By John Del Cecato - 03/19/09 03:55 PM EDT
Rich people are dupes.
That’s the view of some opinion-makers inside the Washington Beltway. Michael Barone, a conservative pundit who fears President Obama’s budget priorities, sounded the same alarm bell about the Clinton economic program in 1993. Instead, 23 million jobs were created. Unemployment dropped to a 30-year low. Americans enjoyed the largest economic expansion in our history.
“Why was I wrong? Because, I came to think, the Clintonites managed to hit a sweet spot with the 39.6 percent [income tax] rate [on the wealthiest.] It was a number that started with a three. To high earners, not bothering to calculate exact returns to the last decimal point but just concentrating on the big picture, it seemed that the government was taking just about one third — hey, maybe a bit more — of their incomes. They would get to keep the other two thirds, pretty much. So they proceeded to try to make intelligent investments ... ”
Barone thinks like the producers of those infomercials on late-night television, the ones that lure sleep-deprived viewers into opening their wallets by convincing them the ShamWow or the Snuggie — for which they’d never shell out 20 bucks — is a real steal at just $19.95.
For right-wing columnist Charles Krauthammer, it’s not that wealthy folks are too gullible; rather, they’re too educated. In bashing President Obama’s audacity to link higher education to a stronger economy, Krauthammer suggested that all that book-learnin’ might be the cause of the problem, rather than the cure.
“Indeed, one could perversely make the case that, if anything, the proliferation of overeducated, Gucci-wearing, smart-ass MBAs inventing ever more sophisticated and opaque mathematical models and debt instruments helped get us into this credit catastrophe.”
Outside the Beltway, most Americans take a different view: Obama-nomics is really common sense.
Cutting taxes for 95 percent of working families, while closing corporate tax loopholes. Raising billions for the budget by asking millionaires to pay a little more. Ending budget gimmicks created to hide the true size of the deficit, while going through the federal budget line by line to determine where taxpayer dollars must be spent — and where they should not. A bold plan to reverse the credit crunch, help small businesses and put people back to work now, while making the investments in education, healthcare and energy independence that are crucial to America’s long-term economic resurgence.
It’s a budget prepared by a president who talks to Americans like, well, adults.
To date, congressional Republicans haven’t offered an alternative vision for jumpstarting the economy. Instead, their hearts bleed for the welfare of the wealthy, playing the same old political games. Voters haven’t been fooled.
The latest Newsweek survey found 58 percent of Americans — including 42 percent of Republicans — believe the GOP has no plan of its own to get the country moving again. The most recent Quinnipiac poll showed Americans trust Obama more than congressional Republicans to do a good job handling the economy by a whopping 30 points. The president even led among those earning more than $250,000 a year.
It could be that the wealthy just haven’t gotten the memo from the Washington pundits, who so assiduously go to bat for their “best interests.”
Or maybe rich folks, like most Americans, aren’t so unwise after all.
John Del Cecato is a partner at AKPD Message and Media, the political consulting firm founded by David Axelrod in 1985. He served as media adviser and admaker for Obama for America and Obama-Biden 2008.