May I beg your indulgence for being a little late in bringing up the most astonishing of all facts concerning the Buffett Rule, which was blocked in the Senate more than a week ago?
I don’t know how I missed it but it’s so fascinating that I want to mention it, despite being tardy: if the Buffett Rule had been voted into law, it would have raised enough money to operate the government for 11 hours.
The figure came originally from Mitt Romney, but the Washington Post’s The Fact Checker did the math and reported today that Romney is right. Indeed, Fact Checker awarded Romney the “rare and coveted” Geppetto Checkmate. It tells you everything you need to know about the president’s approach to solving our economic problems.
Think about it: After all the president’s speeches and the enormous effort devoted to making the Buffett Rule law, we learn that it is financially negligible. In a time when the country is struggling economically, the president spent his time and political capital promoting what is essentially a frivolous scheme.
President Obama has said, of course, that he would be in favor of raising taxes on the very rich on the basis of fairness, even if such a policy didn’t add a dime to the treasury. Well, now we know just how little it does add! But it speaks volumes about the president’s definition of fairness. As revealed in the Buffett Charade, here is President Obama's idea of fairness: taking money from some people, even if taking it is useless in any economic sense. This is the cornerstone of President Obama’s thinking about economics. Is that fair in any sense of the word?
An editorial in the Orange County Register noted:
The Buffett Rule wasn't about revenue, economics or fairness; it was about pandering to voters, some of whom, to their shame, seem to relish the idea of punishing people who make a lot of money. That attitude, more akin to covetousness than to a spirit of fairness, seems largely to dissipate as people make more money. Not too surprisingly, it begins to seem less "fair" to punish success after one has tasted success than when success was viewed from a distance.
Sadly, the president's pandering to the lowest of the electorate's inclinations is to be expected in the midst of his reelection campaign. Despite his promise in his first campaign to elevate political discourse, Mr. Obama has shown himself to be a willing practitioner of precisely what he promised to reform: politics as usual. If he were sincere, he clearly had other options.
Isabel Sawhill of the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution points out one thing that the Buffett Rule would have done:
If the Buffet rule affects very few people, does little to reduce the deficit, and adds a new layer of complexity to the tax system, why bother with it? The answer is that it affects the perceived fairness of the system which, in turn, affects the willingness of the middle class to pay their fair share. Eventually, to plug a gargantuan deficit hole, we are going to need major sacrifices from the middle class as well as from the wealthy as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the tax system and restrained growth of entitlements.
In other words, the Buffett Rule, though intrinsically useless, might be helpful in furthering the one goal the president is interested in: raising taxes. Sawhill, however, is too nice: it is by stoking the fires of envy, not promoting a perception of fairness, that the Buffett Rule may (or may not) encourage others to be more willing to empty their pockets to government.
Romney has said that President Obama is "more intent on punishing people" than in job creation. What he wants to punish them for—their sin—is being successful and prosperous. The Buffett Rule is gone for now, but, if President Obama is re-elected, it will be back in some form.