“Washington should stop subsidizing millionaires,” Mr. Obama said. “You can call this class warfare all you want. But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”
The speech – which included proposals to revitalize U.S. manufacturing, help distressed homeowners and invest more in green energy, infrastructure and job training – laid out the themes of Mr. Obama’s re-election pitch against a Republican opposition hostile to government intervention, income redistribution and tax increases.
“We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by,” the President said, “or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”...
“When I get tax breaks I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit or somebody else has to make up the difference – like a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet,” the President said. “That’s not right.”
The cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s “fair shot” proposals – which recall Mr. Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Fair Deal of Mr. Truman – is the so-called Buffet Rule that would set a minimum 30-per-cent tax rate for millionaires. The idea was inspired by billionaire Warren Buffett, who lamented that he paid a lower effective tax rate than his secretary.
Immediately following the speech, former Bush Press Secretary, Ari Fleisher, said on CNN that he did not like the speech because it consisted mainly of "spending other people's money" although he patronizingly gave Obama credit for capturing and taking out Osama bin Laden. It was nothing of the kind, and Mr. Fleisher knows better. His words are another example of the king of political rhetoric that plagues the U.S. political bowel obstruction, generated by his Republican friends.
Balancing the budget, reducing the debt and deficit and growing the American economy will happen, according to economists of both "left" and "right" colourations, if a balanced approach of spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy.
Warren Buffet, himself, has called for a higher rate of tax on millionaires and billionaires. His secretary, who pays approximately 30% in taxes was seated in the gallery with Michelle Obama, the President's wife. Capital gains taxes on investments run, on average, around 15% for the most wealthy in America, whereas those rates were between 25 and 30% under Ronald Reagan in the 1980's. Also sitting with Mrs. Obama was another woman, previously out of work, who with the help of a partnership between Siemens corporation and a community college, has retrained and is back in the workforce, demonstrating a model the president believes could apply in all 50 states.
While the theme of "taxing the rich" was certainly present, front and centre in the speech, so was the president's commitment to take action with or without the support of what has become an obstructionist congress. Also clearly evident was:
- the White House commitment to generate jobs in new and clean energy,
- to generate jobs in repairing crumbling infrastructure,
- to confront the immigration nightmare that sends graduates home following university,
- to stop tax breaks for companies that ship jobs out of America
- to reward companies who create jobs at home through tax breaks and incentives
- to provide tax and other incentives for small business entrepreneurs to grow new businesses
- to level the playing field for all Americans by making rules to prevent another Wall Street fiasco
- to continue to renew America's reputation among world countries and leaders
- to lower the interest rate on student loans to make college more affordable for all
- to maintain a strong military while cutting $500 million from the defence budget
- to create a special unit in the Attorney General's office to examine critically how and why the housing crisis occurred and to prevent its recurrence
- to continue prosecuting other countries when the "trade" playing field is not level
- to challenge Congress to take one half of the money released by withdrawal from Iraq and pay down the debt/deficit and take the other half and generate infrastructure projects and thereby jobs
- to require full disclosure of all chemicals used in "fracking" of natural gas
- to require all secondary school students to remain in school until graduation or their eighteenth birthday
The U.S., North America and the global chaos need both the experience and the imagination and the steady, but firm hand, of President Obama for the next four years, and Americans can be proud of their President, as the rest of the world is grateful.