Barack Obama ran a healing campaign. He offered sonorous themes of a country no longer to be divided by blue-state/red-state animosities, by race, by income — or by much of anything.
In turn, we were to suspend disbelief over his past hardball campaigns for the state senate and sthe U.S. Senate. The young, charismatic, post-racial, post-political inheritor of Camelot could not really have compiled the most partisan record in the Senate. We were to think away his tough-guy Chicago-style associates. His pastor at the time, the venomous Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was an aberration. And when candidate Obama occasionally derided George W. Bush, it was considered rough, but deserved.
Alas, the first nine months of this administration have proven the most polarizing in memory. Polls show a 61 percent partisan gap. Obama is now rated as the most divisive first-year president in the past four decades. As this week’s elections suggest, even in liberal New Jersey and moderate Virginia, voters are becoming tired of being caricatured as either saints or sinners, depending on the degree to which they embrace the Obama vision. No wonder. As a Manichean, he increasingly envisions the world as “us” versus “them.”
Who are “they,” who have raised the bar on everyone else?
First, of course, “they” are the rich in perpetual war against the poor. “They” made out like bandits under Bush, so “they” should have their federal income taxes raised to make “them” “pay their fair share” in “patriotic” fashion. Forget that currently about 5 percent of taxpayers shoulders nearly half the federal income-tax burden. It matters little that a greater percentage of households (well over 40 percent) now pays no federal income tax whatsoever.
On the Obamist reading, the record federal deficits are not due to waste and fraud. Nor are unnecessary government spending and excessive entitlements the culprits. A bankrupt Medicare and soon-to-be-bankrupt Social Security, congressional pork-barrel projects, and interest due on past profligate spending did not cause our budget crisis. Instead, the red ink is almost entirely due to a shortage of revenue, and brought on by the greedy who have the capacity, but not the caring, to fork over more.
“They” should be targeted as well by the states, many of which have rightly raised their tax rates — in California, to over 10 percent. “They” are easily able to pay a new health-care surcharge, the greedy few lending a helping hand to the virtuous many. “They” surely have enough to pay the full 15.3 percent FICA tax on most of their income over the current $106,000 cap. Add it up, and soon state, federal, FICA, property, and sales taxes will reach 60 to 70 percent of “their” incomes.
But that is a tolerable bite since income is now seen as inherently arbitrary and rigged. How compensation is calibrated is somehow illegitimate in the first place — and thus it cannot properly belong entirely to the earner. At least, I think that conjecture reflects the president’s own past unguarded references concerning the need for “redistributive” change and his exhortations to “spread the wealth.”