Editor's notes

Is Obama's tax on the rich too little, too late?

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tredmond@sfbg.com

So the people who advise President Obama have finally figured out that he was on the road to becoming a one-term president — and the United States was on the road to ruin under President Perry. Whatever combination of self-preservation and fear was at work, it worked, at least for the moment.

Obama is now on record as refusing to accept any cuts in entitlements for poor people unless the rich people give a little, too. It's a pretty good political statement — in every single major poll taken in the past year, an overwhelming majority of Americans agreed that higher taxes on the wealthy should be part of any deficit-reduction package. And it's a no-brainer economic statement — the fundamental problem with the U.S. economy is a lack of consumer demand, which is tied directly to the fact that all of the wealth over the past 20 years has gone to the top and the middle class doesn't have enough money to spend.

But what's it's really done is kicked the proverbial tax can — and thus, unfortunately, economic recovery — down the proverbial road another 13 months. Because the Republicans won't accept higher taxes, and if Obama keeps his newfound spine, he won't accept any cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, and nobody is talking about cutting the military, so nothing is going to happen.

Instead, this is the launch of Campaign 2012. Obama's got a tough sell — the number on issue for most voters is jobs, and while I personally believe that the first stimulus plan kept the recession from getting worse, that's not enough. Things are supposed to get better, and when they don't, the guy at the top gets the blame.

So Obama has a problem: It's all his fault, but he can't do anything about it, and that's what the Republicans are counting on. His only choice is to come roaring out like Harry Truman, and blame the "do-nothing" Republican Congress for blocking economic growth (and, if he has any sense, will say that the GOP is holding a jobs program hostage to protect the interests of the millionaires), and the Democrats will try to use that message to take back the House — and if it works, we might just possibly get things back on track in 2013. If it doesn't, it's going to be a very ugly decade.