What If Obama Taxed the Rich but Never Told Anyone?

obama shopping

President Barack Obama chooses from tubs of candy during a visit to the Mast General Store in Boone, North Carolina. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Did you know Obama’s health care bill contained a $20 billion a year tax on the richest Americans? I didn’t until I stumbled onto a mention of this the other day, although writing about politics is my life and I knew enough to be angry at the gutting of a national public option. I asked a dozen other friends, half of whom work in health care or health care policy and most of whom are fellow political junkies. None of them knew either. If those who follow these issues intensely don’t know about something that all of us would cheer as a step toward getting the wealthiest to pay their fair share, most American voters sure aren’t going to know either.

The tax supports Medicare and low-income health care subsidies. Beginning in 2013, it will bring in $210 billion over 10 years by charging households that make over $250,000 a year 3.8% on everything over that amount. The provision also applies to investment and dividend income, a key precedent toward ensuring that billionaires pay at least the same share of taxes as self-employed carpenters. It got some modest coverage when it passed, and accountants certainly know about it. But the rest of us don’t, and that makes me mad.

I don’t remember any point when Obama highlighted it, even as his base and the American public and his own base became steadily more demoralized from a sense that his administration was more willing to fight for Wall Street then Main Street. This doesn’t completely erase his caving on temporarily extending the Bush tax cuts. But it begins to cut the other way, requiring the top 1% (well actually the top 2%), to carry a bit more of their share. For most people, though, it might as well never have happened, because Obama neglected to tell them.

I don’t know why he hasn’t highlighted this success story. Maybe he considered it too wonkish. Maybe Rahm Emanuel convinced him that the issue was a political loser, though polls consistently support higher taxes on the wealthy. Maybe it’s Obama’s reluctance to take controversial stands. But if he wants to convince ordinary Americans that our fates are indeed tied together, he’d better start embracing those moments where his administration has actually made progress, while continuing to talk about how far we have to go.

paul loebSince Occupy Wall Street, Obama’s started to speak out more forcefully, as in his powerful recent Teddy Roosevelt speech about America’s economic divides. Yet here’s an example, and I know there are others, where he’s actually required those at the top to start carrying a bit more of their fair share, yet said next to nothing to let the rest of us know. It’s long overdue that he begin.

Paul Loeb

Republished from the Huffington Post with the author’s permission.


  1. Tyrannus Evisceratus says

    He didn’t talk about because who do you think his campaign donors are?
    People who make a lot more than 250,000 a year.
    “Mr. campaign donor will you give me money to run for president while I talk about how people like you need to be taxed extra in my health care bill?”
    -Campaign Donor
    That is why no one bragged about this.

  2. says

    Prior two commenters have faulty logic. Obama DID cave -idiotically but characteristically. If we’re really all in this together, if we really all want the economy to succeed, including the kind of dynamic economy that sustainably enables the rich to get ever richer, then Republicans should have SUPPORTED, not opposed, unemployment benefits extension.

    What the above commenters presume is that Republicans are innately entitled to be unreasonable and immoral, to shoot-in-foot national policies, and that Obama is entitled to praise for splitting the difference between a common-sense reasonable position and a ridiculous immoral position.

  3. sherifffruitfly says

    Obama didn’t “cave” on the tax cut for the rich you retard. He TRADED them for unemployment insurance benefits extension.

    But republicans thank you for carrying their water, and blaming Obama instead of them.

  4. maggy519 says

    First of all, thanks for this. Those of us that actually studiesd and read the ACA knew about this and kept telling people about it, as did many others, including Dems and Sibelius. Where were you? Reading blogs of folks pissed off about whatever but too lazy to research the facts? Its time to wake up progressives and listen to your President. We need him and we need you!

    Also: please stop saying he CAVED on the Bush tax cuts. Its makes you sound misinformed.. We got unemployment extended and a bunch of other stuff. And Dems were wobbly. That said, they will expire because of the much maligned debt limit deal, just as POTUS planned.
    So, give the guy a break. He is doing a great job in the face of a disgusting, rabid RW media/Gop party opposition.

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