By Dana Milbank
Published: April 11
The Washington Post President Obama admits it: His proposed “Buffett Rule” tax on millionaires is a gimmick.
“There are others who are saying: ‘Well, this is just a gimmick. Just taxing millionaires and billionaires, just imposing the Buffett Rule, won’t do enough to close the deficit,’ ” Obama declared Wednesday. “Well, I agree.”
Actually, the gimmick was apparent even without the president’s acknowledgment. He gave his remarks in a room in the White House complex adorned with campaign-style photos of his factory tours. On stage with him were eight props: four millionaires, each paired with a middle-class assistant. The octet smiled and nodded so much as Obama made his case that it appeared the president was sharing the stage with eight bobbleheads.
And if that’s not enough evidence of gimmickry, after his speech Obama’s reelection campaign unveiled an online tax calculator “to see how your tax rate stacks up against Mitt Romney’s — and then see what the Buffett Rule would do.”
Obama argued that his plan to make sure that those earning north of $1 million a year don’t pay a lower tax rate than average Americans — although gimmicky and insufficient — is an advance. “The notion that it doesn’t solve the entire problem doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it at all,” he explained.
That’s true, to a point. But Obama’s claim that the Buffett Rule “is something that will get us moving in the right direction toward fairness” would be more convincing if he took other steps in that direction, too.
Three years into his presidency, Obama has not introduced a plan for comprehensive tax reform — arguably the most important vehicle for fixing the nation’s finances and boosting long-term economic growth. His opponents haven’t done much better, but that doesn’t excuse the president’s failures: appointing the Simpson-Bowles commission and then disregarding its findings, offering a plan for business tax reform only, and issuing a series of platitudes. The Buffett Rule, rather than overhauling the tax code, would simply add another layer
Real debate cannot be part of the strategy of demagoguery. There's no "bad guy". Obama needs a bad guy.