Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rockefeller's legacy, Obama's taxes

"Health care legislation will 'probably include some additional revenue from well-to-do people,' President Obama said in a Today show interview with Meredith Vieira that aired this morning.

'It's not punishing the rich,' Obama said. 'The way I look at it is, if I can afford to do a little bit more so that a whole bunch of families out there have a little more security, when I already have security, that's part of being a community.'"

It always seems a bit odd to me that when President Obama expresses his philosophy about the rich coughing up more of their money in taxes, nobody--at least as far as I've seen--points out the irony of this, considering Obama's previous career.

The President was, you will recall, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Would you like your son or daughter to go there? That's great if you do; it's one of the finest law schools in the land. But be prepared to pay for the privilege; according to the University's own website the tuition is nearly $44,000 a year. Throw in room and board, books, and other fees and the University acknowledges that the student's cost will be over $66,000 a year--far more than the median annual U.S. household income, which is just over $50,000 a year.

Okay, maybe you'd like to save a little cash and just have your kid go to the University of Chicago as an undergraduate. Alas, that will still run you over $38,000 in tuition yearly; throw in other expenses and even if you live in the Windy City and your son or daughter rides the bus to school, you're still looking at over $46,000 a year to send your youngster to Obama's former stomping grounds. Who's going to keep universities with costs like that running if we have a tax system that inevitably will reduce the number of people with enough cash to pay such figures?

I can't help wondering what the President's reaction would be if someone replied to his comment on the Today Show by declaring, "Sir, rather than give the government any more of my hard earned income in taxes, which will likely be misspent, I'd prefer to use the money I've accumulated to send my daughter to the University of Chicago to get an outstanding education--the same type of costly, private education you got from Princeton and Harvard. You know, if you raise taxes on people who do well, there will be fewer families crunching their budgets and deciding they can afford to send their kids to the University of Chicago. That can't possibly be helpful to your former employer."

Of course, more money taken by the government for taxes also means fewer well off folks will be giving the University funds to renovate buildings or fill scholarship funds. This also can't be good for the President's former workplace.

Finally, let me note the biggest irony of Obama's taxation philosophy. Do you know who founded the University of Chicago, where he taught for a dozen years?

It was John D. Rockefeller, one of the richest Americans of the nineteenth century. Again, from the University's own website, we learn that Rockefeller called the school "the best investment I ever made."

I think it's fair to ask if America had the taxation policies Obama endorses in the 1890s, whether or not Rockefeller would have made the investment in the first place. He might have looked at how much of his empire Uncle Sam was taking and say, "Well, I was going to found a leading institution of higher learning in Chicago, but not with this tax bill I'm not!"

And if that was the case, the grand University of Chicago, with its impressive array of Noble laureates, would never have come to be. You can't help but wonder how many worthy pet projects of the rich will never come to fruition if the government thrusts its hand ever deeply in every wealthy person's pocket.

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