Andrew Sullivan says that Obama has played the budget and spending game pretty shrewdly:
Look at how Obama has framed the debate since the election. Every single symbolic act has been inclusive and sober. From that speech in Grant Park to the eschewal of euphoria on Inauguration Day; from the George Will dinner invite to the Rick Warren invocation….And now, after presenting such a centrist, bi-partisan, moderate and personally trustworthy front, he gets to unveil a radical long-term agenda that really will soak the very rich and invest in the poor. Given the crisis, he has seized this moment for more radicalism than might have seemed possible only a couple of months ago.
Italics mine. I think Andrew’s basic point is correct: by getting the centrist optics right, Obama has been able to move more boldly than he otherwise could have. Republicans who paint him as the second coming of Karl Marx just look like idiots these days. At the same time, let’s not go overboard. Here’s how Obama is “soaking the very rich”:
If Obama’s tax plan is approved, a family making $500,000 a year would see its annual tax bill rise to nearly $132,000 from about $120,000, a 10 percent increase, said Clint Stretch, managing principal of tax policy at Deloitte Tax.
Over the past three decades, these families have seen their incomes double and triple while the rest of the country stagnated. Now Obama proposes to increase their tax bill by $12,000 — not even enough to get them back to the rates they were paying when Ronald Reagan left office. This is a very, very modest nod toward fiscal fair play, very much in keeping with Obama’s modest optics. You’d have to drink several pitchers of Rush Limbaugh’s Kool-Aid to think this counts as soaking the rich.