Doug Edwards’ tax bill

At a LinkedIn town-hall meeting yesterday, President Obama heard from a wealthy tech-industry veteran who asked, “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 man was later identified as Doug Edwards, the former director of marketing at Google.

Most of the initial pushback from the right was pretty silly — some conservatives argued that if Edwards wanted to voluntarily chip in extra funds to the treasury, he’s free to do so. But any serious look at the issue shows what’s needed is cooperative solutions built around shared action, not a tip jar in front of Tim Geithner’s office.

The second line of criticism came from spokesmen for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who said the former Google executive is no longer in the workforce, so urging the White House to raise his taxes doesn’t make sense.

As Pat Garofalo explained, Republicans really ought to brush up on the basics of the debate over tax policy.

These two — either out of ignorance or because they’re being disingenuous — completely missed Edwards’ point and the point behind the “Buffett rule” that the administration has proposed. Many people, Edwards included, make their income through investments, which are taxed at a much lower rate than wages. The Bush tax cuts not only lowered income tax rates, but also the rate on capital gains, taking it all the way down to 15 percent.

When asked after the event if he supported raising the capital gains tax, Edwards replied that he did…. Remember, it was the raging socialist President Ronald Reagan who totally equalized the treatment of investment income and wage income, rejecting the argument that investors needed to pay a lower tax rate. Edwards, meanwhile, is earning enough income from his stock options in Google to donate all of the proceeds from a book he wrote to charity, while supporting three children.

The underlying fears of our larger political discourse aren’t limited to the fact that congressional Republicans have moved too far to the right and are too unwilling to compromise. There’s also the very real concern that leading GOP officials simply don’t have the policy chops to carry on a credible debate — they can’t address policy issues if they don’t have a strong enough understanding of the subject matter they’re dealing with.

Cantor’s and Boehner’s offices only reinforced these concerns yesterday.