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Paul Krugman, 'the wealthy,' and Barack Obama

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Paul Krugman's latest column, headlined "Let's Not Be Civil," fitting engages in some misleading ad hominem. In this case, Krugman is trying to imply that non-liberals want lower taxes and smaller government because they are rich. Here's the relevant passage:

right now “bipartisan” is usually code for assembling some conservative Democrats and ultraconservative Republicans — all of them with close ties to the wealthy, and many who are wealthy themselves — and having them proclaim that low taxes on high incomes and drastic cuts in social insurance are the only possible solution.

On basic facts, Krugman is correct. All successful politicians -- including "conservative Democrats and ultraconservative Republicans," but also including liberal Republicans and ultraliberal Democrats -- have "close ties to the wealthy." And yes, some of these tax-cutting politicians are wealthy themselves, but so are many tax-hiking politicians.

Consider the man who has decided to make Paul Ryan his foil -- President Barack Obama. Obama is wealthy. Last year he earned $1.7 million. In 2009, he made $5.5 million. Joe Biden and his wife made $379,178 last year.

And "close ties to the wealthy"? Obama has most politicians beat on that. He came up in politics at the side of developers like Tony Rezko and Valerie Jarret. He's headlined dozens of $30k-a-plate fundraisers, and at one of them last week, he was attacking Ryan's budget.

As far as the implication that conservatives are richer than liberals (because, yeah, Central Park West and San Francisco are bubbling over with conservatism), I'll refer back to my blog post on this issue last summer:

John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee worth $188.6 million is easily the richest lawmaker, outpacing Republican Darrell Issa by more than 10 percent. Of the 12 richest lawmakers, only 3 are Republicans. Drill down a bit further, and it evens out — Republicans are 23 of the richest 50 according to The Hill.

Other data points:

  • Wealthy Individuals Voted for Obama: CNN reported about election 2008: “High income voters — those who said they make at least $100,000 a year –went in Obama’s favor, 52 percent to 47 percent.”
  • Wealthy Counties Voted for Obama: American’s richest county, Loudoun County, Va., voted Obama 54-46, thus being more Democratic than the rest of Va. and the nation (which were both 53% Obama). Fairfax, Va., the nation’s second-wealthiest county, voted 60% Obama.
  • Wealthy States Voted for Obama: The three wealthiest states — Maryland, Connecticut, and New Jersey, all voted overwhelmingly for Obama.