The Corner

Fair Ain’t Got Anything To Do With It

Following up on Mark Steyn’s post below, Obama’s Share Our Wealth comments yesterday reminded me of his answer in a primary debate earlier this year:

GIBSON: All right. You have, however, said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, “I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton,” which was 28 percent. It’s now 15 percent. That’s almost a doubling, if you went to 28 percent.

But actually, Bill Clinton, in 1997, signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.

OBAMA: Right.

GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.

OBAMA: Right.

GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased; the government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down.

So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?

OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.

His answer goes on (excerpted over at Jim’s place), but what’s revealing is that Obama concedes the premise of the question (many liberals disputed it, but that’s a different argument) yet sees imposing higher taxes on rich or successful people to be a matter of fairness. This concept of social justice does not jibe with  the Obama-the-Pragmatist we’ve been hearing from of late. It is an ideological view that says that punishing successful people is desirable in and of itself. I think there’s plenty of reason to believe that’s the real Obama.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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