American Morning

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April 15th, 2009
11:08 AM ET

Romans on Obama, Bernanke and the politics of taxes

President Obama speaks on the economy at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, on April 14, 2009.

President Obama speaks on the economy at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, on April 14, 2009.

The president’s “major speech” on the economy yesterday did not cover new ground. It did not provide any fresh programs for stimulating the economy. Yet there was something new there: the president gave the most exhaustive explanation yet of his plan to reboot the American economy.

There was a lot more there than “glimmers of hope.”

Here’s what I mean. He was speaking directly to the American people, not announcing new plans, but selling what he has already done. He fiercely supported the bank bailouts. He acknowledged more difficult and “unpopular” decisions are ahead. He chastised his critics point by point. And he told American in great detail why he is tackling painful and politically-sensitive problems at the very same time as this financial crisis.

“I want every American to know that each action we take and each policy we pursue is driven by a larger vision of America's future – a future where sustained economic growth creates good jobs and rising incomes; a future where prosperity is fueled not by excessive debt, or reckless speculation, or fleeing profit, but is instead built by skilled, productive workers; by sound investments that will spread opportunity at home and allow this nation to lead the world in the technologies, the innovations, and discoveries that will shape the 21st century. That's the America I see."

It’s a reboot of the American economy. He said it could take many years.

I’ll admit, when the White House handlers bill something as a “major speech” but then add that there will be no new policies or initiatives, we reporters get a little skeptical. Is this just a chance to massage a message?

But in this case, I think the president made news. He is trying to turn the page on the crisis, and moving it into the next chapter, even though there was nothing really new in there. It comes as the very time when the shock of this crisis is wearing off, and the reality is setting in. People are starting to make decisions with their money not out of panic, but with actual information. We are settling into a reality that the economy is ailing and in a way, we are getting used to it. We can’t see the first green shoots of confidence until that feeling of economic shock and awe, fades. The president’s tone, reflected that.

On the same day, the Fed chief, Ben Bernanke noted “tentative signs” the steep decline in the economy “may be slowing.” The Fed chief said, “A leveling out of economic activity is the first step in our recovery.”

Enter stage left: horrible retail sales numbers for March. Prepare for months ahead of cautious optimism from policymakers eager to get confidence growing, tempered by ugly economic numbers.

John, Kiran and I have been rocking out this week in the bump shots to the Beatles’ classic “Tax Man….” as part of our series on taxes in honor of tax day today.

I have always said how you feel about taxes depends on your politics. The Tax Foundation just released survey results that seem to back that up. Here it is from the group’s release:

There are sharp differences between adults of different political parties and philosophies.
Republicans are more likely to say that their federal income tax bill was too high (62 percent) than Democrats (51 percent). Independents come in at 61 percent. Two-thirds of conservatives also say their federal income tax is too high (66 percent) compared to just over half of moderates (55 percent). For liberals, more people say their income tax bill is about right (45 percent) than those who say that it is too high (44 percent). Yet, when asked how much one would be willing to pay for all services provided by governments in one year, the results are counterintuitive. Republicans are willing to pay an average of $9,985 compared to $7,616 for Democrats. Independents respond with an average of $5,805. Moderates are willing to pay an average of $8,171 with liberals coming in at $7,714 and conservatives coming in at $6,668.

Happy Taxes!


Filed under: Business
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Margaret

    The only benefactors of the big bank bailouts are the big banks!! They still have no real accountability for their continuing spending splurges nor are they really assistanting their consumers with mortgage loan modifications and lending, simply because there was never any real "fail safe" criteria put in place! Once these monster entities had the money, they went back to "business as usual", pork spending under the guise of business junkets and enormous bonuses, all for the unscrupulous crooks, that created this mess to begin with! To me, the message that is being sent out to the big wigs on Wall Street, is that" they can still get away with anything" without impunity. The governments first course of business should have been and still should be is to get rid of all of the top banking executives, the "so called Wall St. Genuses" who condoned these conceptual banking and Wall St. debacle schemes! They all should be ousted and not be continually paid high salaries and bonuses!!!!!! Why not form a committee, of young educated, innovative people, most of which are out of work, who would be on board with an agender that benefits the working class and the banking industries bottom line. I've worked in International banking on both Wall St. and Madison Ave for 22 years under the "good old boys" club philosophy! It's time to retire the "good old boy" clan!! We need real change.

    October 21, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  2. Mary

    That would be a first!! The truth?? Since when do we get told the truth? The truth is....taxes are going UP! Not the federal taxes this year, ... the ciggarette taxes, wine and beer taxes, tax on soda pop, taxes on movies and entertainment, taxes on EVERYTHING! Top it all off with ...each state gets to re-tax its states people! When will all of this horrifying spending ever stop?? Heck, I even heard that Governer Rendell wanted to hire clowns and mimes to cheer us ap in the state of PA! U know what we'd love to see when it comes to that? Goveror Rendell is already a PAID governor, paid by the people! I would love to see him dressed as a clown and dance right down the PA turnpike for all of us Pennsylvanians! After all, they were going to stop the fees for the turnpike after it was paid off, but decided NOT TO in the end! This is what will happen to our taxes! Do you honestly believe that they will roll back on the taxes after imposing them on the public? Heck NO! Just as was done here to PA residents, they will NEVER roll them back! I am middle class. They took SO MUCH taxes from our family this year, that we were knocked right back down to POVERTY! Yea! All we need here is MORE CLOWNS! I think we already have enough of those in office!

    ...and, your federal taxes will go up next year! They have NO CHOICE with all of the pork spending! Someone has to pay for these clowns!

    April 16, 2009 at 8:51 am |
  3. charles

    I watch Obama speak today and it was an encourgeing speech. He was speaking to all americans and telling the trust. Some people will never admit it because they do not like the party. I am glad he comes out and talk to the amercian people,so we will get the right messages

    April 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm |