Barack Obama won’t triangulate, because he can’t:
That Monday tax deal had to be the worst day of Barack Obama’s presidency. I’d be surprised if this most insouciant of presidents was able to sleep Monday after the statement he issued at the White House about the deal. That was no mere statement. It was a class warrior’s cry from the heart.
He lashed “the wealthiest Americans” three times, not to mention “the wealthiest 2% of Americans,” “tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires,” “wealthy people” and—channeling the French revolution—”the wealthiest estates.” (Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, answering the party’s casting call for the role of Madame Defarge, denounced the deal as “morally corrupt.” Keep her away from knitting needles.)
I don’t buy that all this was said as a sop to the angry left. One month into his presidency, the Obama budget message repeatedly ripped into “those at the commanding heights of our economy.” When at the White House Monday Mr. Obama suggested his next campaign will be “a conversation with the American people” about ending those rates (35%!) for “wealthy people,” I take him at his word. He won’t be at peace until this violation is erased.
…Will the nation’s new economic royalists step forward, rope in hand, to produce enough economic activity to help Mr. Obama to a second term of retribution? Maybe not. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, some 70% of manufacturing concerns in the U.S. have owners whose business is taxed at the individual rate (S corporations and the like). These are the people expected to commit capital to new hires and equipment.
But if an angry, let-me-be-clear Barack Obama just looked into the cameras and said he’s coming to get you in two years, what rational economic choice would you make? Spend the profit or gains 2011 might produce on new workers, or bury any new income in the backyard until the 2012 presidential clouds clear?
No matter how much economic bump Mr. Obama gets in 2011 from extending the Bush-era tax rates, the 2012 election will be fought over a deep national anxiety that he rightly identifies but misinterprets.
I don’t think he’ll be able to fool the people again in 2012, at least not enough to get reelected. Now they understand what he meant in his brief conversation with Joe the Plumber, and they understand what it means to elect a Marxist.
[Update a couple minutes later]
It’s too late for a “third way.”