Leonhardt on Obama’s Economic Program

01Sep08

Here is an excellent discussion of Obama’s economic program from David Leonhardt at the New York Times; after reading it I certainly I feel like I have a better grasp of Obama’s overall vision of the economy. What is interesting is the way that Obama integrates a very real appreciation of the virtues of unfettered markets combined with an equal conviction that Republican, trickle-down, tax policies have lead to concentrations of wealth that, ultimately, undermine the virtues of markets. This is fairly close to how I look at the situation, so I know that Obama must be right about this. </joke>.

Obama’s windfall profits tax on oil companies, and the subsequent giveaway of the money to the taxpayers smacks of populist opportunism. But Leonhardt’s article makes it clear that the windfall tax on Big Oil is on the extreme edge of Obama’s economic thinking, conjured up by the crisis in gasoline prices. Obama’s main thrust is just that working people are paying too large a share of the national tax burden, and the wealthy, particularly the extremely wealthy, are paying too small a share, and that the economy as a whole suffers from this concentration of wealth at the top. In other words, the general strategy of giving tax breaks to the rich has failed because the trickledown that was supposed to reach everybody else never materialized. So, therefore, you stop giving tax breaks to the rich and even take some steps to slant things back the other way to a degree. Very straightforward.

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