4.14.2013

The most incoherent op-ed you'll read today

I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about today, but then I came across this amazingly stupid op-ed in The Detroit News, written by someone named Nolan Finley. The piece is called "Obama lives high on our dime" and is ostensibly about Obama's improper use of public money, or his personal finances, or something. Let's have a look.
On the same night I began hunting for the scraps of paper I'll need for my tax return, President Barack Obama, his wife, kids and a bunch of their buddies were enjoying a live concert of Memphis soul music in a White House now closed to the public because of budget sequestration.
Any time you see a writer attack Obama for golfing, or hosting a concert, or attending a fundraiser, or anything this trivial, please know that said writer is simply bankrupt of any substantive criticism or ideas and is reaching desperately for something to make his deadline. This is where conservatives turn when they have literally nothing to say.

Here's another thing to keep in mind: Obama wants to reverse the sequester cuts that have suspended the White House tours. He would sign a bill today that would reverse the cuts and re-open the White House. This is sort of crucial to understand when you're criticizing Obama for anything sequester-related.
But as I scrounged through drawers and coat pockets in search of anything that might reduce the size of the check I'm going to write tomorrow, I was acutely aware of how my tax dollars are being used. 
Defending my freedom and maintaining the avenues of commerce, no problem. 
Feeding the hungry and nursing the sick? All good. 
But I draw the line at paying for Justin Timberlake and Queen Latifah to serenade a president who, according to the Obama's tax return released Friday, paid a smaller percentage of his income in federal taxes than I will, while earning a lot more.
Fortunately, the United States does not determine its federal spending according to the dictates and desires of a single citizen named Nolan Finley. But, now that we're discussing it, do you want to know where I "draw the line," Nolan? I draw the line at spending untold trillions to invade and occupy sovereign countries. You draw the line at an expenditure that represents a few thousand dollars out of $3.5 trillion in annual federal spending. Whose complaint is more valid?

Notice the weird conflation of government spending and Obama's personal finances that takes place in the third graf there. Finley is apparently angry that Obama did not personally pay for a White House-hosted concert, which, to my knowledge, would have been an unprecedented move. I wonder if Finley attacked Bush for declining to personally fund entertainment events at the White House? I'm anxious to read that piece.
The same president whose re-election campaign savaged Mitt Romney for his effective tax rate of roughly 15 percent, paid a rate of just 18 percent himself in 2012. That's about half last year's top tax rate; Obama reduced his tax burden the same way Romney did, with hefty deductions. 
Nothing stopped him from paying the 39.6 percent of income he declared in January is the "fair share" for wealthy folks like he and Michelle. 
He could have voluntarily foregone his deductions, as the tax code allows, and put his money where his mouth is. 
But Obama is not about setting examples.
No. The Obama campaign savaged Mitt Romney not "for his effective tax rate of roughly 15 percent," but rather because Romney supported, as policy, people like himself paying 15 percent. This is a very simple distinction that Finley evidently cannot understand. Obama has never, to my knowledge, personally criticized Mitt Romney, or Warren Buffet, or anyone else, for paying only what they were legally obligated to pay. Thus, it is not hypocritical on any level for Obama to also pay only what he is legally obligated to pay. It is the policy, not any single person's finances, that is relevant here. Again, to attack Obama on these frivolous, personal grounds, is to acknowledge that, as a writer, you simply have nothing serious to say.

The primary "hefty deduction" responsible for reducing the Obamas' tax burden was the deduction for charitable giving. The Obamas donated $150,034 in 2012, roughly a quarter of their income, to charity. Finley does not mention this, nor does he mention that Obama has consistently called for limiting this deduction for charitable giving, and has been attacked by the right for doing so. This information seems rather pertinent, given the context of Finley's criticism.

The rest of the column is just mindless and incoherent nonsense about golfing and vacationing, which, again, is what conservatives talk about when they have nothing substantive to say. He calls Obama's self-imposed pay-cut of $20,000 "symbolic" in the same column that conveys disgust over concerts that cost similarly trivial amounts. He is outraged over a particular Obama vacation that cost $1 million, which, fans of arithmetic know, is equal to such an infinitesimal proportion of the federal budget that a standard calculator won't even compute it. He declines to mention that John Boehner plays golf at four times the rate Obama does, or that Bush spent approximately one-third of his presidency on "vacation."

People who devote entire columns to this kind of fatuity should not employed by respectable newspapers.