Opinion

Chrystia Freeland

The 1 percent vs. President Obama

Chrystia Freeland
Jul 12, 2012 23:46 UTC

Why have the rich turned against President Barack Obama?

That has been a persistent theme of this campaign: We were reminded of it at the beginning of this week, when Mitt Romney’s team raised more money than the president’s for the second month running, and more colorfully in weekend reports of the Republican candidate’s lavish fund-raisers in the Hamptons.

If you were a Martian, or even a European, the animosity of America’s 1 percent toward the president might be rather mysterious. Although those at the bottom and in the middle are still suffering from the downturn that began in 2008, with unemployment above 8 percent, the affluent economy has bounced back quite smartly. The stock market has recovered, corporate coffers are overflowing with cash, and the luxury goods market is booming.

Even Wall Street, where hostility toward the White House is especially acid, has reason to be grateful. Bankers got the biggest government bailout of all – much more than laid-off workers or beleaguered homeowners received from this Democratic administration – and the president resisted calls from the left to nationalize the banks he rescued, as did the British.

Part of the answer is simple self-interest. As the economics writer Matthew Yglesias has argued, there is one easy and obvious explanation for the animosity of the rich toward the incumbent: He wants to raise their taxes significantly. That is certainly right. On Monday, Obama reiterated his support for letting the Bush-era tax cuts for household incomes of more than $250,000 expire, while keeping the lower rates in place for everyone else.

This is a powerful point. It can be tempting to imagine that the affluent might fret less about their tax bills than the poor, who are struggling to get by, but the elaborate tax avoidance strategies of superrich Americans suggest otherwise.

U.S. moderates aren’t in the middle

Chrystia Freeland
Jul 6, 2012 15:12 UTC

Go to the Aspen Ideas Festival – or to any similar confab of affluent elites gathered to solve the problems of the world in luxurious, remote hamlets – and you can be sure that a dominant theme will be a lament for the vanishing political center.

Where, panel after panel will ask, are the wise moderates, able to seek compromise and rise above partisanship in pursuit of the public good? America’s biggest problems, and its inability to tackle them head-on, will usually be cited as the consequence of this lack of a sensible middle.

Most of the wealthy and well-positioned people in the rooms where these sorts of discussions are conducted see themselves as members of that sadly disempowered middle, so reflections along these lines are generally well received.

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