President Obama’s Jobs Speech: Marxism Redux?

Scapegoating one group of people to convince the rest to follow your self-destructive policies blindly into oblivion is the way of demagogues. President Obama’s speech tonight teetered dangerously on the edge of this technique.

I was hoping the President would boldly announce a tax-repatriation holiday for American corporations in exchange for increased hiring in the United States. Given that American corporations hold roughly $1 trillion overseas, such a measure would potentially be a boon for hiring. Alas, the President’s economic team ruled it out, and the country missed out on a huge and cheap opportunity to drive job creation.

I was also expecting the President would call for the reduction of the one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world in exchange for eliminating tax loopholes. Fortunately, he did include some version of this proposal. That said, I will reserve my judgement until the President releases the full details.

However, the meat of the President’s proposal boiled down to one theme:

Wealth redistribution.

This twisted economic ideology has left little but misery the world over, from Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution to the Stalinist purges in the 1930s to China’s brutal cultural revolution. It is a failed ideology that consigned millions of human beings to hopelessness and abject misery.

The President’s speech often seemed to offer little but bitter and partisan class warfare. It harkened back to the days when Marxists issued rallying cries to their ideological and “noble” red-shirt proletariat to unite against the “evil” bourgeois corporatists.

Did President Obama really intend to call for a naked wealth transfer from one group of Americans to another, in the name of “fairness”? Never mind that the “scapegoats” already bear the vast majority of America’s financial burdens. Never mind that this is the same policy this administration has been pursuing with little success for the last two and a half plus years.

And this line is just priceless, because it is an outright lie:

“This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math.”

Mr. President, you’ve lost me.

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About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Conservative clean energy crusader, national security hawk, financial analyst, engineer, and former military officer.
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46 Responses to President Obama’s Jobs Speech: Marxism Redux?

  1. pino says:

    Did President Obama really intend to call for a naked wealth transfer from one group of Americans to another, in the name of “fairness”?

    Yes he did. Of course he did.

    It is, after all, who he is.

  2. Scott Erb says:

    President Eisenhower also talked about fairness in a similar light. So did President Reagan. Moreover, no Republican has ever opposed wealth redistribution completely — indeed, in terms of policy Obama is to the right of Ike, Nixon, and arguably Reagan. I’m at a loss to understand how this policy recommendations could be compared to Marxism. Marx, by the way, would have opposed wealth redistribution of this sort, he wanted the means of production to be controlled by the workers or the state, with the state replacing the market. Obama doesn’t go at all in that direction.

    By your argument any claim that those who poor, unemployed or disadvantaged should benefit by programs paid for by the taxes of the wealthier is considered akin to Stalinism. I find that incomprehensible. Again, Republicans and Democrats both, as well as just about every political party in every country have supported such programs. If the GOP says that taxes on the wealthy should never help the poor, then they’ll become un-electable. Nobody ever has opposed ALL redistribution. So I’m awe-struck by your post, it seems contrary to American political thought throughout all of history, it labels almost all politicians of the 20th Century — be they Republican or Democratic — as akin to Stalinist. I personally think the President showed last night why he’ll likely be re-elected (as I put it in my blog, he was ‘channeling Truman’ and took control of how the issue is being framed) If Republicans respond by saying any job creation and help for the disadvantaged paid for by closing loopholes on the wealthiest is akin to Stalinism then the GOP will find itself marginalized.

    I usually find a lot of good reasoned thought in your posts even when I disagree. This post seems out of character for you. Am I missing something?

    • Scott,

      I am just beyond frustrated with this President. Rather than offer a plan that would actually work, he is offering a stimulus redux, which offers a mix of tax cuts, state aid, and infrastructure projects. While the last stimulus helped avert a recession, it did not aid in long-term growth. Furthermore, the President’s speech was classic class warfare 101. He’s drawing a line between his supporters and everyone else. It feels to me like he is bribing the masses at the expense of everyone else. This is a terribly dangerous precedent that it almost impossible to reverse as the UK riots demonstrated. Either decrease taxes on everyone, or increase them for everyone. Pitting one segment of the population against the other just forces people to choose sides.

      I expect the President to propose a policy that works, not one that rewards his base and punishes the unbelievers. Aside from eliminating the mortgage deduction, I think Huntsman’s plan is far superior. If Obama were smart, he would have pulled a Clinton and adopted some of Huntsman’s better ideas. Alas he did not. Not surprisingly, the stock market is down today.

      The difference with Eisenhower was that he sold his highway system as a national security investment. Obama’s has no focus other than a make work program. I also would strongly disagree with your contention that Obama is to the right of Reagan. Reagan actually reduced tax rates by eliminating loopholes. Perhaps it was Obama’s delivery that set me off. Had he announced that he would lower marginal tax rates for everyone, but eliminate loopholes, I would have had an entirely different reaction. Instead, he made it a deliberate point to set one group of Americans against the other, by notably singling out one wealthy American in his speech.

      Frankly, I am fed up with this President. He doesn’t learn and seems completely out of his depth.

  3. Scott Erb says:

    Well, I think you have to look at the ECB’s turmoil to explain the stock market, not Obama’s speech!

    OK, I read that your response was less an argument that Obama is taking Marxist policies than frustration about his tone and direction. Fair enough. I think one can argue that tax rates should be raised on the wealthiest (who have had their taxes cut the most dramatically in the last thirty years and who have benefited the most) without it necessarily being class war. I think tax rates are too low on the wealthiest and this distorts the economy and makes it harder to cut the debt. I do think infrastructure building is important, as well as education. Every other industrialized country uses tax money for that sort of thing, with higher taxes on the wealthy.

    But I’ve been frustrated by the inability of the Republicans in the House to work with Obama when he was calling for a ‘grand bargain,’ or accept any revenue increases. The way I read it, he felt that the GOP was playing him for a fool, unwilling to compromise, trying simply to weaken him before 2012, and causing him to appear weak to his base because he wasn’t fighting for progressive causes but trying to get Republicans to compromise. I read it as a President who has had enough of that and has decided to challenge the Republicans and embrace more traditional liberal approaches. Politically it makes sense — and note that he did try to use ideas that Republicans have embraced before, he didn’t go the route the left wing of his party wants which is a massive new stimulus.

    • No doubt the ECB’s troubles are a major component. I also agree with your read of Obama’s political calculus. I think that is part of the reason I am growing frustrated with Obama. At this point, the political calculus should be a secondary concern for Obama. His primary focus should be on getting the economy moving. I agree that the Republicans in Congress have not been helpful. That said, if he simply coopted some of their better ideas as Clinton did, I think he would be in a much better position to help grow the economy.

  4. Alan Scott says:

    Scott,
    Much of what President Obama proposed is short term, targeted BS. It all sounds good. Business is afraid, that is the whole point. They know that after Obama’s short term measures are done they will be left holding the bag. You make the case that Obama is to the right of classic American capitalist Presidents like Reagan. I disagree, but even if you were to be right, you keep missing what is wrong .

    Parts of the American economy are doing very well, but it is not showing up in employment or consumer confidence. Why? After 3 years of bad times, the economy is poised to boom. So why hasn’t it? Obama, Obama, Obama. Business does not make long term decisions to hire and expand plants, based on tax credits that expire in a few years. It is exactly this re distributive philosophy that you spout and Obama threatens to enact that is the problem. From Obama-Care, to his latest economic plan, nobody believes that the President can pay for any of it. And using the Federal bureaucracy to target companies from Boeing to Gibson Guitar, is pouring gasoline on this bonfire Obama is using to burn down the country so he can rebuild it into a more fair and equitable Utopia.

    Obama has been wrong so often with his economic predictions, that anything he does just scares everybody to death.

  5. Here’s what the professionals are saying (click over to my blog for links to more from these folks): Macroadvisors says the plan would boost the level of GDP by 1.3% by the end of 2012, and by 0.2% by the end of 2013, and raise nonfarm establishment employment by 1.3 million by the end of 2012 and 0.8 million by the end of 2013. Mark Zandi of Moody’s Advisers (a former McCain adviser, FWIW) estimates that the plan would add 2 percentage points to GDP growth next year, add 1.9 million jobs, and cut the unemployment rate by a percentage point.

    The US has just about the lowest tax intake of all wealthy nations. It makes zero sense to talk of “Marxism” in reaction to proposals that were the dead center of the American political mainstream for about a half century after WWII, unless you think that Eisenhower was pretty much the same thing as Stalin. (He was not). This is not Marxism, this is not class warfare– not in the context of US history, not in the context of what every other country in the world does.

    Think context, think policy, not emotional slogans and labels.

    • I never said this stimulus redux would not result in short term growth. The last stimulus had this effect. The problem is that it is one of the crudest and least efficient ways to grow the economy, only works for a short period, and incurs more debt for not enough bang. I am simply flabbergasted that the President ruled out the tax repatriation holiday, when $1 trillion is just sitting there. He could have done a quid pro quo with businesses for jobs. Instead, the president wasted this opportunity to go on a populist rant against the “wealthy.” Huntsman’s plan with all its defects is better than the President’s.

      The reason the US has the lowest tax intake among wealthy nations is due to it’s tax loopholes. Simplify the tax code, lower marginal rates for everyone, and thereby increase tax revenue. Sure the rich may pay more, but you don’t openly alienate and demonize them as the “other,” which is precisely what Comrade Obama did. In politics, framing is everything, and the President just “framed” a group of Americans for crimes they didn’t commit. This speech wasn’t even remotely close to the center. The President is playing to the wing of his party.

      • Scott Erb says:

        Those arguments make sense. President Obama said he’d listen to GOP ideas — they should call him on it, and put forth some of those ideas. I don’t think Obama demonized anyone, he quoted Warren Buffett in fact. He also said he thought the wealthy if asked would be willing to pay their fair share. Demonization happens in politics, but while his speech was firey, it seems to me his words were carefully chosen.

      • The whole problem with the economy is that it needs a short-term boost. Capitalism works really, really well over the long haul; we don’t need any overhaul.

        As to why our tax intake is so low, you are correct that our corporate tax rate is nominally high, but loophole-ridden so that we actually take in little taxes. This is not true as to personal income taxes, though.

        Your main substantive criticism of the speech is that it didn’t contain a repatriation holiday. Well, there’s an argument from experience against such a policy, explained by Pete Davis thusly:

        This Joint Committee on Taxation letter to Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) on April 15, 2011 estimated a $25.5 billion revenue increase over three years as U.S. multinationals rush to repatriate dividends at a 5.25% tax rate, 85% less than the present law 35% rate. The problem is that the federal government was also estimated to lose $53.2 billion over the next seven years as corporations increased dividend payouts and relocated overseas. This is an extreme example of short-run gain and long-run loss, but that’s exactly what we did in 2004-2005, when we first adopted this for one year. President Obama is opposed because studies showed that repatriation did not create promised jobs – firms cut jobs – and most of the benefit went to dividend recipients and to stock buybacks. However, if he wants to make a lot of U.S. high tech multinationals very happy to improve his reelection chances, his stand could change.

        (My emphasis). So there’s an argument that the repatriation holiday would actually have been a deeply cynical, zero net gain policy.

        It just doesn’t make sense to believe that Pres. Obama, in citing Warren Buffett and arguing for his own taxes to be raised, was demonizing some “other.” In this country in the past 30 years, the wealthiest 1-5 percent have not really been a minority facing discrimination. You need to formulate a policy argument as to why, say, returning marginal rates on income earned over $250,000 is a bad policy.

        The point of political commentary is to engage with the substance of the speech itself and the policy proposals it contained. I submit that retreating to emotional words like “Marxism” is a retreat from substance, and a retreat from rationality.

        • “The whole problem with the economy is that it needs a short-term boost. Capitalism works really, really well over the long haul; we don’t need any overhaul.”

          A fair point. I primarily disagree with the approach. While the President’s plan might help avert another recession, I think more of the same is poor policy. The last time he used this approach, jobs grew in the short-term, but jobs growth quickly decelerated (and also coinciding with the PPACA). Not surprisingly, employers are already suggesting that the plan won’t lead to a hiring spur.

          “So there’s an argument that the repatriation holiday would actually have been a deeply cynical, zero net gain policy. ”

          Sure, but I am not arguing that the President mechanically follow the same policy of 2004-05. He can attach strings to the corporate repatriation holiday.

          “You need to formulate a policy argument as to why, say, returning marginal rates on income earned over $250,000 is a bad policy.”

          My chief contention on class warfare was on political, not policy grounds. Scapegoating one group of people has never worked well historically, and it is frankly beneath the President to engage in these tactics. The President can wink and nod all he wants, but his tactics are unambiguously clear, and frankly not helpful in fostering a political dialogue in this country.

          Policy-wise, returning marginal rates on income earned over $250k is bad policy because people will respond by finding both legitimate and illegitimate ways to shelter their income (think the Lauffer curve). A more effective strategy would be to simplify the tax code by eliminating loopholes (which I believe may be the President’s approach on income tax?), and reduce rates across the board to everyone. This would better achieve the President’s goal of “fairness” than what he is currently proposing.

          As for the word “Marxism.” I see it as no retreat from substance. It is a political movement in which the state seizes the means of production in favor of the worker at the expense of the capitalist. While Obama is not seizing the means of production, he is certainly pursuing policies that favor big labor at the expense of capitalism (see the NLRB strike for instance.). As for rationality, your site includes an article called “Inside the Minds of the Tea Party“, yet the article provides no link to the Tea Party and your actual claim. It would be like me talking about a scientific study on the “endowment” effect, and calling it: “Inside the Minds of the Democratic Party.” Talk about a retreat from substance and rationality.

        • There was no scapegoating in the president’s remarks.

          your site includes an article called “Inside the Minds of the Tea Party“, yet the article provides no link to the Tea Party and your actual claim.

          I was, perhaps unfairly, assuming a certain amount of background knowledge. I recently linked to a longitudinal political study, showing the following about Tea Party supporters:

          [T]he Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today. … They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

          More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics.

          Plus, when we keep in mind the past decade– it’s not like these white folks were out protesting the Bush tax polices that created the debt, or Medicare Part D, or the Congressional GOP’s abandoning of PAYGO, or No Child Left Behind, or the Bush administration’s asserted prerogative to detain US citizens without trial, or to wiretap US citizens without warrant, or the Bush administration’s pursuit of an expansive definition of federal power at the expense of states in Raich, or the Yoo/Cheney theory of an unaccountable executive– we recall that people in the Tea Party don’t really care about the deficit or federal power. The Tea Party stands for tribalism and resentment.

          So, a story that showed that whites think of white ethnics like Italians and Irish as “American,” but think of non-whites professing similar pride in ethnicity as less American, is certainly relevant to the topic of the views of Tea Partiers.

          • “There was no scapegoating in the president’s remarks.”

            Well, that is obviously a matter of opinion. It certainly felt like veiled scapegoating to me.

            “The Tea Party stands for tribalism and resentment.”

            Again, I disagree. The Tea Party simply stands for a smaller federal government. Furthermore, Bush got a ton of flak for supporting Medicare Part D (as he should have). For evidence, just take a look at his book, Decision Points.

            Again, these same people (the Tea Party) are also not out protesting the President’s naked violation of the Constitution in his Libyan War, so I am not sure how they are inconsistent in not opposing the power of the executive branch in the Bush administration.

            Furthermore, this incessant focus on and blanket application of purported racism on the Tea Party is getting old. It is a tried and true old saw of the left. The left is basically arguing that since Tea Party supporters don’t support a black President, they must be racist. Furthermore, so what if many Tea Partiers do not view illegal immigrants favorably? Frankly, why should they? Illegal immigrants committed a crime by illegally entering the country. Is having an unfavorable view of criminals inherently racist?

            Are there racists in the Tea Party? Of course. Are there rascists in the Democrat Party? Of course. Does this make the entire party rascist. Of course not.

        • The Tea Party simply stands for a smaller federal government. Furthermore, Bush got a ton of flak for supporting Medicare Part D … (the Tea Party) are also not out protesting the President’s naked violation of the Constitution in his Libyan War

          Well, “naked violation” is a bit more stark than I’d put it, but, at the best, on thin ice? Absolutely fair.

          But as I pointed out above, there were a whole bunch of budget-busting and federal-over-state-favoring policies that the Tea Party weren’t protesting in the Bush era. (And “flak” isn’t the same thing as “protests all over the country”). Given the Tea Party’s failure to materialize in the Bush era– and, of course, the survey data that has emerged recently– it’s safe to conclude that they aren’t primarily interested in policy results.

          The left is basically arguing that since Tea Party supporters don’t support a black President, they must be racist.

          No.

          The left is basically arguing that since Tea Party supporters never lifted a finger to protest all the stuff the Bush administration did that go against their ostensible principles, we can’t take these professions of newfound principle at face value.

          Furthermore, so what if many Tea Partiers do not view illegal immigrants favorably? Frankly, why should they? Illegal immigrants committed a crime by illegally entering the country.

          This is double wrong.

          First off, the survey I linked to mentioned “immigrants”, not “illegal immigrants”. (And blacks, of course).

          Second off, illegal immigrants did not commit a crime by entering the country illegally, any more than you committed a crime by driving 5 miles over the speed limit. It’s not a criminal violation to enter the country illegally. Now, you can argue (1) that existing regulations of immigration are ideal as they are, and (2) there should be criminal penalties for violating these laws, if you’d like.

          Are there racists in the Tea Party? Of course. Are there rascists in the Democrat Party? Of course. Does this make the entire party rascist. Of course not.

          It’s the Democratic Party, but your point is accurate. It is also 100% accurate to say that the events of the past 10 years demonstrate that the Tea Party isn’t primarily motivated by policy concerns. The longitudinal study cited above adds additional support for this view.

          I don’t think it’s fair to say “the Tea Party is 100% about racism”. I think tribalism– having a side to which they’re dedicated over any policy concerns– is the best way to explain them.

          (Google “Ezra Klein + ‘motivated reasoning'” for more on what might be motivating them. Short version is, we give the benefit of the doubt to our pals, and not to our perceived rivals. So you’re inclined to defend the Tea Party because they’re on your side (reading their “low regard for immigrants and blacks” as “having an unfavorable view of criminals”), and I’m inclined not to give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s nothing so simple, for TP’ers, as “I oppose Obama because I hate all black people”, not in my opinion).

        • Oh, for sure, both sides are capable of tribalism, and idiocy.

          But we musn’t engage in moral relativism on how blacks and Tea Partiers vote.

          Remember, up til the 1960s, blacks split their votes between the two parties, I believe tilting somewhat towards the Republican Party. Then, as the parties sorted out ideologically in the wake of desegregation, the Republican Party first absorbed, then was entirely co-opted by, the Dixiecrats. The Republican Party of the past half century has been at best indifferent to the rights of black citizens.

          There’s no comparable history of persecution for the resentment-driven whites of the Tea Party.

          • Being a victim of discrimination never justifies that victim to engage in further racism. What you appear to be arguing is that acts of racism are justified if and only if one has been a victim of racism. I am assuming this is not what you mean, but it seems to be the logical conclusion of your argument. What am I missing here?

        • I don’t think I’ve talked about racism in my comments at all.

          Racism means, I think, the belief in one’s race’s superiority. Tribalism is the tendency for people to stick together with those of the same “tribe,” and judge outsiders more harshly.

          Blacks tend to vote for Democrats because today’s GOP was formed when Dixiecrats joined the GOP, adding Confederate iconography to their state flags in an effort to play up “states’ rights” to violate the rights of their black citizens. In contrast, the Tea Party is very sad because they lost the last presidential election. (Just as they were when Clinton was president in the 1990s, and Republican congressmen did stuff like subpoenaing the WH Christmas Card list and shooting watermelons in front of the media in their back yards to prove that Clinton murdered Vince Foster).

          • Fair enough. I would agree that most African Americans vote Democratic, because Democrats are more likely to support their interests. That said, I think Tea Party followers vote Republican, because Republicans are more likely to support their interests. For instance, Tea Party backers tend to be wealthier and better educated than the general public. Hence, they are more likely to support a party that champions individual responsibility and lower taxes. They also tend to support smaller government.

            If you want to talk about things that make you livid about the GOP that’s fine. I will always remainder the Democratic Party for voting for and then constantly undermining the war effort just to play politics and get their man elected (they succeeded). Meanwhile, many of my friends were still fighting, and some of them never made it back home to their families. I will never forget that and will always be disgusted by it.

            The bottom line is that most politicians are selfish, amoral creatures who strive for nothing but to perpetuate their own existence. And neither party has a monopoly on them.

        • “I would agree that most African Americans vote Democratic, because Democrats are more likely to support their interests. That said, I think Tea Party followers vote Republican, because Republicans are more likely to support their interests.”

          I don’t think that’s the case– I think that, even though the TP is wealthier, it’s not generally so wealthy that it is among the tiny number of people who benefit from Republican governance.

          “If you want to talk about things that make you livid about the GOP that’s fine.”

          Well, no. What happened was, I said that the TP is all about tribalism without apparent policy views. You said, “well, but black people almost all vote Democratic.” I said, “there’s a historical and continuing reason for that.”

          Now, you are making the plausible rebuttal that the TP is voting in its interests (I disagree, but if true, your point is a sound enough rebuttal). But I think the contention that the TP, which is the GOP base, doesn’t appear to have policy views, given the experience of the last ten years and the survey data, stands unrebutted.

          So the Democratic undermining of the occupation of Iraq, apart from being wholly imaginary, is irrelevant to this discussion.

          In contrast, the Dixiecrats (and the claims of “welfare queens” and a “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks) are relevant.

          I’m up for the larger discussion of why we like the parties we do (or, I guess, hate the parties we hate), but comment #44 on this thread may not be the most convenient place for it…

    • pino says:

      Macroadvisors says the plan would boost the level of GDP by 1.3% by the end of 2012

      We could just take $1 trillion and spend it on lollipops and the GDP would go up. It’d go up because GDP has a government spending component. The goal is to get the NON-governmental component to go up.

  6. james kelly says:

    Mr. Hazlett, you’ve lost me. You hear only what you want to hear, and more and more sound like an up and coming Fox News Pundit.

    • James,

      I only listened to and read the President’s speech. I don’t even have cable, so I wasn’t influenced by Fox News. The speech and its prescriptions didn’t inspire me and contained segments that were completely alien to many of my beliefs. I just called it like I saw it. This President veered sharply to the left in this speech. It is more of the same, just a different day.

      • james kelly says:

        Sean, I apoligize for the smart ass comment above. For the record, I am a white, Christian , Republican small businessman. I have a “cadillac” health plan, money in the bank, and some reasonably safe investments. I am 56 years old. I don’t own a television. I don’t like my internet searches being guided by my preferences as percieved by Madison avenue, or anyone else.

        I have considered myself a “Revolting Republican” since the late “80’s. (You may take that either way.) Mr. Gingriches popularity, the rise of talk radio and Fox News have turned my party-of-choice and politics in general into something more akin to Pro “wrestling”. I feel as if I’ve been hit from behind with a folding chair!

        The big picture as I percieve it: It can be said that, since President Nixon, We’ve had an unending parade of big business friendly adminstrations. It is not over yet. The stock market is up and wages are down. Profitable business closed and relocated overseas in the quest for even more profit (verrry pa tri ot ic). Except for environmental rules, business has benefitted from continuing deregulation, free trade agreements, lower tax rates and higher subsidies (Yeah, me too). Higher education has been essentially denied to the poorer American social classes. A redistribution of wealth is happening in this country that is undeniable.

        It seems the middle class is being strip mined of the last of its wealth.

        Earlier post-depression administrations realized that unions could be more than just a noisy pain-in-the-ass. In conjunction with good paying public sector jobs, union wages became the premier tool (via friendly legislation) to put cash on the streets of America. This results immediately in a boost to entry level hiring by retail level business and their suppliers and gradually in higher paying jobs as middle management and skilled labor are added.

        It’s a fair assumption that if union and public sector wages were cut by 30%, the American economy would collapse. Is there a better method?

        While trickle down economics will remain an important part of Americas future economic health, it has been well proven over the last 30 years to be a poor and inefficient substitue for good paying jobs, and does not produce them.

        In general, I approve of the presidents speech and plan, especially regarding a boost to small business. But I need more than just another tax break, I need a viable middle class.

        yhos
        J.K.

        • “A redistribution of wealth is happening in this country that is undeniable.”

          It depends on which period to which you are referring. Since 2001, the share of aggregate income by the wealthiest 5% of Americans has actually slightly decreased (according to the U.S. Census Bureau). In 2001 it ws 21.0%. In 2009, it was 20.7%.

          “In general, I approve of the presidents speech and plan, especially regarding a boost to small business. But I need more than just another tax break, I need a viable middle class.”

          While I clearly don’t approve of the President’s speech or plan, I do agree with you that the middle class is losing out in modern America. I think it is driven primarily by globalization and productivity increases. It seems to me as if capitalism was almost too successful. It has made productivity so efficient that businesses no longer need humans to be productive. I don’t think either party has a great solution to this conundrum. I know I certainly don’t.

  7. Alan Scott says:

    reflectionephemeral,

    ” the dead center of the American political mainstream for about a half century after WWII, unless you think that Eisenhower was pretty much the same thing as Stalin. (He was not). ”

    I do not get the Eisenhower connection. We called Obama a Marxist, we did not call Eisenhower a Marxist or Stalin.

    • We called Obama a Marxist, we did not call Eisenhower a Marxist or Stalin.

      Of course you didn’t. That’s because allegiance to the Republican Party is about tribalism and feelings of resentment, not about policy.

      If the whites who constitute the Republican Party considered Obama a “Marxist” for any policy reason, rather than emotional ones, they would also consider Eisenhower a Marxist. Here are the tax rates under Eisenhower (more detail at the Tax Foundation’s website):

      $10,001 $20,001 $60,001 $100,001 $250,001
      1950 38% 56% 78% 89% 91%
      1952 42% 62% 80% 90% 92%
      1954 38% 56% 78% 89% 91%
      1956 26% 38% 62% 75% 89%
      1958 26% 38% 62% 75% 89%
      1960 26% 38% 62% 75% 89%

      Here’s what Eisenhower said about cutting taxes at that time:

      Eisenhower… thought no issue more flagrantly demonstrated [Democrats’] partisanship than their bill to cut taxes… Eisenhower considered such an idea reckless and dangerous at a time when he was trying to narrow the deficit in the federal budget. He urged Republican leaders to “denounce the Democrats every step of the way.” If they succeeded, the tax cut would “bring back inflation and… cause the cost of living to skyrocket.” Following his own advice, he condemned the tax exemption at a press conference on 23 February [1955] as “some kind of heights in fiscal irresponsibility.” Although unable to persuade the House, Eisenhower won in the Senate, thereby stopping what he considered a sordid Democratic effort “to buy votes with the public’s money.”

      Here’s what Eisenhower said about Social Security:

      Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.

      Here’s what Eisenhower said about war spending:

      This country can choke itself to death piling up military expenditures just as surely as it can defeat itself by not spending enough for protection.

      All of this is, of course, far to the “left” of anything Pres. Obama’s ever said. If Republicans had principles underlying their hatred of President Obama, those principles would compel them to similarly condemn President Eisenhower as a “Marxist”, a “socialist”, a “fascist”. But those terms of abuse Republicans direct at the president aren’t about any of his policy choices; they are simply emotional outbursts from Republicans who feel sad that their team lost the last presidential election.

  8. Scott Erb says:

    Eisenhower refused to lower marginal tax rates which at the peak were near 90% (they were highest in Ike’s administration). He said that lowering rates when the country had high debt was wrong. He wanted the wealthy to shoulder a far greater burden than Obama does. Nixon expanded social welfare spending (indeed, most of our social welfare program was built during the Nixon and Ford years, and supported by both Presidents. Nixon bragged about being the first President to spend more on domestic programs than defense.

    Sean, I think you’re reacting to the President taking a more partisan and fighting tone. He hasn’t been doing that. The left had similar frustrated reactions to Bush when he was most partisan. Yet if you read the transcript, you’ll see he actually said some positive things about Republican plans and avoided embracing the more aggressive plans the left wing of his party want. But Democrats and many independents and even Republicans think the wealthy should pay more given the circumstances — you can’t really expect a Democratic President to focus purely on policy proposals that are in line with the conservative perspective. I’m really interested in the deficit reduction plan, and hope that it leads to the GOP countering with good ideas and the two sides finding compromises. One can hope!

    • “I’m really interested in the deficit reduction plan, and hope that it leads to the GOP countering with good ideas and the two sides finding compromises.”

      Unfortunately, I suspect it will reduce the deficit through more aggressive defense cuts and higher taxes for anyone making above $200K, which for families working in places like Manhattan is tough to live on. I think cutting defense is fine as are tax increases in the intermediate term. That said, the President should spread the pain, though I doubt he will.

      I also have no doubt that Obama’s words were carefully chosen. That said, I believe they were meant to shame people who have no reason to be ashamed. It was essentially the Democratic equivalent of a Republican saying something to the effect of, “No one wants to be on food stamps. No one wants to be on unemployment. Yet most who are would agree that tax payers ought not provide these benefits indefinitely. This isn’t political grandstanding. This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math. With that in mind, I propose phasing out unemployment benefits after 52 weeks.”

      I’m pretty sure most Democrats would be livid after such a speech, and half the population would write off this candidate. This speech had a similar effect on me.

  9. Scott Erb says:

    Sean, you can’t be serious. He’s advocating a jobs program that only closes some loopholes and still leaves our wealthiest paying the least taxes in the industrialized world. The equivalent of what you said would be if he wanted to massively increase tax rates. He doesn’t. The wealthy were paying more taxes after Reagan’s cuts than they would be after what Obama proposed. And if the GOP doesn’t agree to some compromise on this, the Democrats may find what you call “class warfare” to be the most effective campaign tactic. By the way, have you read this:
    http://www.truth-out.org/goodbye-all-reflections-gop-operative-who-left-cult/1314907779

    • “He’s advocating a jobs program that only closes some loopholes and still leaves our wealthiest paying the least taxes in the industrialized world. The equivalent of what you said would be if he wanted to massively increase tax rates. He doesn’t. The wealthy were paying more taxes after Reagan’s cuts than they would be after what Obama proposed”

      How do you know this? I haven’t seen the details of his proposal yet, and as I know from experience, when Obama releases the details of things he says in speeches, they turn out to support left wing causes more often than not. Remember, I was burned two or three times by agreeing with his speeches only to have been bamboozled when the President actually released the details of his plans. Perhaps the plan is out there, I just haven’t seen it yet. Therefore, I have no basis on which to agree or disagree with your claim that Obama’s plan “still leaves our wealthiest paying the least taxes in the industrialized world.”

      Your strong reaction to my analogy, I think, provides some support for my claim of class warfare, and why the manner in which the President delivered his speech may have alienated many people in the population.

      As for the article, I broadly agree that the GOP mainstream is increasingly favoring the less rational and more ideological. That said, it seemed a bit extreme to me, particularly on the “usual claims” of GOP racism, theological orthodoxy, and warmongering.

      • Scott Erb says:

        I get angry and frustrated at the national Republicans. I like my GOP State Senator and State Rep (a neighbor). I like my two Republican Senators. I generally find your blog, pinos and many other conservatives to be reasonable. I don’t even think it’s the GOP mainstream that are more ideological. I think it’s a core of the party that has come to dominate because they come vote in primaries and ride talk radio and other more extreme voices. I see the President try to compromise, get sand kicked in his face over and over, and my friends on the left getting angry that Obama is constantly trying to find common ground with a party that simply wants to destroy him. I am now hoping that the Democrats have a big year in 2012 not so Democrats can control the agenda, but that the extremes of the GOP get discredited (sort of like a reverse 1972, when McGovern’s candidacy hurt the Democrats). I’m sure the fact that I like Obama biases me here, but it’s getting ever more frustrating as it appears that the GOP won’t even consider any kind of meaningful compromise at a time when we need it.

  10. “I think it’s a core of the party that has come to dominate because they come vote in primaries and ride talk radio and other more extreme voices.”

    I worry about this as well. I feel like the party is lacking an intellectual rigor that died with William F. Buckley. The reason I started this blog was to make a humble attempt to change this state of affairs.

  11. “I am simply flabbergasted that the President ruled out the tax repatriation holiday, when $1 trillion is just sitting there. He could have done a quid pro quo with businesses for jobs. Instead, the president wasted this opportunity to go on a populist rant against the “wealthy.””

    I was hoping for something around repatriation as well, but personally I’m not going to get too concerned about the plan yet until the specific details come out. What bothers me most about it in the meantime, though, is that it seems like another “just sign now, you’ll get the details later” sell job that we’ve heard at least 3 times already that haven’t been too successful.

    I said over on another blog that it seems to be a “Patriotism vs. Responsibility” stalemate that we’re in right now. The government’s asking us for more patriotism by giving more money, and yet we’re considered “unpatriotic” when asking in return where that money’s going to go or whether it really gets there. To me it’s similar to a spoiled teenager who wants an advance on their next week’s allowance to go buy food (“or else they’ll starve!”) even though they just blew their current allowance on booze and Xbox. When you question it, all they do is cry and say that you “obviously want them to starve to death” and how greedy you are eating three times a day and all they’ve had is cheese puffs. haha!

    At any rate, I’m suspicious of any proposal under any administration where the main “sell” for it is the flag. In those situations I’m always wondering, “What’s the catch?” which, based on the markets seems to be what others may be wondering as well.

  12. Alan Scott says:

    reflectionephemeral,

    ” That’s because allegiance to the Republican Party is about tribalism and feelings of resentment, not about policy. ”

    I disagree. With us it is all about policy.

    ” If the whites who constitute the Republican Party considered Obama a “Marxist” for any policy reason, rather than emotional ones, ”

    You people use race to slander anyone who dares disagree with you about policy. You people use race to distract from the President’s failures . If Barak Obama pursued Conservative policies do you really believe we would call him a Marxist ? Here is a clue, we would not . You know it is all about policy, but you play the race card . You guys are the ones who use the President’s race as a weapon.

    ” they would also consider Eisenhower a Marxist. Here are the tax rates under Eisenhower ”

    No we would not. I give you full marks for posting the tax rates under Eisenhower. So let us compare Eisenhower’s time to Obama’s time. Taxes were much higher in the 1950s than they are now. So you reason that for us to be consistent , since Eisenhower fought to keep taxes high, we should call him a Marxist.

    First you will notice that Eisenhower inherited high rates from his Democratic Party predecessors. He was not for raising them above where they were. Second , why were taxes so high to begin with. WW2, ten years before had been the cause for those rates . I believe Eisenhower was wrong. But the real question you should ask is, if today’s Republicans say high taxes are bad for the economy, why were the high tax 1950s so good? Well grab a chair and let me tell you.

    After WW2 the United States was the only big country in the World that did not have large portions of it’s businesses flattened. We were in a sweet spot for decades. We could get away with high taxes and socialist tendencies. By the late 1960s Japan and West Germany, and others had recovered and built new factories that could out compete a complacent United States.

    We can no longer afford to have our capital taxed at such high rates. The rest of the world is no longer as flattened as it was in the 1950s.

    • You people use race to slander anyone who dares disagree with you about policy. You people use race to distract from the President’s failures .

      This is made up in your brain, and is not true.

      If Barak Obama pursued Conservative policies do you really believe we would call him a Marxist ?

      Yep. That’s what we see.

      In the Bush era, the Republican Party supported massive deficits, expansive executive and federal power, cap and trade policies to reduce pollution, and Keynesian stimulus in 2001 and 2008. Now, with a Democratic president, the GOP opposes these policies not merely as unsound or poorly implemented, but as tyrannical, impossible, and unconstitutional.

      The individual health insurance mandate was, of course, a Heritage Foundation/GOP policy from back in their pre-insane days. Here’s some background:

      in 1991, a group of conservative academics proposed … the individual mandate, which says that everyone who can afford health-care insurance has to buy it. That means no free riders, no healthy people waiting until they get sick to buy insurance or stick the rest of us with the costs of their care. “We did it because we were concerned about the specter of single-payer insurance, which isn’t market-oriented, and we didn’t think was a good idea,” says Wharton economist Mark Pauly, one of the idea’s authors.

      For the next 18 years or so, that’s the role the individual mandate played. It was what Republicans proposed as a smaller-government alternative to the health-care plans favored by liberals. In November 1993, Sen. John Chafee, a Republican from Rhode Island, proposed the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act. The legislation became the GOP’s semiofficial response to President Bill Clinton’s health-care bill, and it was eventually co-sponsored by such influential Republicans as Bob Dole, Richard Lugar, Chuck Grassley, and Orrin Hatch. The other major Republican alternative, the Consumer Choice Health Security Act, included Jesse Helms and Trent Lott as cosponsors, and also included an individual mandate. …

      In Massachusetts, Mitt Romney’s 2005 health-care plan used an individual mandate. In the Senate, Utah Republican Bob Bennett joined with Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden to offer the Healthy Americans Act, which included an individual mandate and attracted more bipartisan support than any other universal-coverage bill in history. In the 2008 Democratic presidential campaign, Barack Obama actually opposed the individual mandate—though he reversed himself after the election, once his policy advisers had convinced him of the policy’s worth. As recently as June 2009, Grassley was telling Fox News that there was a “bipartisan consensus” in favor of the individual mandate. “That’s individual responsibility,” he said, “and even Republicans believe in individual responsibility.”

      Eisenhower inherited high rates from his Democratic Party predecessors. He was not for raising them above where they were.

      This is made up in your brain, and is not true.

      That means, to my mind, that we cannot afford to reduce taxes, reduce income, until we have in sight a program of expenditures that shows that the factors of income and of outgo will be balanced. Now that is just to my mind sheer necessity.
      – President Dwight Eisenhower, February 17, 1953

      At that time, of course, there was a Republican Congress (and, to be fair much weaker party discipline). So back in the Eisenhower era, fiscal conservatism meant balancing budgets, rather than bankrupting the treasury through unsustainable fiscal policies.

      Regardless, if you think Pres. Obama’s a Marxist (or a socialist, or a fascist), you would also be compelled to consider Pres. Eisenhower a Marxist– if there were any principled reason for this name calling. Of course, there is none. It’s all simple venting of spleen, without any principled or policy grounds whatsoever.

    • Whoops– shoulda closed that blockquote tag after “necessity”, the end of Ike’s quote. My apologies.

      • Scott Erb says:

        What Reagan and Bush the Younger did was drive up debt during a boom. That is anti-Keynesian. Keynes said stimulate the economy when you have a recession, pay back the stimulus and run surpluses during a boom (to have money for a stimulus in the next recession). Driving up debt during booms was insane – and while it happened under Reagan and Bush’s watch, neither party stood up to stop it. The reason the stimulus is controversial is because of that debt — debt we should not have. Obama’s plan is better because it continues a stimulus (with some new ideas, some old) but doesn’t drive up debt because he pays for it by closing some tax loopholes enjoyed by a small number of very wealthy who aren’t hurt by the recession.

  13. Greg says:

    An excellent conversation. The more I think about it, the more I seem to like Republican points of view, or at least Mr. Hazlett’s. Am I a Democrate? I have to rethink this. Have the parties changed?

  14. Alan Scott says:

    reflectionephemeral,

    Thanks for the discussion. By this time your liberal brethren are usually out of ideas and merely tell me I am a troll.

    “You people use race to slander anyone who dares disagree with you about policy. You people use race to distract from the President’s failures .

    “This is made up in your brain, and is not true.”

    You brought up race I did not.

    ” If Barak Obama pursued Conservative policies do you really believe we would call him a Marxist ?

    “Yep. That’s what we see.”

    I am non plussed.

    You personally put the most anti Conservative radical in either House of Congress, into the White House, and now that his Marxist policies have failed, you have disowned the poor guy and want me to adapt him . No, he is your child .

    ” In the Bush era, the Republican Party supported massive deficits, expansive executive and federal power, cap and trade policies to reduce pollution, and Keynesian stimulus in 2001 and 2008. ”

    Like any good lie it does have a few elements of truth. The massive deficits had to do with national security, kinda like FDR’s deficits in WW2. The expansive federal power again had more to do with security issues than economic ones. Most of the elements in the Republican Party that supported crap and chirade, and Keynesian economics have fortunately been purged. There is plenty of room for those guys in your party.

    Heritage has also fortunately corrected itself. I mean your party was once full of clansmen and it fixed itself.

    ” Eisenhower inherited high rates from his Democratic Party predecessors. He was not for raising them above where they were.

    ” This is made up in your brain, and is not true.”

    I got the numbers from the website you provided.

    Sorry I can’t get to the rest of your points. You made way too many and I am way too long.

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