If there were some kind of award for the most misleading statements in a single four-minute speech, President Obama would have earned it with his weekly address this weekend, timed for tax day.
“We can’t afford to keep spending more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” Mr. Obama said.
This is really something. First of all, who is the “we” in that sentence? The many Americans who don’t pay any income taxes at all, or who take more from the government in welfare or entitlement benefits than they pay in taxes? Second, it’s great to see Mr. Obama start to crack down on unaffordable government spending. But it’s hard to define tax cuts as spending unless you start from the concept that all money belongs to the government to begin with. It’s one thing to conceive of some special tax break as a “tax expenditure.” But it’s not “spending” for the government to allow an individual to keep money that the individual earned or owned in the first place.
Mr. Obama went on: “This week, Members of Congress are going to have a chance to set things right. They get to vote on what we call the Buffett Rule. It’s simple: If you make more than $1 million every year, you should pay at least the same percentage of your income in taxes as middle-class families do. On the other hand, if you make less than $250,000 a year—like 98 percent of American families do—your taxes shouldn’t go up. That’s all there is to it.”
Here is some language from the actual text of the Buffett Rule legislation, which Mr. Obama calls “simple”:
SEC. 59B. FAIR SHARE TAX.
‘‘(a) GENERAL RULE.— ‘‘(1) PHASE-IN OF TAX.—In the case of any
high-income taxpayer, there is hereby imposed for a taxable year (in addition to any other tax imposed by this subtitle) a tax equal to the product of—
‘‘(A) the amount determined under paragraph (2), and
‘‘(B) a fraction (not to exceed 1)— ‘‘(i) the numerator of which is the excess of—
‘‘(I) the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income, over
‘‘(II) the dollar amount in effect under subsection (c)(1), and ‘‘(ii) the denominator of which is the
dollar amount in effect under subsection (c)(1).
‘‘(2) AMOUNT OF TAX.—The amount of tax determined under this paragraph is an amount equal to the excess (if any) of—
‘‘(A) the tentative fair share tax for the taxable year, over