Jacob Heilbrunn

Obama's Tax War

President Obama has targeted the Chamber of Commerce as his villain in the midterm elections, raising the specter of foreign money being used to buy the election. In his rhetoric Obama is moving steadily to the left. But does he really think that denouncing the chamber will help sway voters? Probably not. More likely he's using it as a form of anticipatory self-defense, to use international law lingo--he's intent on insulating himself from the charge, following what could be a blowout, from the left that his mistake was that he was too cautious in attacking the GOP and the Tea Party.

The more intriguing question is where Obama heads after the midterm elections because his current stand on taxes is untenable. Obama wants to use $250,000 as the marker for holding the line on the Bush tax cuts, which expire at the end of this year. But as a story in the Washington Post today underscores, this is malarkey. To define families earning $250,000 as the rich doesn't stand up to scrutiny, at least if they're living in New York or San Francisco or other pricey areas of the country:

The Council for Community and Economic Research, an Arlington County-based organization that calculates cost-of-living indexes, estimates it costs about 40 percent more to live here than it does in cities closer to the average, such as Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Dover, Del.

It lists Washington as the 11th most expensive place to live in the country, just above Oakland, Calif., and behind Nassau County, adjacent to New York City.

The report from the Wider Opportunites for Women suggests that the costs of financial security has gone up by $20,000 in the Washington area from 2008 to 2010. It estimates the number for security at about $104,000 for a family of four. But it comes with the caveat that this doesn't include savings for retirement. Throw in private schooling if you live in a lousy area--and the record of DC schools, shall we say, is rather iffy--and suddenly that $100,000 starts to look rather slender.

Obama, who is sending his daughters to Sidwell Friends to the tune of $31,000 each a year, doesn't have to worry about his income. It will be interesting to see if Obama, who became a millionaire off his autobiography, will offer a compromise on taxes after the midterm elections or hold fast to his current stand.