David Moore is the CEO of Wall Street holdings company, and he has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today reflecting on a recent run-in with a panhandler. As best as I can tell, the op-ed is not a parody.
As Moore explains it, he was walking down New York’s 55th Street near Park Avenue last week, when a man on the street said, “Here are a bunch of Wall Street guys. Give me some money.” Moore says he handed the man a dollar and walked away. “A dollar?” the panhandler shouted. “You Wall Street fat cats! This is what the problem is with this country. Take your damn dollar.”
Apparently, this is somehow President Obama’s fault.
Like most people I know, I think President Obama’s tax increases on the wealthy would make sense if we believed he was sincere about — and could be successful at — reforming Washington’s overspending, out-of-control entitlements and regulation. Instead, his attacks on Wall Street bankers (“fat cats,” a phrase Mr. Obama now owns and was eloquently repeated by the panhandler on Friday night), Las Vegas, oil companies, jet manufacturers and “millionaires and billionaires” are inflaming both sides and placating no one. They seriously undermine the chances for reasonable compromise.
The president’s incendiary message has now reached the streets. His complaints that rich people must “pay their fair share” have now goaded some of our society’s most unfortunate, including one who felt compelled to refuse money because it was not enough.
Let’s unpack this, because it’s important to realize how misguided the op-ed really is.
First, Moore suggests he could tolerate an increase in the historically-low tax rates for the wealthy if only the White House would also accept entitlement reforms and deregulation (deregulation of what, he didn’t say). In reality, President Obama offered congressional Republicans a “Grand Bargain” that — you guessed it — traded tax increases for entitlement reforms. GOP leaders refused. As for eliminating unnecessary and wasteful regulations, the White House has already acted on this front, without Congress.
Second, the notion that criticism of “fat cats” constitutes “incendiary” rhetoric is deeply silly. The notion that the president now “owns” the oft-used phrase because Moore heard Obama say it once is ridiculous. The notion that a street beggar was inspired by the president to use the phrase, and turn down a charitable dollar, is just ludicrous on its face.
And third, Moore would have us believe President Obama is a big meanie, hurting Wall Street’s feelings by recommending tax increases — a return to Clinton-era levels — for those who’ve been showered with wealth and shielded from consequences by a system already tilted to benefit those at the top. This, in Moore’s words, makes the president a “Great Divider,” targeting those put-upon rich people like no other president in Moore’s lifetime.
If I tried to write a parody of a Wall Street executive needlessly feeling sorry for himself, I probably couldn’t have come up with anything quite this absurd.
In 1985, Ronald Reagan complained that “some of the truly wealthy” were taking advantage of tax breaks that help them “avoid paying their fair share.” The then-president said it was possible for millionaires to pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than a bus driver. “That’s crazy,” Reagan said.
Why Reagan so callously neglected the feelings of millionaires, deliberately divided the country along class lines, and sowed the seeds of “class warfare” and American division is a mystery.
Maybe Moore can explain it to me.