In a discussion over whether and how far to increase the capital‐gains tax, ABC anchor Charles Gibson pointed out to Sen. Obama that a 1980s hike in the tax actually saw revenue fall, presumably a worry for a candidate who wants to increase government spending on social programs and “infrastructure” projects. Astonishingly, Obama replied: “I would look at raising the capital‐gains tax for purposes of fairness.”
In other words, to Barack Obama, soaking the rich and discouraging investment is worth it for its own sake, even if it can’t raise more money. The objective isn’t to raise revenue, it’s to inflict pain on those perceived as relatively well‐off.
How could this sentiment possibly satisfy the residents of Pennsylvania, Michigan or anywhere else? If raising tax rates will slow down the economy without increasing government revenue, they probably wondered, what’s in it for them?
In some ways, the debate was more notable for what the candidates didn’t talk about. In spite of a slowing economy and local demographics, trade policy — which has a substantial impact on them — hardly got a mention.
Sen. Obama gave a clear indication of his thoughts in this area earlier last week. In an address to the Alliance for American Manufacturing in Pittsburgh, Obama reiterated his line that trade policies are written to enhance the “corporate bottom line.” As he said, trade policies haven’t worked for America because labor unions haven’t been given a seat at the negotiating table. “Special interests have bought every seat,” he says. (As if unions were not special interests).
Obama lamented the loss of manufacturing jobs and factory closures, and claimed “the few jobs that are being created” bring inferior pay and conditions.
What is there, in all this rhetoric, for Americans? Where’s the hope?
The U.S. economy, over the past decade, has created an average net 1.4 million jobs per year. Sometimes other states offer more opportunities, and when the going gets tough, as they say, the tough get going.