Roger L. Simon

Tax Follies: Obama is one strange dude and the mainstream media is stranger

As with most people who are interested (somewhat anyway) in intellectual consistency, my ears perked up during the interchange on taxes between Barack Obama and Charles Gibson during yesterday’s debate. The folks at the WSJ were obviously listening as well:

Time and again, the rookie Senator has said he would not raise taxes on middle-class earners, whom he describes as people with annual income lower than between $200,000 and $250,000. On Wednesday night, he repeated the vow. “I not only have pledged not to raise their taxes,” said the Senator, “I’ve been the first candidate in this race to specifically say I would cut their taxes.”

But Mr. Obama has also said he’s open to raising ‚Äì indeed, nearly doubling to 28% ‚Äì the current top capital gains tax rate of 15%, which would in fact be a tax hike on some 100 million Americans who own stock, including millions of people who fit Mr. Obama’s definition of middle class.

Mr. Gibson dared to point out this inconsistency, which regularly goes unmentioned in Mr. Obama’s fawning press coverage. But Mr. Gibson also probed a little deeper, asking the candidate why he wants to increase the capital gains tax when history shows that a higher rate brings in less revenue.

“Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20%,” said Mr. Gibson. “And George Bush has taken it down to 15%. 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%, 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?”

Mr. Obama answered by citing rich hedge fund managers. Raising the capital gains tax is necessary, he said, “to make sure . . . that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don’t have it and that we’re able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools. And you can’t do that for free.”

But Mr. Gibson had noted that higher rates yield less revenue. So the news anchor tried again: “But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up?” Mr. Obama responded that this “might happen or it might not. It depends on what’s happening on Wall Street and how business is going.” And then he went on a riff about John McCain and the housing market.

Very strange. Meanwhile, the wise men of the mainstream media like Tom Shales are complaining that Gibson and Stephanopoulos were engaged in a gotcha game…. Well he might have a point there because he definitely “got” Obama in that exchange as something of an economic nincompoop. McCain looks like Bernard Baruch by comparison. Actually the MSM deserve to be flayed alive for the free ride they have been giving Obama. And now that their emperor seems indeed to have few clothes, they are whining like the proverbial stuck pigs, rather amazing since most of them are lucky to have jobs.

No wonder Howard Dean wants the Democratic delegates to “decide now.” Dean’s no rocket scientist, but it’s pretty obvious much more of this and the donkey might as well take a vacation for four years.