One of the unanswered questions during the presidential campaign was how Barack Obama could listen to the anti-American, anti-capitalist ravings of his minister for 20 years if he did not believe in those teachings.
Now we know the answer: At least when it comes to capitalism and the power of the profit motive, President Obama does believe in what the Rev. Jeremiah Wright had to say.
To be sure, a progressive tax structure is nothing new. As it is, the top 5 percent of households pay nearly 60 percent of federal income taxes.
But Obama wants to raise taxes even more on the income, dividends, and capital gains of those making $250,000 a year or more to help pay for colossal increases in federal government spending. Most of those penalized under the tax hike are small businesses, which create most new jobs.
Those of us who live in Washington and deal routinely with the federal government will tell you that at least half of the government’s budget is wasted. That’s because we see what happens when otherwise well-motivated employees are paid regardless of whether their enterprise makes a profit. When a phone call will take care of an issue, they convene a meeting. When one meeting will do, they have five.
If you watch trash collectors who work for a city and compare them with those who work for private companies, you will see the difference between the government and the private sector. City workers walk slowly and deliberately; private trash collectors sprint, because they receive extra pay based on performance.
I grew up in a liberal household in Belmont, Mass. My father and my stepfather were college professors, and my mother was a concert pianist. I never was exposed to the notion that free enterprise is the best way to motivate people. Instead, we thought of the government as the best way to solve problems.
As a reporter on the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, I chafed at being represented by newspaper unions. Like the government, they stifled individual initiative, undercutting one’s ability to receive merit raises. When printers at the Post insisted on setting type that would never be used and the pressmen set fire to a press and went on strike, I helped Katharine Graham and other nonunion employees bundle newspapers.
Later, as a self-employed author, I experienced the exhilaration of deciding for myself what ideas to pursue in order to have the most impact and sell the most books. Being self-employed, I had the incentive of the profit motive to find ways constantly to save on business-related expenses.
Obama does not get the profound importance of that incentive. His fiscal 2010 budget proposal would impose almost $1 trillion in higher taxes during the next decade on the highest-earning Americans and U.S.-based multinational corporations to pay for permanent tax breaks for lower earners.
That mirrors the anti-capitalist tenets of Wright’s Black Value System, which denounced “our racist competitive society” and included the disavowal of the pursuit of “middle-classness.” The Black Value System defined “middle-classness” as a way American society seduced blacks into achieving economic success, thus snaring them rather than “killing them off directly” or “placing them in concentration camps.”
Obama hinted at the same thinking in a Sept. 6, 2001, radio interview, when he expressed regret that the Supreme Court hadn’t engaged in wealth redistribution.
Consistent with that approach, Obama’s budget would punish those who work hard to achieve instead of rewarding them. An individual forced to pay 39.6 percent of his income to the federal government — not to mention state and local taxes — will think twice about working harder, taking a risk, or expanding a business to bring in additional income.
The profit motive has enriched our lives and helped to make America great, from the invention of the telephone and the computer to the success of Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey.
The FBI teaches new agents that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Yet many of the wealthiest Americans disregarded Obama’s record as the most liberal U.S. senator and voted for him. Did they think they were voting to raise taxes on themselves so the federal government could expand while incurring a $1.75 trillion deficit? I doubt that many of them did.
Although Obama is a brilliant speaker, he is not savvy enough to realize that Americans did not vote for him to reorder the economic system. The same hubris that impelled him to nominate Cabinet officers who had tax problems that he was generally aware of now misleads him into thinking that the American people will accept his radical agenda.
As Americans begin to realize how far out of the mainstream Obama is, I believe they will reject his vision of economic parity. And they will regret not paying more attention to the teachings of his minister, who was his mentor and adviser for 20 years.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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