April 9th, 2012
08:23 PM ET

Letters to the President #1176: 'How rich?'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama every day. He never writes back..

Dear Mr. President,

I know how popular it is to rag on the rich. I know that tens of millions of my fellow Americans would love nothing more than to see you and Congress take them down a peg with a walloping new tax. I know that in an election year few things are as enticing to someone seeking re-election as grabbing onto a populist bat and swinging for the fences when a big fat pitch comes over the plate.

But here is something else I know: It is not enough. The tax hike you want to slap on the richest Americans, no matter how popular, will not produce nearly enough revenue to even start solving our budget problems.

We have, as you know, some serious accounting to be done when it comes to what we are taking in and what we are paying out in terms of our government. Now, people can be for more taxes, or less services, or whatever they wish; all I’m saying is if anyone thinks that taxing the rich as you have proposed will substantially balance that equation, accountants say they are dead wrong.

As rich as the rich are, and as satisfying as it may be for struggling folks to take a whack at them, there just aren’t enough of them to tilt the scales. It seems to me that the goal ought to be getting the country…as a whole…onto firmer financial footing. And I just keep hearing too many experts in the financial field suggest the measure you are proposing…this so called Buffett rule…won’t get that job done.

To put it bluntly, they are suggesting that the rule is mainly punitive…not restorative. So tax them if you want, but I fear the next chorus will be: We’ve done that and it didn’t help. Now what? Anyway, I’m not trying to rain on your parade. Maybe I’m missing something here. And like I said, I know that a lot of people like this idea; but in an election year, I think it is important for all candidates…incumbents and challengers…to remember that what makes for good politics does not always make for good policy.

Hope your week is off to a good start.


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