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Obama's tax plan and the redistribution of wealth

By Jimmy Orr / October 14, 2008

Jake Turcotte

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Want to set a conservative’s hair on fire? Just mention redistribution of wealth and watch the fireworks. It happened Sunday when Barack Obama was canvassing a neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio.

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Fox News cameras were there and captured the conversation (which is now all over the Web) between a self-employed plumber named Joe Wurzelbacher and Obama.

More taxes?

Wurzelbacher explained that by working hard (10-12 hours a day) he was in a position to buy a business. If he bought a truck and expanded the business, he wondered if his success would be greeted by a penalty in the form of higher taxes.

“Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?” Wurzlebacher asked.

“It’s not that I want to punish your success,” Obama explained. “I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success too. My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody … I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

The common good

Spread the wealth around.  That can mean many things. It could mean a rising tide lifts all boats. But it could also mean government taking from one group of people (the people who earned it) and giving it to those who did not.

This is what Obama detractors are saying his tax plan is all about. And many are wondering why the McCain campaign isn’t being more vocal about this. They contend Obama’s policy proposals are damning enough. Forget Bill Ayers, they say, go after his policy.

The Journal

In the context of the Democratic nominee’s conversation with the plumber (video below), many blogs are linking to a Wall Street Journal column yesterday that charges that Obama’s tax plan isn’t what it sounds. They say it’s a big gimmick:

One of Barack Obama’s most potent campaign claims is that he’ll cut taxes for no less than 95% of “working families.” He’s even promising to cut taxes enough that the government’s tax share of GDP will be no more than 18.2% — which is lower than it is today.
It’s a clever pitch, because it lets him pose as a middle-class tax cutter while disguising that he’s also proposing one of the largest tax increases ever on the other 5%. But how does he conjure this miracle, especially since more than a third of all Americans already pay no income taxes at all? There are several sleights of hand, but the most creative is to redefine the meaning of “tax cut.”
For the Obama Democrats, a tax cut is no longer letting you keep more of what you earn. In their lexicon, a tax cut includes tens of billions of dollars in government handouts that are disguised by the phrase “tax credit.” Mr. Obama is proposing to create or expand no fewer than seven such credits for individuals.

No preconditions

Not surprisingly, the McCain campaign agrees with that assessment in a sarcastically toned statement:

“If Barack Obama’s goal as President is to ’spread the wealth around,’ perhaps his unconditional meetings with Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, and Kim Jong-Il aren’t so crazy — if nothing else they can advise an Obama administration on economic policy,” a McCain spokesman told Fox News.

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