George Bernard Shaw was a perceptive man with a wry wit who apparently knew a little something about politics. Shaw, after all, is the one who said, “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”
Or to put it less elegantly, “If you can tax the rich and give their money to everyone who isn’t rich, you’re not going to get a lot of opposition from the everyone else crowd.”
This apparently is what President Obama is counting on as he runs for re-election. The wealthiest Americans, he tells us, need “to pay a little more.” The implication is that the wealthy aren’t paying – here comes one of those favorite phrases employed by liberal Democrats – “their fair share.”
Actually, the wealthiest among us are paying a lot more than their fair share. The top one percent of taxpayers pay almost 40 percent of all federal income taxes. The top five percent pay nearly 60 percent. And the top 10 percent pay about 70 percent.
The bottom 50 percent of taxpayers pretty much don’t pay any federal income tax – less than three percent. Those are the ones with no skin in the game. Let’s call them Paul.
So it doesn’t take a political genius to figure out Barack Obama’s re-election strategy. This is the speech – with only a little exaggeration — you will be hearing a lot between now and Election Day 2012:
“If the Republicans have their way, old people will lose their homes. Many of them will be forced to live in cardboard boxes on the street. They will be eating dog food. Yes, we have to cut spending. But not that way. The Republicans will stop funding research that would save the lives of beautiful little children with cancer. That’s not the America I want to live in. And why do they want to do this? For just one reason: To make sure millionaires and billionaires don’t have to pay just a little more in taxes. If that’s the America you want, vote Republican. But I think you’re better than that.”
Let’s remember that you will be hearing some version of that speech from the man who during his first run for the White House, told us he would put an end to “the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”
From the same man who when he got his party’s nomination, said, “One of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.”
From the same man who on election night said, “I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”
It would be a waste of time to chastise President Obama for his grandiose hypocrisy. He’s hardly the only politician who speaks out of both sides of his mouth. But for sheer cynicism, he’s the best.
The same Barack Obama who supposedly abhors partisanship and pettiness practically called Paul Ryan un-American for proposing a budget Mr. Obama doesn’t like. And he does this after inviting Mr. Ryan to listen to his speech from a front row seat – an echo of when the President chastised members of the U.S. Supreme Court, who were sitting just a few feet in front of him during his State of the Union message, for a decision he didn’t agree with.
If Barack Obama didn’t have that great smile and easy-going manner, he would be seen for what he really is: an old fashioned, at times downright nasty, Chicago politician who would throw his minister under the bus if he thought it would further his career.
Sorry, I forgot: Mr. Obama has already done that.
But with so many people named Paul out there, and with so few Peters, the president’s cynical class warfare strategy may work. Besides, incumbents usually win re-election. That’s the bad news for Republicans.
The good news is that the last time he ran everything was going his way: John McCain was not an especially attractive candidate. George Bush was an albatross around Mr. McCain’s neck. The American people usually don’t pick a president from the same party three times in a row. The financial meltdown ended any chance that McCain had.
On top of that, Barack Obama was new and fresh and plenty of people believed him when he said he was not your typical politician. And we haven’t even mentioned the slobbering love affair he had with the so-called mainstream media.
So 2008 was something akin to political perfection for Barack Obama, with so many good things falling his way. The problem is you can only make first impressions once. Nothing will ever be that perfect for Barack Obama again. The latest Gallup poll shows President Obama with just a 41 percent job approval. And that ties his low. Maybe even Paul is getting tired of Mr. Obama’s act.
I hope that, over the years, you have come to trust me. Whether your agree with me on this issue or that … I hope you believe I’ve always been a straight shooter. I say only what I truly believe.
And I believe in this book. (Check out the Amazon link above and to the right of my column.)
The author is Jim Axelrod, a marathon runner, a CBS News correspondent, and most important of all, Jim is one of the good guys. His book — In the Long Run: A Father, a Son, and Unintentional Lessons in Happiness – is about life at the crossroads … and the lessons you can learn to get through the rough spots.
In the Long Run is about what happens when you wake up one day and it hits you: ambition and talent aren’t always enough to ensure success. And they’re certainly not enough to ensure happiness. This is a book, most of all, about learning what it takes to be truly happy in your own skin.
Get it for yourself, or for someone you care about.