That was quite a speech that President Obama gave the other day to a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the Four Seasons hotel in Austin, Texas. Two highlights:
most recently we've got the crisis in the Gulf. Now, thankfully, because of incredibly hard work by people from all across government, we are now finally able to say that the well is contained and we could get a permanent kill of that well over the next couple of weeks.
The president credits the spill's containment to the incredibly hard work "by people from all across government." No credit to the private sector? They just get the blame.
There's an assault on Republicans who want "tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. ... for you to talk about being a deficit hawk, that you want responsible deficit hawk, that want responsible governance, and then you're willing to argue for $700 billion worth of tax cuts for people who don't need them and weren't even asking for them?"
This is something, for Mr. Obama to decide that families earning more than $250,000 in a year "don't need" the money. The families might reply that the politicians "don't need" the money, either. What if the family has college tuition to pay and lives in an area where housing is expensive and bought a house four years ago that's now underwater and pays their own health insurance premiums because they are self-employed? What if they work in a risky or cyclical business and their income next year might be a lot less and they'd like to save some money for that eventuality?
As for the "don't need and weren't even asking" argument, why not let the taxpayers themselves decide? The commonwealth of Massachusetts did just that when it lowered income tax rates, and, the Boston Globe reports, "In Massachusetts, the standard income tax rate is currently 5.3 percent, but residents can choose to pay 5.85 percent. In 2008, surprisingly, 1,953 taxpayers opted for this rate, generating an extra $231,907." The Globe doesn't say that that's out of about 3 million returns filed.
Mr. Obama's speech also featured a weird frontal attack on Americans for Prosperity, whose vice president for policy is the great Phil Kerpen, who used to contribute opinion pieces to the New York Sun back when I worked there. Mr. Obama:
Right now all around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads against Democratic candidates all across the country. And they don't have to say who exactly the Americans for Prosperity are. You don't know if it's a foreign-controlled corporation. You don't know if it's a big oil company, or a big bank. You don't know if it's a insurance company that wants to see some of the provisions in health reform repealed because it's good for their bottom line, even if it's not good for the American people.
A Supreme Court decision allowed this to happen. And we tried to fix it, just by saying disclose what's going on, and making sure that foreign companies can't influence our elections. Seemed pretty straightforward. The other side said no.
They don't want you to know who the Americans for Prosperity are, because they're thinking about the next election. But we've got to think about future generations. We've got to make sure that we're fighting for reform. We've got to make sure that we don't have a corporate takeover of our democracy.
This is ridiculous. It's not as though Americans for Prosperity is some sort of nefarious foreign plot. Its directors are listed right on the Web sites of Americans for Prosperity and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The chairman of the foundation is David Koch and the chairman of Americans for Prosperity is Art Pope, whose Pope Foundation also funds Hayek biographer Bruce Caldwell at Duke.
The group clearly seems to have touched a nerve with the president, who, notwithstanding the immense power of the White House to command public attention through television interviews, press conferences, prime-time televised addresses, speeches, and public appearances, nevertheless seems quite threatened by the idea that the Supreme Court has allowed Americans for Prosperity to do things like invite George Will to speak at a conference at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington on August 27-28, while Mr. Obama is scheduled to be avoiding the sweltering late August Washington heat by vacationing on Martha's Vineyard. The first step to "a corporate takeover of our democracy," to be sure.
Thanks to FutureOfCapitalism reader-participant-community member-content co-creator-watchdog R. for sending the Obama quotes on taxes and the oil spill that led me to the Austin speech.