Many readers are taking issue with this line: "And so my heart sinks as I see Obama drifting to the left, offering the silly Buffett Rule instead of serious tax reform…" One notes:
According to a CNN/ORC International survey, 72% favor the "Buffett Rule." So I have to disagree with your assessment of Obama "drifting to the left."
It's the tip of the damn spear, Andrew. It's the most obvious, publicly favored, contrast-drawing component of a larger tax plan. It alone would bring in $47 billion in the next ten years, and that's if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to sunset. Add a hundred billion if it doesn't. It also establishes a basic fairness that was advocated by Ronald Reagan himself. Yet today's GOP not only will not support it, they will filibuster it while the media casually reports that 60 votes are necessary for anything to pass.
Obama tried serious budget reform and you saw how far that got.
He has now tried two small tax code changes. The Republicans rallied to defend the massive and blatantly useless tax breaks for oil and gas companies. Now they've rallied to defend the wealthiest from paying historically low taxes, just higher historically low taxes than they do today.
The Buffett Rule was a very good piece of costless politics. The lines are now very clearly drawn between the parties, and the CBO is on Obama's side. This is not the time for a sinking heart. Serious tax reform was never going to happen during our economic rebuilding phase anyway.
Now if Obama is reelected and he still does not perform on serious tax reform, then MY heart will sink. But I always thought this wouldn't be touched until his second term. This is partly due to an influential writer and blogger who convinced me that Obama played "the long game" and was planning on two terms right from the beginning.
Sometimes all we need are simple, incremental tweaks. I'd think that a conservative would be 100% in line with this type of thinking. Raising taxes on the Buffett-level segment of population is a simple, fair-minded reform that nets billions in deficit reduction over the years. Incrementally adjusting Social Security and Medicare caps can push each system's solvency out for decades.
I take the point – and Tomasky's too. My concern is that Obama has to have a clear proposal not just for more fairness but for more growth. This is the only area where Romney has an opening. I don't believe that Romney's current debt-ballooning reprise of supply-side loopiness is credible for growth. But he'll try to make it sound like that for an electorate deeply depressed as this recession's long term toll continues to mount. If Obama were to portray the Buffett Rule as a downpayment on serious tax reform, then he might address the problem.