Sunday, September 07, 2008

Obama, Wealth, Work, and Poverty

We should want a tax code that rewards wealth to create work. Not a tax code that rewards work, instead of wealth. The latter would “succeed” only if the government was the primary source of job creation. That describes societies with command economies, such as what we saw in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union before the fall of Communism and in struggling developing countries today that have yet to figure out why their economies haven’t worked. Such hostile views towards wealth creation should not be found in free market economies, such as the United States, but it is exactly what we saw and heard during the Democratic National Convention (DNC).

Its funny, in my circle of friends, decrying the engines that create wealth is the equivalent of economic blasphemy. At the DNC, it was a virtue. The message of “we need a tax policy that rewards work, not wealth” wasn’t merely seen on the signs of delegates or alternates. It wasn’t the occasional mentioning of one of the many speakers that passed in front of the microphone. It came from the keynote address of the Party’s nominee for President. Barack Obama.

This sentiment of wanting to bite the hand that feeds the economy (wealth created by corporations and small businesses, not revenue confiscated by taxpayers) stood in contrast to the message heard by the candidate that I hoped would get the Republican nomination and who spoke at the his party’s Convention on behalf of Sen. John McCain, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

Thompson uses a Southern charm and has a disarming approach to speaking that made the logic of what he said perfectly clear, regardless of party affiliation or philosophy. Paraphrasing the Senator, Thompson pointed out that the Democrats only want to increase the taxes on a small group of people – the top 5 percent. This, we are told, has no effect on the common person. Unless you buy milk, bread, or any other consumer product at the store. Or if you have a job that is dependent on someone (or company) subject to that top five percent. The Democrats like to bemoan “trickle down economics” (where the government ostensibly benefits the wealthy, which in turn creates opportunities for others). But the trickle can be seen in more than one way. The trickle can be policies that hurt the rich and, out of simple self interest, they share the misery with everyone else. Thompson did an excellent job of warning us of that possibility.

According to economist Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal, the US already has the second highest corporate tax rates of any developed country in the world after Japan. That, more than cheap wages, has led to the flight of jobs and manufacturing to other countries. Barack Obama promises to push us further in that direction through tax increases.

Ronald Reagan use to say that “you can’t help America’s poor by making America poor.” Obama disagrees. He intends to help America’s poor by making more people poor, so they will have more company. An Obama administration will be very interesting indeed. I doubt, however, we can afford it.

Kevin Price's articles are found daily in national publications such as USA Today, Chicago Sun Times, and Reuters. Subscribe to his newsletter here.

Kevin Price is Host of the Houston Business Show (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review.

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