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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Guest Commentary

Obama gives intellectually dishonest speech

President Barack Obama’s recent speech from George Washington University on the federal debt and deficit was shocking in its intellectual dishonesty, even by Obama standards. Given, the whole idea of Mr. Obama speaking on this topic was akin to Jeff Skilling giving a lecture on business ethics. And yet it still amazed me.

Much of his speech was terribly predictable. How does the President propose we lower the deficit? Raise taxes on the “millionaires and billionaires.” The only problem is, regardless of how much Mr. Obama soaks “the rich”, it could never pay for the spending he has proposed in his first two budgets since taking office. In the entire history of the United States, the federal government has never collected more than of 20 percent of GDP in taxes. Throughout the 1950s and 1970s, the top marginal income tax rate was in the 90 percent range. We still didn’t collect more than 20 percent of GDP in taxes.

Fast forward to Mr. Obama’s proposed 2012 budget; the President proposes outlays of roughly 23 percent of GDP for the next 10 years, and that’s not even the worst part. These percentages are based on a GDP denominator that grows around 6 percent annually — an assumption that has no basis in reality. This means that Mr. Obama’s proposed outlays will be in excess of 23 percent of GDP. He and I both know that this nation will never reduce our national debt by spending over 23 percent of GDP and bringing in 20 percent or less. But he continues to nod and wink at you, telling you that he will “make hard decisions” and ensure that government “lives within its means.”

Unfortunately, the most disturbing portion of the speech was yet to come. Obama went on to suggest that we eliminate many income tax credits and deductions. I’m all for this; credits and deductions skew economic incentives and artificially inflate the value of certain goods and services relative to others. Even Mr. Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission, whose recommendations he otherwise completely ignored, suggested this be done. The President’s justification for doing so was the troubling part. He referred to the elimination of these deductions as “spending reductions in the tax code.”

Aside from the semantic absurdity of the phrase itself, the logical conclusion of his reasoning is startling. To Mr. Obama, the income of every American belongs to the government before it is even taken from you. In other words, the entirety of earned income in the United States belongs to the government and therefore allowing you to keep more of your own earned income is no different than giving your money away to someone who did not earn it.

There is a bizarre conceit among progressives that a person has a right to everyone else’s income but not to their own. Thus, Mr. Obama can claim that by taxing some taxpayers less, we are somehow “redistributing income,” as if it was taken from one individual and given to another. In the President’s mind, your income never belonged to you anyhow. It belonged to the government, and he allowed it to be “distributed” to you.

President Obama’s argument, and the purposeful lack of clarity surrounding his rhetoric, should shake any American who has even a semblance of respect for individual liberty to the core.

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