President Obama fielded questions today at a LinkedIn town-hall meeting this afternoon, and it’s safe bet that one exchange in particular will be getting a lot of attention. Indeed, it already is.
For those who can’t watch clips online, question came from a man who retired at a young age, thanks to the success of a start-up company he worked for that “did quite well” (the man was later identified as the former director of marketing at Google). He asked the president, “Would you please raise my taxes? I would like very much to have the country to continue to invest in things like Pell Grants, and infrastructure, and job training programs that made it possible for me to get to where I am.”
The president’s response, which sounded a bit like Elizabeth Warren, rejected the idea that asking the very wealthy to sacrifice a little more is somehow “class warfare.” Obama added, “[W]e’re in this thing together.” When the questioner followed up, asking Obama to “please” raise taxes on people like him, the president concluded, “We’re gonna get to work.”
Many on the right were incensed by the exchange. Why? Well, obviously because the guy who asked the question wants higher taxes on the rich and conservatives disagree. But as it turns out, there’s more to it than that — some are arguing that if this individual wants to voluntarily contribute more to the treasury, he should do so, but people like him and Warren Buffett should leave other wealthy people out of it.
It’s worth pausing to appreciate how ridiculous the argument really is. We’re a massive, modern nation with a vast economy. We face real challenges, and they’re not the kind of challenges individuals can hope to resolve on their own — we need cooperative solutions built around shared action.
Making taxes voluntarily — asking for a little more only from those willing to pay a little more — is absurd.
The GOP’s nonsensical talking points notwithstanding, it’s good to see wealthy individuals stepping up and making the case for more tax fairness. I don’t imagine that will persuade congressional Republicans — nothing seems to persuade congressional Republicans — but it’s a sentiment the public benefits from hearing anyway.