No, Obama isn’t a hypocrite on taxes

Joe Scarborough got his undies in a knot because President Obama’s tax release shows he only paid 18 percent. Scarborough ranted:

“He’s paying a tax rate far lower than what a teacher pays. I’m speaking slowly so this sinks in. The hypocrisy is mind-boggling. This president does class warfare for a year and a half on the campaign trail. He attacks Mitt Romney repeatedly. … And yet this president, after demagoguing this issue for a year and a half, pays an 18 percent tax rate.”

Some people I know agree, but I think they’re missing the point.

Obama hasn’t been going around saying he wants to pay more federal income taxes. He’s been saying the system needs to be changed so that people like him all over the country pay more. If Obama voluntarily paid a higher rate, even a much higher rate, it would add, at best $50,000 or so to federal receipts. Returning the top 2 percent to pre-Bush tax rates, on the other hand, will bring in about $60 billion a year in additional revenue.

There is nothing hypocritical about advocating for a change in the system while still living under the system as it is. Thanks to the fiscal cliff deal Obama insisted on, his taxes will be higher next year, and if he gets his way in other negotiations, loopholes will be closed that will increase his effective rate even more.

This isn’t about what one person pays.

What about Mitt Romney’s tax rates? What about them? He was arguing to keep the status quo. In fact, he was arguing for tax cuts for people in his own bracket. The fact that he already paid less than most what a teacher pays and thought that was too much was why Romney’s tax rate mattered.

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