Obama, the rich, and fair taxes

Great speech. Inspiring speech. Just one little problem

There are two things I took away from President Obama’s final address. Well, three.

First, it demonstrated once again what it’s like to have a political leader who knows how to make a persuasive, literate, and inspiring speech. We won’t get that from the White House for next four years.


Second: If Hillary Clinton made even one speech like that on the campaign trail, she would be the president-elect.

Third: While Obama talked about the importance of facts, of reality-based policy, of holding elected officials accountable, one of his statements was largely inaccurate.

And it represents a critical failure of an administration that will generally go down as an historic success.

Here’s the quote:

Today, the economy is growing again; wages, incomes, home values, and retirement accounts are rising again; poverty is falling again. The wealthy are paying a fairer share of taxes even as the stock market shatters records. The unemployment rate is near a ten-year low.

No, not really.

The unemployment rate is only low because lots and lots of people are working in low-wage, part-time and “gig economy” jobs that don’t pay a living wage. More important, the wealthy are NOT paying a fair — or maybe even “fairer” — share of taxes.

Most of the Bush-era tax cuts survived the Obama administration. He managed to raise rates on the richest by a little, but nowhere near enough to account for the wealth the Bush cuts created for the one percent, or the wealth at the top that exploded in the past eight years.

The wealth and income divide in this country – particularly in cities like San Francisco – is only marginally better, if at all, than it was eight years ago. In this city, it’s worse. The fabulous wealth created by the tech boom and the Obama recovery has not been shared even remotely equally.

Wages and incomes are rising, sure – but the wages and incomes of the one percent are rising far faster than the rest of us, and in cities, where most people live, that’s driving up the cost of living faster than the increase in wages and incomes.

Many longtime San Franciscans are worse off than they were eight years ago. Many don’t even live here any more, forced out by evictions and housing costs. The recession was rough – but in this city, housing costs are often more important than unemployment or income rates. And we know what’s happened.

That’s not directly Obama’s fault (although he did very little to increase federal spending on housing in cities). And I know he was working with a Republican Congress for six of his eight years.

But: He spent his first two years, and his political capital, on the Affordable Care Act, which has done tremendous good but also enriched insurance companies (and I can speak from person experience, it hasn’t cut the cost of my health insurance).

When he controlled both houses of Congress between 2009 and 2011, there was very little effect talk of reforming the capital gains tax, of increasing the marginal tax rate on the rich to the level it used to be under radical socialists like Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, of fixing the economy not just with a deficit-based stimulus but with a real redistributive plan that might have included a guaranteed income.

I’m not saying he could have pulled all of that off. But it wasn’t even on the agenda. Taxing the rich at “fairer” levels — which for many years were as high as 80 percent on marginal income at the very top — and using that money for public jobs and social programs (which would have done far more for the economy)? Not worth the fight.

Trump is going to be way worse. The economy is going to be even more of a mess. The rich are going to get even richer. Obama was better; Clinton would have been better.

And the guy did good. In the pantheon of American presidents, Obama will go down as a great one. Thanks, Mr. President, for inspiring a generation. Thanks for your class, for your refusal to drop to the level of your crazy critics, for making us all think better about how we can get along.

But let’s be real here: The rich aren’t paying their fair share now, any more than they were when you took office.


  1. No you did not. Direct quote from you above:

    “There is no private market anymore, Obamacare destroyed it.”

  2. But surely you’ll be having some little ones soon. You can juggle your parenting with the bookkeeping while hubby does the tech. Some sleepless nights at first! But you’ll survive.

  3. So you now admit that you CAN buy private, individual health insurance plans. Good. That’s a start. You are trending in the right direction.

    And your “specialty” is research? That’s great, hon. So hubby does the tech and you do the books in your family business? Couples that work together, live together, and play together are a beautiful thing.

  4. Yes, I’ve checked. Kaiser is actually $1100 a month. Sigh, David, give it a break. Trust that I’ve researched it. One of my specialties is research – even my husband the tech guy thinks I have extraordinary research skills.

  5. Yes, you won’t pay $150. The monthly premiums “start” at that level. You will pay more, but not $950 as you stated above (not bronze, silver, etc., just individual market stuff). Aren’t you worried because you don’t have coverage? Blue Shield/Kaiser can help you, girlfriend.

  6. And you have a joint private IT/accounting freelance business! Wonderful. You are “job creators”, just like me. If just one of you worked for someone else, you could get company coverage and pay almost nothing. And the “family”? Is it a little boy or a little girl?

  7. Read their page, it’s bronze, silver, platinum, on their PAGE, the one you linked! Have a great day. BTW, my fam went to the Legion this week to quickly check out LaNein, have you seen it? I loved IT. We’re contributing members. Hope you are too!!!

  8. But they do David. BTW, I find it really interesting that a Hedge Fund (forgot their name) is buying your ex mag, Salon, because they want to buy Jim Cramer’s The Street. Interesting no? I’m not Brit…why do you think that? My husband is in tech, I’m in acctg.

  9. Dear, you have become my fave British techie “with an accounting background”, and a lady, too!
    Private insurers do not have to offer bronze/silver/gold/platinum plans like ACA policies do. Love you, honey!

  10. I clicked the link, I finally got the PDF for Bronze to open, I clicked catastrophic first, would not open.

    They only put the amts of office visits $70 (too high! remember I paid $10 before?) & their CAPS in there $5100.

    No actual amounts per month but again, they are the same. The reason? The state of CA regulates it, that’s why all the plans on BS are BRONZE, SILVER, PLAT, just like on Covered California. David, trust me, I’ve been researching this for 3 years.

    It’s insulting that you do not believe me but whatever, have a nice night. You seem like a mensch but I still do not understand your support of the Jew hating Dems. I do not.

  11. It’s not available David. Not for less than $912+ per month. Trust me I know David. BTW, if you’re Jewish, why are you supporting the Jew hating Dems who hate Israel? I’m mixed + Jewish. IDGI David.

  12. There are two of us. It’s the SAME PRICE, sheesh David. It’s $912+ you are incorrect! I have a screenshot! I have checked. I have an accounting background. Do not patronize me. It’s for 2 adults, it’s not less than what I said & you notice on your BS page they said all the plans are PLATINUM, SILVER & BRONZE? There is NO DIFFERENCE IN PRICES. Look on line!

  13. But you don’t need Obamacare. Git some private insurance, honey. You never told me your age. But if you are in your 30s, you can get it for around $300 in a high-deductible policy.

  14. No, I’m David Talbot’s father Lyle Talbot the actor, now deceased. Check out those current Blue Shield rates, honey. You go girl!
    –You thought that private health insurance was not available…and now you know that it is available. Go for it, honey.

  15. Between $200 and $350 a month for a 40-year-old. You’re uninsured, m’am. You CAN buy private insurance. Don’t be afraid, Don’t be afraid to try, try, try.

  16. And PREVIOUS to Obama trashing our health ins we had it for $399/month from Blue Shield as I’ve been telling you. But you don’t seem to listen. This was for 2 adults. Now it is $912+ per month.

  17. “There is no private market anymore, Obamacare destroyed it.”

    My friend, that is an “alternative fact.” The private insurance market exists, and you should use it!

  18. I must apologize for my previous snarkiness. That’s not right. Yes, I could pay $1,400 a month for three once again if I had to. The high “risk poll” rate that the National MS Society predicts, that would e much harder.

  19. It costs about $500 a month to insure an adult American. People who have insurance through their employers or Medicare don’t pay those rates, of course. Their employers or the gov. cover most of that. And as you well know, as a fellow self-employed person, the rates have been rising 5-7% a year before and after the ACA. You can’t blame the ACA for the persistent price increases.

  20. I ask again: What private insurer was giving you health insurance for “$399 for two adults.” Please do tell. Because private insurance was NOT abolished under the ACA, and I want your plan.
    Waiting for response…..

  21. No private insurance anymore? WHAT? Look at the Kaiser/BlueCross websites. Private plans are readily available.
    –You obviously do not understand health insurance issues and are spouting drivel.

  22. NMSS are haters, just like all non-profits. If the NMSS was a for-profit organization, would that make you happy? You are absurd.

  23. Doubt it very much. Yes, the NMSS are haters just like every single non-profit. They’re all catastrophizing.

  24. No, we do not have health ins. We are middle class in tech & Covered CA wants to charge us $912+ per month. There is no private market anymore, Obamacare destroyed it. PREVIOUS to Obamacare we paid $399 per month & $10 per office visit. This was affordable. Since Obamacare was instituted we were thrown off – Obamacare started charging $850+ per month for BRONZE which is no care, this year it’s $912+ per month for BRONZE. I’m furious & want the individual mandate gone immediately as it penalizes those of us that can’t pay for ins a HUGE FINE. Thankfully Trump is in & that is going away. Also we received an IRS threat letter about paying the fine as well. We will NEVER pay that fine, we refuse & they can’t do anything about it. Trump’s executive order told the IRS, etc that there will be, thankfully NO ENFORCEMENT of fines.

  25. We are on the Silver plan and living in SF. And, yes, we do get a small subsidy. I assume you are not covered under the ACA but are buying insurance in the private market. $399 for two adults? Wow! That’s a good deal. Please let me know the name of the insurance company so that I can buy that plan, too.

  26. So, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society is “haters”? $2,500 is its estimate of the premium for a 59-year-old with progressive MS in the upcoming “risk pools.”

  27. Also not sure you have all the facts about the “risk pool” from what I understand you will not be paying $2500 at all. Look at the facts, not the catastrophizing facts from haters. The facts as I understand it are that risk pools will be block granted by the Feds to the States, and the states will decide. So if it is $2500 for your “risk pool”, you should thank the Dems in California who don’t put Americans first.

  28. How did it jump from $400 in 2000 to $1400 in 2003? Serious question. We paid $299 then $399 – 2 adults, no risk. The ACA wants to charge us $912 for bronze. Are you on Bronze right now? Are you in SF? Because $550 a month sounds like subsidies for a family.

  29. Me/wife/kid
    For this “job creator” (me), premium was $400 a month in 2000. It was $1,400 in 2003. Under the ACA, it was $550 in 2013 and $700 this year. I have multiple sclerosis, and the MS Society estimates that I will pay $2,500 a month for insurance in a “risk pool” if the ACA is rescinded.
    Your turn…

  30. Then if you went to Alexa.com you undoubtedly saw the numbers I provided and neglected to share them. That makes you a liar and a cheat. I’m out of this conversation.

  31. Don’t know where you got that 2 billion figure; probably a press release from Breitbart. There are multiple metrics for site popularity, page views being one. Web site Alexa, well respected in the business, combines them into index figures. For the NYT and Breitbart they are as follows:

    Breitbart: Global rank of web sites — 258. U.S. rank of web sites — 43 (lower is better).

    NYT: Global rank of web sites — 43. U.S. rank of web sites — 31.

    I was also able to get the number of sites linking to the respective sites, an indication of their relative credibility. Breitbart had 37,944. The NYT had 370,650.

  32. Nothing fake about BB. BTW – 2 BILLION views more than the NYT & most of the MSM which are nothing but people working with the FBI/CIA against the people of this country & have always been.

  33. I said recent polling data. The story you linked to quotes Tony Blair as PM. He hasn’t been in office since 2007.

  34. Says a right winger who gets his information from the purveyor of fake news, Breitbart. Tell me how CNN’s report that Donald Trump was briefed by intelligence agencies on allegations from a dossier widely circulating in Washington was fake news.

    As for Buzzfeed, its decision to publish the unconfirmed dossier remains controversial and other news outlets have not repeated the allegations. So was it fake news? Was Trump’s claim that Obama was not born in the U.S. fake news? Was Trump’s claim that Clinton should be legally barred from from the presidency fake news? Were many of the other lies he uttered on the campaign trail fake news?

  35. Didn’t know we were talking about pizzagate, Clinton, EC, and all the other Dem talking points. Shouldn’t we stay on track here? You’re getting sidetracked.

  36. OK to the link, but there are a couple of things to remember. Trump’s EC win depended on three key states and his margin of victory in all three was about 100,000 votes. I will acknowledge that the NYT prediction model was off (others were far worse), but that’s not the same as fake news.

    Take the Pizzagate story accusing Clinton on participating in a child sex trafficking ring. That is real fake news and it was propagated by Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

    Or take Trump’s assertion that CNN sent out fake news when it broke the story that Trump was briefed by intelligence agencies on a report alleging he colluded with the Russians. That report, it has since been established, was being widely circulated in Washington — Mother Jones reported on it before the election — and it has been verified that a summary was included when intelligence agencies presented their report on Russian hacking of the DNC to Trump and Obama.

    What pissed off Trump (no pun here) was that CNN reported that Trump was briefed on it, setting the stage for wider coverage. That’s not fake news, that’s Trump being pissed off (again, no pun).

  37. there is a very big difference between a single payer health care system and a national health care system. In Britain, they have a nationalized health care system which means the hospitals are owned and operated by the government and the doctors, nurses and staff are government employees.
    In a single payer health care system, such as that found across Asia, Australian, new Zealand, Canada, Germany, Italy , the Netherlands and Nordic countries and most of the rest of the EU you have the equivalent of universal medicare, which is a single payer for health care. Over the long run these countries pay less for equivalent care, live longer and healthier lives and are happier with the health care they receive.

    Before the Affordable Care act passed, the United States had the equivalent of a health care oligopoly which means a consortium of insurance companies controlled the prices, set prices, and chose which customers they wanted to insure. Health care costs rose at a rate of approximately twice the rate of national inflation for over 25 years in the United States. The ACA set regulations on insurance companies in terms of refusing or denying coverage to certain individuals, but the US Congress could not even get a single payer health care system passed when Obama controlled Congress the first two years. It is the only solution in the long run.

    Repealing the ACA without any substitute could result in a public health care crisis, hospital bankruptcies, and spiraling death rates among the poor. Maybe this is what some of the Republicans want but I hate to say that it might have to get worse before Americans realize that they need a complete revamp of the entire system

  38. How much were your premiums previous to this kicking in? How much are they now? Are you married & have a spouse/partner & children? Am curious. I will trade #’s with you.

  39. I’m a solo business owner, too. Health insurance costs have increased about 7% a year since at least 2000 when I started my freelance gig. The ACA is not at fault for these price increases.

  40. now just who is calling names? i can see that my comments to you are pearls before swine.
    and once more –
    we have the most expensive healthcare system in the world with health outcomes ranking near the bottom, 39th out of 41. those are indisputable facts. we pay more for our healthcare so private insurance can deliver outrageous compensation to insurance administration and shareholders. and yes, my facts are unassailable. peace out.

  41. Keep up the name calling. Your argument is specious and unsupportable. If you would like to have a civil conversation with people then your armchair psychobabble does not help.

    LM ask you something, are you a renter or an owner of a home? And do you even live in SF right now?

  42. I’m not upset and didn’t call you names. you are giving impressions and I took the time to point that out. if you think I did call you names, you are suffering what they call “cognitive distortion” which is caused from repeated use of mind altering substances. I merely pointed out your delusional thinking and cognitive errors.

    we have the most expensive healthcare system on the planet that costs more than twice the cost of the 2nd most costly country and we rank 39th best based on outcomes. yes, we rate very near the bottom and have worse much outcomes than the UK. that’s why I don’t believe a thing you say. I’m the last person with which you want to get into a health policy debate. you have been warned.

  43. Not at all. I lived in the UK. You did not. You’ve probably never visited the UK. Calling me names reduces your argument. I’ve also been posting here for years, almost since the first day. Please block me if you are that upset that you resort to straw man arguments.

  44. everything you have written here is wrong.

    progressive colleagues have tried to reason with you to no avail as you continue with your illusions and delusions. your deep-seated delusions show signs of pathology. psychiatric urgent care is available – you might want to check it out. remember crazy people don’t think they are crazy…

    on top of that we are getting the impression you are a troll.

  45. It would be even worse than it is in the UK. And it is horrible in the UK. People with curable cancer are sent home to die. How do I know? A family member. Luckily he went private and saved his life.

  46. “Medical experts” are not necessarily using the behemoth called the NHS. “Working with” is not a real experience!

  47. I worked for several years with medical experts who lived in the UK. Not once did I hear about shortcomings in the NHS.

    If you say people there hate it I would like to see some proof.

  48. Your memory fails you. It was much lower than that closer to the election. Trump will deny it now, but even he was surprised by EC outcome. And remember, Clinton won popular vote by 2.9 million.

  49. NYT is kinda fake news these days. Remember they said there was an 87% chance of Hill winning the election? LOL

  50. lol you lived there in 2016? forgive us if we take the word of people who lived there for longer than a year

  51. You know nothing about GB, you’ve never visited & you have not lived there. I lived there in 2016. Keep being butthurt though lol. The UK, EU, USA are all going rightward. Deal. With. It.

  52. People there love it, just as seniors in the U.S. love Medicare. An alleged plan (which didn’t exist) for the EU to take money away from the NHS was part of the campaign by the BREXIT folks.

  53. That’s your opinion. The UK has suffered conservative rule with Thatcher and it hasn’t recovered. The US suffered the conservative “Reagan revolution” and we haven’t recovered.
    Still, this is not the UK. This is the US. There’s a difference.

  54. That is what you are going to get so long as you support republican or conserva-democratic policies. Perhaps you might be acquainted with Bernie Sanders and his populist policies that provide real solutions for the needs of the 99%. Single payer healthcare (AKA Medicare for all) would be a great 1st step. Nothing will change until real progressive populists are in the majority.

  55. But let’s be real here: The rich aren’t paying their fair share now, any more than they were when you took office.

    But we in the middle class in SF that are solopreneurs & sm biz are paying much more for health ins than we used to. In fact, under Obama the middle class has shrunk rather than expanded. He also taxed the middle class more.


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