EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

October 21, 2012

Column: If only Obama meant what he actually said

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard President Obama say he wants to make sure we live in a society where, “everybody plays by the same set of rules.”

If he really means that, he should probably resign before Election Day and let voters decide if they want to put crazy old Uncle Joe in the White House. Because the president is all about the opposite — demanding different sets of rules for different groups of people.

Start with his most famous meme – that millionaires and billionaires pay income taxes “at a lower rate than their secretaries” because they get to play by a different set of rules.

Indeed, in this past week’s debate, he said it again – that his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, “has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.”

That’s false, and he knows it. Yes, as that allegedly “patriotic billionaire” Warren Buffett has pointed out, his secretary pays a higher percentage of her income in taxes than he does. But that is not because they are playing by a different set of rules.

In this case, the rule is that investment income is taxed at a lower rate than earned income. That rule has been endorsed by both Democrats and Republicans, largely for two reasons: Investment income has already been taxed once as earned income, so the government’s total take on it is something north of 40 percent; and elected officials want to offer incentives to encourage investment, because it helps the economy grow.

That rule applies equally to Buffett and his secretary.

Ah, but the “problem,” according to Obama, is that a lot more of Buffett’s income (and that of Romney) is from investments, while that of most middle- and lower-income people is earned, and therefore taxed at a higher rate.

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