Monday, September 15, 2008

Obama on O'Reilly: Taxation and My Input

I recently posted a response to a topic about Obama's tax policy (as recently discussed with Bill O'Reilly) to a facebook group. I wanted to repost it here because it is, for me, a rounded response to a question many right-wing and perhaps swing voters are asking. The topic as posted is:

On the O’reilly show this week, O’reilly asked Obama about his tax plan. Obama claims that he will be lowering taxes for 95% of the population. In addition, he will be raising taxes for folks who make the kind of money that he himself and O’Reilly make, specifically, he will put it back to the 39% that it was under Clinton. . O’Reilly calls this “class warfare” and “income redistribution… a socialist tenet”. What this means, according to O’reilly, is that Obama is taking money from the wealthy and giving it to the poor. Is Obama's plan fair?

My response:

I am a big believer in understanding the greater scope of a question before attempting a response, so I figured having a very unemotional understanding of the word "fair" ( was a good start. Having digested that, I offer two contrary responses, the first being a view through what I consider a typically republican and sighted-lens.

All people are equal. We are bound to the same socioeconomic environment, and as such should submit to it and draw from it in equal proportions. In a free market system that allows people to excel, proportional submission would probably manifest as (at least) an income tax that requires the same percent from each person. You pay 36%, I pay 36%, Bill Gates pays 36%.

My other response, the one I am more aligned with, is that the first response is based on a microcosmic reality and is therefore invalid. Obama makes at least two points in that segment that hit on this. First of all, 36% of Bill Gates' annual income, while astronomical, is not something that he would find financially difficult to part with. On the contrary, 36% of a single parent's $45,000/yr earnings would be quite difficult to do without. Therefore I don't see how one can assert that proportional taxation is fair, because the lower/lower-middle class will still be under greater a burden than the upper.

I also want to respond to two things O'Reilly said. One was his submission that taxing the rich more than the poor is, in and of itself, a waging of class warfare. I'd say that is generally excessive and historically ignorant, given such events like the French Revolution (, in which the classes were actually warring. He also said that such taxation would be income redistribution, a "socialist tenet." This is also a hyperbole, with an actual historical example being the Cuban Revolution (

As for a justification of higher taxation on the rich, I offer a quote from Spider Man's uncle Ben: "With great power comes great responsibility." Think of the taxation as the fee for the luxury of living in a free, developed, and socially stable country in which you can thrive and excel to your highest aspirations. One can't do such a thing near as easily in any other country in the world than the US. There are many reasons why that is so, but one of them is the simple fact that, as Americans, we generally believe financial success to be attainable by anyone. Those of us that fall short of such achievements accept it as the result of our own choices: perhaps we want to live modestly, perhaps we did poorly in school and have accepted the consequences. The point is that we as a society, in general, believe in our individual capacities to effect our own fates. The mere acceptance of such a belief is a major social stabilizer, because it levels the playing field.

Having said all that, my answer is that I see Obama's tax plan as fair when applied to the context to which he is applying it (which I assert is "reality", or is at least more realistic than that demanded by the former view). I also want to reiterate my rebuttals to O'Reilly's assertions of "class warfare" and "income redistribution," both of which are simply inaccurate statements.