I run into a lot of wealthy folks — some of my most successful Harvard Business School classmates, for example — who are really displeased with the President.
Is it because the stock market is at record highs?
Because corporate profits are at record highs?
Because no one has gone to jail?
The Dow closed Friday at an all-time record high — 14,397 — more than double the 6547 low it reached a few weeks after his Inauguration. Ask yourself: Would it have been 20,000 if only President Bush had been given four more years to realize his vision? 30,000 if Senator McCain had been handed the reins? 40,000 if, in 2008, Governor Romney had won?
Would corporate profits have been even higher than they are today?
Is it the tax rates that have wealthy Republicans upset?
That may be part of it. Here was Jeb Bush on yesterday’s FACE THE NATION:
“We have incredibly high taxes for high-income Americans.”
In fact, of course, we’ve had incredibly low taxes for high-income Americans. (Not least in Jeb’s home state, Florida, where the rate on your first billion dollars each year — whether earned or inherited — is zero. As it is on all further billions, as well.)
Yes, the federal rate is going back to the Clinton-era 39.6% on that portion of your “earned” income that exceeds $450,000 (or $400,000 filing singly). But c’mon: do people really remember the Clinton years as oppressive to high-income Americans? If 39.6% is “incredibly high,” what was Nixon’s 70% top rate? What was Eisenhower’s 90% top rate?
Meanwhile, where Ronald Reagan left office with a 28% top rate on dividends and long-term capital gains, we now have an “incredibly high” 23.8% rate (when you include the 3.8% Medicare surcharge) on that portion of your income that exceeds $450,000.
If we’re serious about reducing our deficit, why wouldn’t we want to return rates on the best-off back closer to their historic levels? (If you say “because they’re the job creators,” I’m gonna to beg you, yet again, to watch this quick Nick Hanauer clip.)
I doubt it’s the high unemployment rate that has some wealthy Republicans upset but, for the record, unemployment is lower than it was when the President took office — with 6.35 million net new private sector jobs created since we hit Bush bottom. (I call it that because, it seems to me, you can’t fairly blame Obama for the hemorrhaging under way before his measures had been passed and given a little time to take hold. Turning around economies is like turning around aircraft carriers.) And it would have been significantly lower still if the Republicans had not blocked the American Jobs Act the President called for.
No . . . what mainly accounts for the animus, I think, was our failure to say what went without saying — and actually was said, but should have been said more often and more loudly anyway: that we love rich people! Many rich people contribute a great deal to society! No one meant to be critical of those “fat cats” who were not greedy or negligent in the run-up to the melt down, as so many were not. No one meant to be critical of those not opposed to sensible regulatory reform, or to paying a bit more in taxes. Those successful people deserve the same praise successful Americans have always enjoyed. (A lot of them, realizing this, helped reelect the President.)
Which brings me to today’s topic, which was actually health care, but we’ve run out of time. The Jeb Bush comment just made me crazy and I got off the track. Please come back tomorrow.
Quote of the Day
Every debt is ultimately paid, if not by the debtor, then eventually by the creditor.~Jim Grant
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