. The line between throwing mud at Romney and trashing capitalism is very thin. If the president is going to go to the polls as the champion of propping up doomed businesses with bailouts as opposed to creating wealth and jobs by promoting those that can succeed, Romney will win. However, Romney’s problem is not so much his record at Bain Capital as it is the idea that he is an out of touch rich guy. And that, rather than Bain, is the real Democrat target, as today’s front page story in the Sunday New York Times rightly points out.

Seen in that light, Democratic strategists had to be pleased this week when photos of a shirt-sleeved President Obama on his working class bus tour of Ohio were contrasted with pictures of Romney jet-skiing on a New Hampshire lake while on a July 4th vacation with his family. Republicans who remember the points they scored when photographers caught John Kerry windsurfing during the 2004 campaign probably winced when they saw Romney cavorting on the water. But it remains to be seen whether Barack Obama–the candidate of Hollywood elites and who recently was hosted at a gala fundraiser in New York by Sarah Jessica Parker where his candidacy was touted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour–can convince wavering independent voters he is the champion of the working class. The question for the country is not so much who’s the rich guy in the race as who is the one who is out of touch with the country’s economic dilemma. While Romney’s weakness has always been his inability to connect with ordinary voters, Obama’s is that he is the guy in charge of an economy where employment is shrinking rather than growing.

Obama’s ordinary guy pose is as phony as the image of Romney as the top-hatted plutocrat from the Monopoly board game. Obama is as comfortable cavorting with the rich as Romney, and were he a Republican rather than a Democrat and the first African-American president, the mainstream liberal press would be roasting him over his frequent golf breaks and hobnobbing with the coastal elites. Moreover, Obama is misguided if he thinks economic rhetoric stolen from Occupy Wall Street protests is a political winner. While the Times may think this is no longer an aspirational society that admires rather than resents success, there is no evidence the majority of Americans agree.

While the Bain attacks have scored some points, Democrats are actually fighting on Romney’s ground when they seek to determine the election on the question of who is the better economic steward or job creator. Romney’s gaffes and general awkwardness have beguiled them into thinking his wealth and business success is a weakness. But, as Friday’s latest jobs report shows, this vulnerability on the GOP standard-bearer’s part is nothing when compared to the president’s failures. Class warfare tactics may rouse the liberal base, but they are bound to fall flat with swing voters who want to know why the president is still blaming his predecessors for the state of the country.

Thus, the Democrats’ harping on Romney’s money and what Bain did is actually a trap they are setting for themselves. Romney’s campaign has been rightly criticized for a strategy that appears to be aimed at playing it safe and avoiding the bold proposals that would provide a clearer alternative to Obama’s dependence on big government solutions. But as long as the campaign is being fought on the question of job creation and the economy, the Republican has the upper hand. Trashing the challenger is the only way to go when you can’t run on your record, but so long as Romney can point to the country’s economic decline on Obama’s watch, his business acumen remains an asset rather than a defect.

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Cracks in Democratic Unity

At the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar reports that the Obama campaign’s Bain Capital attack exposed the waning power of centrist Democrats in the party, a development that has many Democrats concerned:

Conversations with liberal activists and labor officials reveal an unmistakable hostility toward the pro-business, free-trade, free-market philosophy that was in vogue during the second half of the Clinton administration. …

Moderate Democratic groups and officials, meanwhile, privately fret about the party’s leftward drift and the Obama campaign’s embrace of an aggressively populist message. They’re disappointed that the administration didn’t take the lead advancing the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposal, they wish the administration’s focus was on growth over fairness, and they are frustrated with the persistent congressional gridlock. Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, has been generating analyses underscoring the need for Democrats to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, to no avail.

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At the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar reports that the Obama campaign’s Bain Capital attack exposed the waning power of centrist Democrats in the party, a development that has many Democrats concerned:

Conversations with liberal activists and labor officials reveal an unmistakable hostility toward the pro-business, free-trade, free-market philosophy that was in vogue during the second half of the Clinton administration. …

Moderate Democratic groups and officials, meanwhile, privately fret about the party’s leftward drift and the Obama campaign’s embrace of an aggressively populist message. They’re disappointed that the administration didn’t take the lead advancing the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposal, they wish the administration’s focus was on growth over fairness, and they are frustrated with the persistent congressional gridlock. Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, has been generating analyses underscoring the need for Democrats to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, to no avail.

The problem is, Barack Obama is facing a compelling economic message from his opponent: Mitt Romney spent 25 years building businesses and overhauling companies in the private sector; Obama, in contrast, has spent his entire career in politics and community organizing. As Romney argued effectively in his interview with Time magazine today, there is nothing necessarily wrong with Obama’s career choices. They just don’t prepare someone to deal with an economy that’s speeding toward a fiscal cliff.

In response, Obama has embraced a populist, anti-competition, anti-capitalist message. Not only is it imprudent and unhelpful to stir up those sentiments during tough economic times, it’s also damaging to the Democratic Party’s brand. And it hasn’t been politically effective so far. Several polls today show the race is tightening, and Obama actually appears to be scaring away the working class voters who he’s been trying to win over with his class warfare message. The party that emerged so unified behind Obama in 2008 already seems to be coming undone.

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The Class War Goes Hot

There are two wellsprings of class warfare in America. There is Barack Obama, whose reelection strategy is to taunt Americans about their rich neighbors. And there are the indignant loiterers of the Occupy movement, who married aimlessness to anarchism and produced a half-witted crime spree that boomer liberals then declared “meaningful.” Both want corporate bigwigs to pay up.

So does Brandon L. Baxter. We know this because in a recorded phone call about planning a terrorist bombing in Cleveland, Ohio, the 20-year-old Baxter allegedly said that “Taking out a bridge in the business district would cost the … corporate big wigs a lot of money.” The plot was foiled this week by federal authorities who revealed that most or all of the five aspiring terrorists involved were “associated” with the Occupy movement.

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There are two wellsprings of class warfare in America. There is Barack Obama, whose reelection strategy is to taunt Americans about their rich neighbors. And there are the indignant loiterers of the Occupy movement, who married aimlessness to anarchism and produced a half-witted crime spree that boomer liberals then declared “meaningful.” Both want corporate bigwigs to pay up.

So does Brandon L. Baxter. We know this because in a recorded phone call about planning a terrorist bombing in Cleveland, Ohio, the 20-year-old Baxter allegedly said that “Taking out a bridge in the business district would cost the … corporate big wigs a lot of money.” The plot was foiled this week by federal authorities who revealed that most or all of the five aspiring terrorists involved were “associated” with the Occupy movement.

Or is that irrelevant? “They were in no way representing or acting on behalf of Occupy Cleveland,” said a Cleveland Occupier named Debbie Kline. Of course they weren’t! Why would anyone think that anarchist terrorist Occupiers planning to bomb corporate bigwigs into coughing up cash would have anything to do with anarchist Occupier criminals who’ve spent a year setting fires, trashing businesses, and blocking ports to get corporate bigwigs to cough up cash? Apples and oranges, clearly.

The few existing articulate defenders of the Occupy movement note the peace-and-love vibe that abounds at protests. “I go down there every day, and I see sweet, compassionate, politically astute people,” said hippie businessman Russell Simmons about Occupy Wall Street. “I participate in their meditation daily. I see people who have high aspirations for America, who are idealistic. I see the most inclusive group that America has to offer.” Bingo! The group is so inclusive its doors are open to the likes of Brandon L. Baxter and the Cleveland Five.

There is only one entry requirement for the Occupy movement: a consuming resentment of the guy who has more than you. It is a grudge cult, a movement created to ennoble mankind’s worst impulse, and it must inevitably lead to violence. The class war must go hot.

As for Russell Simmons’s meditators, they represent a demographic with the most malleable group intellect since the Manson family—which is not beside the point. When you throw a bunch of late-comer deadheads into a pit with a gang of seething anarchists, which side do you suppose will exert its will on things?

Debbie Kline’s statement about the bombers not representing the Occupiers is legally valid but culturally useless. They both represent the same toxic political phenomenon: demonization of fellow citizens as the source of their woes. That notion is corrosive at its inception.

And it is the same corrosive idea behind the White House webpage urging Americans to “Just enter a few pieces of information about your taxes, and see how many millionaires pay a lower effective tax rate than you.”

The Obama campaign has the class-warfare brains, the credentialed thinkers (and the enlightened billionaire) who’ve drawn up a plan to make someone else pay for the fundamental unfairness of your life. If you think it’s a stretch to compare them to the class-warfare thugs of the Occupy movement just look at Europe, where the brains and thugs re-couple in strong political parties every time a bad-economy election is held. In Greece, where the evil 1 percent du jour are immigrants, the fascist Golden Dawn party may enter parliament in a few days. In the current French elections, extremists on the right and left have ratcheted up nativist rhetoric. Hungary’s Nazi-nostalgic Jobbik party recently held an EU flag burning rally to protest their longtime scapegoats, the Gypsies.

It’s worth recalling that anarchist terrorism started to rock Europe in 2010, a year before Occupy Wall Street and two years before the bomb plot in Ohio. Yes, it’s true, we’re not Europe. But that’s the point. We’re America, so why are we flirting with this garbage?

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Nothing Fair About Obama’s “Fairness”

Fairness and equality are 2012’s version of 2008’s hope and change. Barack Obama is monopolizing those brands while shirking the business of responsible governance and national purpose. Last week, millions of Americans received an unsolicited email from the White House urging individuals to “Just enter a few pieces of information about your taxes, and see how many millionaires pay a lower effective tax rate than you.” This was no ordinary piece of election year propaganda, but rather a draft notice urging citizens to report to duty and fight the class war declared by the president himself.  With titanic debt and deficit values assuming the ignorable status of imaginary numbers, he is refocusing our anxieties on the tangible fortunes of our neighbors.

Obama’s case for reelection rests on a false choice: America can retain its basic humanity via government intervention or sell its national soul for private profit. The press, as usual, is the megaphone. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll asks: “What do you think is the bigger problem in this country—unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy, or over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity?” Fifty-two percent said “unfairness,” and 37 percent said “over-regulation.” Some have pointed out that the poll sample is heavily skewed toward Democrats and the results are therefore meaningless. But that misses the larger point. The question is meaningless. Choosing between over-regulation and unfairness is like choosing between lethargy and obesity. For the past 50 years, federal regulation and income inequality have grown in tandem. See charts here and here.

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Fairness and equality are 2012’s version of 2008’s hope and change. Barack Obama is monopolizing those brands while shirking the business of responsible governance and national purpose. Last week, millions of Americans received an unsolicited email from the White House urging individuals to “Just enter a few pieces of information about your taxes, and see how many millionaires pay a lower effective tax rate than you.” This was no ordinary piece of election year propaganda, but rather a draft notice urging citizens to report to duty and fight the class war declared by the president himself.  With titanic debt and deficit values assuming the ignorable status of imaginary numbers, he is refocusing our anxieties on the tangible fortunes of our neighbors.

Obama’s case for reelection rests on a false choice: America can retain its basic humanity via government intervention or sell its national soul for private profit. The press, as usual, is the megaphone. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll asks: “What do you think is the bigger problem in this country—unfairness in the economic system that favors the wealthy, or over-regulation of the free market that interferes with growth and prosperity?” Fifty-two percent said “unfairness,” and 37 percent said “over-regulation.” Some have pointed out that the poll sample is heavily skewed toward Democrats and the results are therefore meaningless. But that misses the larger point. The question is meaningless. Choosing between over-regulation and unfairness is like choosing between lethargy and obesity. For the past 50 years, federal regulation and income inequality have grown in tandem. See charts here and here.

If government intervention corrects unfairness, as liberals insist, why when placed side-by-side, do the two look as cozy as temperature and CO2 in an Al Gore propaganda blockbuster?

Conservatives are failing entirely to take this debate where it needs to go. Over-regulation isn’t just unfair in the “it’s not right to tax my billions because I’ve earned them” sense. Overregulation is unfair for everyone. An over-regulated American housing market saw lenders forced into giving loans to buyers without sufficient credit. When it came time to pay up, the whole scheme went under in a flash, nearly taking financial markets down, and causing the job-killing recession from which we continue to suffer. If the 2008 collapse put you out of work blame a disastrous piece of liberal legislation known as the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act—not millionaires.

Federally instituted “fairness” furnishes undeserved opportunities for house-of-cards companies like Solyndra to edge out less fashionably green, but more worthwhile, competitors. Financial regulation aimed at curbing Wall Street greed only serves to discourage smaller start-up capitalists without the money to troubleshoot the regulation maze as ably as giant corporations.

Obama isn’t offering fairness at all. He’s pitching therapeutic divisiveness: “see how many millionaires pay a lower effective tax rate than you,” get mad, make them pay. In 2008, the guns-and-Bible part of Obama’s “bitter clinger” comment made headlines, but there was more to what he said. He also scolded Americans who “cling to antipathy to people who aren’t like them … to explain their frustrations.” That antipathy is the Obama 2012 campaign message. Just let him pick the targets.

Responsible parents tell their children at the first signs of self-defeating envy, “Don’t worry about everyone else; worry about yourself.” What is beneath the dignity of children is embraced by our president. If indeed our national soul now hangs in the balance, its salvation depends on how Americans respond to the calls for disunity coming from the highest office in the land.

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