Putting a Price on Patriotism

by J. T. Young

There are many things on which liberals can’t put a price; patriotism apparently isn’t one of them. At least that’s the conclusion you have to arrive at if you were listening to Obama’s August 3 remarks supporting a tax increase on those he deems wealthy.

“And keep in mind, we’re talking folks like me going back to the tax rates that existed under Bill Clinton . . . And here’s the thing — there are a lot of well-to-do Americans, patriotic Americans, who understand this and are willing to do the right thing, willing to do their part to make this country strong.”

Never mind the fact that higher taxes and more spending are hardly the measure of America’s strength.  Many would cogently argue just the reverse holds true.

Let’s get to the real heart of Obama’s remarks. It is his differentiating between “well-to-do Americans” and “well-to-do . . . patriotic Americans.” The distinguishing feature between the two is that the latter are “willing to do the right thing, willing to do their part to make this country strong.”

The difference is not that they are willing to pay taxes. No, those making $250,000 and above already pay anywhere from 63 percent to 41 percent of all income taxes and from 75 percent to 52 percent of all total taxes paid in America. The key is that they must be willing to pay more taxes. And not oppose doing so.

If we are putting a price tag on patriotism, and it is hard to see how Obama is not, it begs a question: What will patriotism’s price be tomorrow? If Washington’s uncontrolled spending continues unabated, patriotism will be even more expensive.

#more#Actually, the statement spawns a whole series of questions.

Why is it not patriotic to cut spending, rather than to raise taxes? Washington is approaching its fourth consecutive $1 trillion-plus deficit and its spending is at historic peacetime highs. Couldn’t Washington exhibit patriotism by exhibiting less profligacy?

What about the other Americans not being asked to pay higher taxes? Are they already being patriotic by simply paying what they now pay, or do they have to pay more to be patriots too? After all, those whom Obama wants to tax more are already paying their taxes, but he apparently thinks they are not patriotic unless they pay more.

What about the 44 percent of Americans who have negative income-tax rates, are they being patriotic? Do payroll taxes count toward patriotism, or just income taxes?

Measuring fidelity fiscally is a slippery slope indeed.

Another day, another Obama jaw-dropper. They are coming now with such frequency that they almost seem to be beyond comment — certainly that seems to be the mainstream media’s conclusion, since they largely ignore them. However, there is a consistent tone and direction that we all should find unsettling.

It goes beyond just the ideological divide that exists, the evidence of which is growing more pronounced with each of the president’s utterances. It goes beyond even the dividing.

It goes to the fact that Obama does not simply see those who disagree with him as wrong or misguided, but instead flawed as people. They are greedy, or unethical, or unfair, or corrupt, or lucky (as when he said “you didn’t build that”), or — as we found out Friday — unpatriotic.

There are legitimate policy reasons to question the need for higher taxes — not the least of which also came Friday, a further rise in the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent. Or the previous week’s report that the economy grew just 1.5 percent in the second quarter.

For someone who promised to bring change to Washington, this is not the change America expected.  Or needed.

— J. T. Young served in the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.

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