Speaking in Wisconsin on September 22, 2012, Barack Obama called for tax increases once again, as usual, this time tellingly stating his belief that "I can afford to pay a little bit more… and Mitt Romney sure can afford to pay a little more."
Obama is hoping against hope that he can turn back the clock, back to the days when he convinced a majority, of more than enough states, that he and he alone could clean the air, make the oceans recede, brighten the body politic, and fix what was broken in Washington.
He hopes to turn back the clock in a state that elected progressive socialists for decades, but which has in recent years seen the error of its ways, and has lately elected such stellar patriots as Scott Walker and Ron Johnson to high office. After fighting organized religion in this country and abroad throughout his presidency, Barack Obama is in a poor position to seek such a miracle, but that’s what he’s hoping for in a state suffering over 7.5% official unemployment, thanks in large part to his (and his party’s) economically devastating policies.
Still, we can learn a great deal from his choice of words in Wisconsin, because it tells all we need to know about the limited extent of his economic thought: “I can afford to pay a little bit more… and Mitt Romney sure can afford to pay a little more."
Like his entire party, and the entire leftist world, Barack Obama wants to believe – and hopes that his audiences believe – that tax policy is all about, and only about, the first direct payer of a tax.
They want to believe that if you raise taxes on the wealthy, it’s a good thing because the wealthy can afford it (never mind how we may disagree on the definition of “the wealthy”). They maintain that the only reason to give a direct taxpayer a break is if you’re pandering for his vote and his donations, when in fact tax policy has a myriad of other effects besides, which a thoughtful statesman, economist or voter must consider as well.
The left focuses on telling its stories about the fat cats, the corporate honchos who get the famous salaries as CEO, COO, and CFO. If they earn a million a year, they can afford to pay high taxes, and they will. If they earn millions more, then all the more reason to squeeze them; they can afford it. If I can live on fifty or sixty grand a year, the voter thinks, then why can’t they? Teach ‘em a lesson; show ‘em how the rest of us live.
It’s a tempting narrative, and the Democratic Party has been pouring it into microphones and television cameras for generations. The mining company owners make a mint; raise their taxes. The textile plant owner makes a mint; raise his taxes too. The steel mill’s board of directors are wealthy; let’s rob ‘em blind; we outnumber them, so they can’t get away.
It’s a little cruel, but revenge for slights both real and imagined has a long pedigree in human history, so it shouldn’t surprise us when it shows up in politics. But what has been the result – the inevitable result, in fact?
The Real Victims of Revenge Economics
What the modern American left refuses to acknowledge to themselves or to their audience is this simple fact: when you aim at a target, everything behind that target is in the line of fire as well.
The mining company, the pipeline builder, the oil drilling firm are all run by well-paid individuals, yes. So are the textile plants and the steel mills. But these successful businessmen have common sense, and obligations to their investors. If they see a government erecting roadblocks to their companies’ projects, they’ll look elsewhere to invest. Perhaps elsewhere within our country, perhaps elsewhere in the world.
We have therefore seen Wisconsin, the site of this speech, drive away desperately needed investors in these and many other businesses. Past generations saw the “loss” of textile and steel industries, as if you can really call it a “loss” when it was hounded out of town, consciously and intentionally, with taxes, regulations, litigation and strikes. The current generation is seeing the loss of energy industries, as Barack Obama keeps his promise to destroy the coal and oil industries. Wisconsin has driven off new mining operations by NIMBY legislation; much of West Virginia lies dormant, as DoE regulations and a de facto assault on the “carbon footprint” have made expansion and even further use of existing mines an often losing proposition. So many thousands of workers idled.
The crude oil situation speaks for itself. While modern technology has enabled an oil boom in areas where wise state governments have welcomed the business, a hostile federal government has driven the oil exploration industry off federal drilling sites. Drilling rigs have been moved from Gulf locations to other countries with saner and more welcoming governments. So many thousands of workers idled.
The result of all these attacks is therefore the loss of jobs at the level of the average Joe. Those of us who are not “fat cats” need those fat cats here in the USA, not overseas. We need them here at home, happily running companies and employing our friends, neighbors and ourselves. We need to stop driving them away!
The Power of Multiplication
A typical corporation has about five major corporate officers – a CEO, a COO, a CFO, a general counsel and a treasurer, perhaps a couple others. Counting them and the board, there might be a dozen – or two dozen if the organization is really big – who can perhaps be viewed as the “fat cats” that the modern Democrat preys upon.
If we raise their tax rates too high, why should they stay? They don’t want to leave – few executives would rather live in rural China or India than in the industrial suburbs of an American city – but they’ve been taking a beating for decades, from all directions. Choking regulations, crippling mandates, litigation rules that favor the plaintiff, labor laws that favor the union, and now massive taxes as well? Eventually, anyone will reach a point – though that point may be different for each person, each group, and each industry – when it’s time to give up and move away. You can only take so much.
The desire to beat up on the rich therefore caused thousand-employee textile plants and steel mills to close a generation ago, and is causing the departure of oil rigs and pipelines today. For every dozen white collar folks in the board room, there are – or were – hundreds of normal employees on the floor, in the offices, in the field.Beating up on that CEO or that CFO – whether for the sheer joy of making him suffer, or for the well-intentioned goal of helping to shrink the national debt – will therefore cause hundreds, or even thousands, of people to lose their jobs, when that boss finally decides that he’s had enough.
When Obama says that “Romney can afford to pay a little more,” therefore, what he’s really saying is “I want to raise the tax rate on the job creators in the midst of a miserable recession; I don’t care a bit how many people lose their jobs in my quest.”
When he says that “Romney can afford to pay a little more,” he’s really saying that he doesn’t care that his class envy will put millions more out of work. There’s a reason that most of the few new jobs created during the Obama presidency have been low-paying: we’ve driven out the kind of jobs that pay well as soon as you get out of the entry level position. We’ve created fast food cashier positions, and convenience store clerk openings, but darned few factories are opening up new assembly lines, promoting people to good roles like foreman and shift manager, or promoting into the office for solid career development as product managers or materials managers. We need more factories in order to create these new opportunities for the hard-working and deserving. Instead, we drive our factories away, out of business or out of the country.
Can Romney afford to pay a little more? Can Obama? That really isn’t the right question at all.
In economics, we think about what money does as it winds its way through the economy… how each purchase and each salary represents another chance for economic activity, for businesses to be more successful, necessitating staff to do the work and therefore hiring and paying more people. The ten-person company grows to twelve; the hundred-person company grows to one hundred twenty; the thousand-person company swells to twelve hundred. Economic activity means job growth.
The money paid by the free market to our “rich” is used to invest, to hire, to manage, to create, as long as we allow it to. It may cause the creation of jobs here in the United States, or it may cause the creation of jobs abroad… or it may cause the creation of no jobs at all, if the government grabs more of it at every level.
So when the government reaches out to tax “the rich” even more, adding that new slight onto all the other burdens that the government and the marketplace have already placed upon their shoulders, it destroys jobs. It stops that hiring, and even makes them shed employees. Tax increases cause unemployment. The bigger the tax increase, the greater the unemployment. Even just the expectation of future tax increases can have this result, as corporate decision-makers look ahead to a future ever more hostile.
Fortunately, however, the opposite is also true. As we reduce these burdens, we welcome back the job creators; we encourage their return to the world of American investment. Tax reductions can undo the problems of the past – along with equally necessary reductions in the other burdens of costly government mandates like Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, and the self-destructive powers of unions that use strikes and slowdowns to destroy their own employers’ market-share.
As soon as we reject the politics of greed and stagnation that have been imposed on our economy by Barack Obama and the Pelosireidian Left, we will send a signal that this country once again welcomes job creation. Corporate America has long feared every new day, as every new day has indeed brought with it fresh regulations, new taxes and mandates, and more reasons to hold off on new endeavors here, and even to look abroad for opportunities.
As soon as we elect Republicans, not just in the White House but in the Senate as well, the process of healing our economy will finally commence. The Republicans understand how the economy works; the candidates nominated by the Democrats of today simply do not.Speaking for myself, and I suspect, for the vast majority of Americans as well, what matters to me is whether I have a job, and a choice of career opportunities for my future, and for my children’s future as well. Not whether or not my boss’ boss is charged another five or ten percent or not when he fills out his 1040 form. That doesn’t matter to me at all.
In the final analysis, the question isn’t whether rich people can afford to be overtaxed… The real question is whether the rest of us can afford for them to be.
Copyright 2012 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Customs broker and international trade lecturer. A former county chairman of the Milwaukee County GOP, he has now been a recovering politician for over fifteen years. Permission is hereby granted to forward freely, provided it is uncut and the byline and URL are included. Follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn, or on Twitter at @johnfdileo.