September 18th, 2007
05:50 PM ET
11 years ago

Obama's tax plan: Robin Hood Approach

Watch excerpts of Sen. Obama's tax policy speech.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Barack Obama unveiled his tax cut plan Tuesday in Washington. Some would call it a Robin Hood approach, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. (Related: Obama tax plan: $80 billion in cuts, five-minute filings)

"At a time when Americans are working harder than ever, we are taxing income from work at nearly twice the level that we're taxing gains for investors," said the Democratic presidential candidate.

Obama said the current tax system is working against most Americans and he wants to fix it, arguing, "I'll restore simplicity to the tax code and fairness for the American middle class. It's time to stand up to special interest carve outs.”

Obama said his plan calls for “cutting taxes for working people, homeowners, and seniors."

Among the specifics: a tax cut of up to one thousand dollars for 150 million working Americans, a tax credit for homeowners that don't itemize their deductions, eliminating the income tax for seniors making less than 50 thousand dollars annually, and a simplified tax filing process

The Illinois senator said that he’ll pay for all this by “shutting down corporate loopholes and tax havens. We'll also turn the page on an approach that gives repeated tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent of Americans even though they don't need them and didn't ask for them."

That sounds similar to Obama’s Democratic rivals, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, and former Sen. John Edwards, D-North Carolina. They rolled out their tax plans earlier this year – with Clinton calling for “rolling back some of President Bush's fiscally-irresponsible tax breaks for the highest income Americans," and Edwards pledging to “get rid of Bush's tax cut for people who make over two hundred thousand dollars a year."

Tuesday’s announcement in Washington is part of an economic policy push by Obama. On Monday, he was at the NASDAQ headquarters in New York City, chastising Wall Street executives for looking out for themselves rather than helping the middle class.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Iowa • New Hampshire • South Carolina
soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. Donald, Westport, CT


    It's apparent you have all the retorts for everyone's observations. Unfortunately your heart is bleeding all over this thread. You are posturing as if your opinion is the only one that counts. Have you not read about the negative effects of redistibuting wealth? Facts and logic should trump emotion when it comes to picking leaders.

    September 19, 2007 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  2. Ed Washington, DC

    Can I just have a fair flat percentage tax with no loopholes, no shelters etc? Let the rich stay rich, but make the payment fair on a percentage basis. Even if the dollar amount is more from the rich, why should they have a way to cut the percentage to say 15% while I'm stuck paying 30%. My measly 20,000 taxes at 30% may be nothing next to millions at 15% by a billionaire but lets make it even – 20% (or whatever works) across the board no way to lower your percentage.

    September 19, 2007 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  3. juan gault

    As a hard worker all my life, (30+ years) I always like to see a new face trying to get the bigger piggies in their starched white sheds. But too often the mice come back with a voracious appetite and do more damage than the pigs. Remember the "Silverado Savings debacle cost the same as the Rodney King riots. Obama gets my vote if he includes a provision that those sustaining themselves on WIC handouts, or section 8 housing, have to take birth control.

    September 19, 2007 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  4. demwit

    And when the corporations layoff tens of thousands of its workers to move their jobs overseas, all us unemployeed marrymen can go live in Sherwood Forest. Except Obamahood, he will still be living in his castle..

    September 19, 2007 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  5. Tony, Dallas TX

    In support of Lavelle,

    Donald of Wesport CT is probably frustrated since Lavelle is making valid points.His tax plan is well thought out and ceratinly better than any democrat running has put forward.Obama fisr of all could have been a well paid wall steet guy but chose to serve the poor in the South Side of Chicago. He could tell first hand that the people were getting a raw deal from politicians. Now he comes up with a plan that has not even been questioned by experts and the likes of Donald, Rick and Johny RoundRock TX have the gall to trash it. What? You work for CNN now? Wait till the MSM and the Obama-haters get a reality check come January 2008. I betcha! Watch America dare to dream and hope agaian with Obama. I read somewhere that Dean was leading in NH 40-17 in October 2003. I am sure you know what happened. Oh goodie..oh goodie.

    September 19, 2007 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  6. Bruce, Franklin, TN

    I have worked my whole life and I never made more than $65000 per year. I have saved and invested wisely and been frugal in my spending. Consequently, I am now a multi-millionaire. I guess I sort of represent the American dream. Now that I am about to retire, I find it disturbing that many of you want to tax in excess the fruits of my labors. Shame on all of you!

    September 19, 2007 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  7. lavelle Rochester,ny


    It's apparent you have all the retorts for everyone's observations. Unfortunately your heart is bleeding all over this thread. You are posturing as if your opinion is the only one that counts. Have you not read about the negative effects of redistibuting wealth? Facts and logic should trump emotion when it comes to picking leaders.

    Posted By Donald, Westport, CT : September 19, 2007 10:00 am

    ^^^hey the world doesn’t have to agree or see things my way. I see things from my perspective and what effects me. Now I don’t need any lessons on Economics, Macroeconomics, and Microeconomics. All I know is that the middle class no matter what is hurting. I’m apart of that class, I am trying to purchase a home, I am trying to save and save money for my retirement so I wont have to depend on social security. I have hopes and dreams unlike the rich who have already reached and completed any and every possible they had. Now weather the majority who make over 100,000 a year cares is something else. Why should the middle class be hit with a tax burden and not be given anything in return? So what if it’s the Robin hood approach why should the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I look at my checks and wonder if the president of my company looks at his stub the same way. Probably not so from the guy that is at the bottom of the Totem Pole I applaud Obama for acknowledging us. From your stand point and whatever economic reasons you may know of, that 1% will remain filthy rich while we remain filthy. Just because you make it you deserve a pass while we don’t? That’s the American way I guess.....right? These same tax cuts that Clinton gave during his administration left the country with a surplus isn’t that better then a trillion dollar deficit? That little corny tax refund that Bush gave us when her first stepped into office was just a snack. And now its hard for us to get a meal. Maybe im biased because im not wealthy like yourself but who wouldn’t applaud a tax break when you struggle and those on MTV cribs can make it rain like there’s no tomorrow? Yes Obama please close those loop holes!

    September 19, 2007 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  8. Paul, Phoenix, Arizona

    Easier said than done. I want to know how he intends to fight the powerful lobby that wants those tax cuts and loopholes for "the rich."

    I wish him the best of luck with this plan.

    September 19, 2007 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  9. Steven in Charleston, SC

    To Ed in Washington, DC:

    If you are paying 30% of your $20K income in income taxes, then you have a lousy tax advisor!

    September 19, 2007 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  10. Joe, Glenview, IL

    This debate is not about stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. It's about fairness and societal equity. We need to change the culture of society and look down upon the rich corporate barons who attempt to minimize their tax liabilities by any means possible. These guilty parties steal from America! Greed will always exist. The rich will always try to pay less no matter how minimal their tax brackets. Instead of anticipating the evil actions that the rich people will pursue to minimize their tax liabilities, and passing laws to counter these actions, the government needs to take control instead of the being controlled. Changing the corporate culture of America is a prime step to this. Passing fair laws with fair intentions is the first step in this transition. The idea that fair taxes steal from the rich and give to the poor is the epitome of this unfortunate ongoing theme that is one of the greatest flaws of mankind. Greed. I support Obama in this initiative.

    September 19, 2007 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. Lavelle Rochester,Ny

    Lavelle – NY,

    Bill Gates will probably pay more in taxes THIS year than you will earn in your life time. How can you in all seriousness expect anyone to believe you will pay more in taxes than Bill Gates?

    It's this arrogance and sense of benefit entitlement which is so destructive. What you are clearly advocating is socialism, NOT a fair tax plan which treats all individuals equally.

    But keep complaining how the world owes you so much! There will be pandering politicians that enforce your sense of entitlement – namely the democrats.

    Posted By Henry Tucker, Ga : September 18, 2007 8:13 pm

    ^^^Your right he will pay more in taxes then I earn. He also will take in more then I can ever earn in a life time. Yes he earned his money just like I earned my pay check. However I didn’t earn to pay a higher rate on my money then he pays on his. On top of that I’m pretty sure he has more to write off then I can write off. I’m pretty sure he donates more to charity then I donated as well. So with all of that said he doesn’t struggle to pay for high health insurance. He doesn’t have to worry about a rent bill. He doesn’t have to worry about this car going on E. He doesn’t have to worry about the tax that was takin out of his check stub that took away from possible groceries. Yes that’s the American way right there. “Hey; don’t worry put that tax burden on my back so the country can get richer. But those who are receiving these benefits are the rich period point blank. When you have it good why would you want to change. I know the rich don’t like the thought of losing any amount of money. When your used to filet mignon a pork chop is just out of the question!

    Obama 08

    September 19, 2007 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. Veronica, Stamford, CT

    Posted By Rick : September 18, 2007 8:28 pm

    I'm guessing then, by your comments, that you do not take any governmental benefits whatsoever – if you have children, they don't go to public school, right? You didn't go to public school, did you? Social Security? If you're already retired, I'm guessing you just send your check back every month, right? I'm also guessing you don't use public roads, public transportation or any public facility in your neck of the woods, right?

    I can say that all Republicans are selfish cads who would sell their own mothers down the road in order to get ahead and would rather see those unable to help themselves jump off a cliff so no has to help them at all. Does that make it true? No. But see how easy it is to make such a broad generalization? You demonize the majority for the misdeeds of the minority – shame on you.

    September 19, 2007 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  13. Lavelle Rochester,ny

    To Ed in Washington, DC:

    If you are paying 30% of your $20K income in income taxes, then you have a lousy tax advisor!

    Posted By Steven in Charleston, SC : September 19, 2007 11:11 am

    ^^^If your making 20k you cant afford a tax advisor. so far out of touch its sad!

    September 19, 2007 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  14. Steven in Charleston, SC

    To Lavelle in Rochester, NY:

    You say that a person making $20K a year can't afford a tax advisor. I don't doubt that the $300-$500 a quality advisor would charge is a hefty commitment for someone earning that amount of money. However, if you are paying 30% of your income in taxes (which is $6000.00) and the advisor could show you how to reduce that by half or even more, than certainly that justifies paying the fee. Part of the problem in our nation is that while so many people at the lower- and middle-classes have no problem spending their money on fast food and entertainment, they refuse to spend money on creating a circle of trusted advisors. I understand that a new television or X-Box might be more fun, but investing the same money in some quality guidance will generate a much greater long-term reward.

    September 19, 2007 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  15. Jeremy, Syracuse, NY

    Mr. Steinhauser, CNN Deputy Political Director...did you really just write that? Did you really just write "Some would call it..."? That is so laughable, the local high school debate team would be snorting their cafeteria milk through their nose were they to read it. 'Some would call it a Robin Hood approach'? Who are these 'some'? What 'some' means, Mr. Steinhauser, is your spin. It's not even close to an attempt at some modicum of objectivity. And you conclude by writing that Obama was 'chastising' executives for 'looking out for themselves rather than helping the middle class.' I doubt it–do you really expect your readers to believe that Obama went to NASDAQ headquarters with the intention of preaching the gospel of selflessness to them, rather than to present public policy ideas? If you weren't in such a prominent position to be able to spread your infantile spin so widely through the CNN Political Ticker, I would have thought you were a C-minus student in need of some after-school tutoring. I would suggest that analysis like this could bring down the good name of CNN, but who am I kidding?

    ...and I'm not even an Obama supporter.

    September 19, 2007 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. Bill W, Coatesville, PA

    Dan, there was a guy named Steve Forbes a few years ago who wanted a flat tax. And the first thing they said about the flat tax was that it would "only apply to earned income". So it would only be on people who earned a salary. As we know. the vast majority of wealthy people do not earn a salary. They get paid in stock, stock options, structured settlements, and they earn money through dividends and capital gains on their holdings. The flat tax Forbes wanted exempted dividend and capital gains income, and that was why it was not passed. We would have more taxes on the flat tax than we are now because it did not include income from dividends and capital gains.

    But this is what you canexpect to hear whenever anyone brings up a flat tax. And why one will never be passed.

    September 19, 2007 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  17. E.Jones

    I decry CNN's lame and cowardly quoting of "some would say."

    This is either CNN's opinion, or they are quoting another person.

    CNN own up to your statement or name the person whose opinion you are quoting!

    This is an incredibly lame and dishonest way to frame a comment by CNN.

    This is Republican smearing – nothing less.

    This comment will never see the light of day on this board but I hope CNN will take note of it anyway.

    September 19, 2007 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  18. Allen, Charleston, WV

    As a member of the middle class, I do not begrudge the wealthy their earnings. I know that although they may take advantage of the ridiculous tax code we all live under, the bottom line is that it is their money and the government has no right to just take whatever they feel like. I hope that we all remember why there was a revolution in this country to start with...unfair taxation.

    I admire the poster who made something out of himself through hard work and disciplined fiscal responsibility. I detest those of the entitlement mentality who think just because someone else has more than they do, part of that belongs to them.

    If you're unhappy with things in the middle class, make something out of yourself and you won't have to depend on government to manage your life for you. Otherwise, just quit complaining.

    September 19, 2007 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. Bill W, Coatesville, PA

    "I'm guessing then, by your comments, that you do not take any governmental benefits whatsoever – if you have children, they don't go to public school, right? You didn't go to public school, did you? Social Security? If you're already retired, I'm guessing you just send your check back every month, right? I'm also guessing you don't use public roads, public transportation or any public facility in your neck of the woods, right?"

    1) I did not go to public school
    2) I am not old enough to retire, and do not expect Social Security to be around by the time I am. I am paying into a system for other people's retirement that I will never get a dollar out of.
    3) I pay state taxes, sales taxes, and taxes on every gallon of gasoline I buy, which are supposed to be used to pay for roads and highways.
    4) I do not use public transportation
    5) I also do not have kids, yet I pay a school tax, too.

    September 19, 2007 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Reatlity? that's what i keep reading. Let's tax you more if you make $200,000, well i have news for you, $200,000 is very middle class in the large cities. I work hard and pay tons of taxes already, have a big mortgage and pay enormous real estate taxes. I don't need more money taken from me and given to people who don't want to work. Want to save money? stop bombing and invading other countries. Put that war money into social security and health care and all these conversations about tax increases go away.

    September 19, 2007 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  21. Max Power, Hollywood, CA

    First off, the notion that lowering tax rates has increased revenues is false. Look at any CBO chart from the past forty years. The rate of increase in revenues was higher during the Carter and Clinton years than the Reagan or Bush years. Does this mean that higher taxes equals higher revenues? Not necessarily because there are a lot of factors. But for Republicans to continue to insist that lower taxes equals higher revenues is just plain nonsense.

    The wealthy do pay a majority of income taxes, but other taxes that make up a significant part of our budget (Medicare, SS, etc.) are spread out. And this doesn't take into account sales taxes and other 'fees' that we often pay.

    No I do not believe we should soak the rich. But I do believe investment income should be taxed at the same rates as regular income. Furthermore this argument that if taxes were raised slightly on the wealthy that they'd leave the country is pure nonsense as well. As has been noted, if the middle class has more cash to spend through lower taxes, then that will pump money into businesses. Furthermore, Obama (and no other candidate for that matter) is suggesting a massive increase. Rather a slight increase to help pay for certain services and to hopefully pay down the deficit.

    But what is most hilarious is that the people who espouse 'free markets' are the same people who live in freeloading states that steal money from the national treasury year after year (Alabama, Mississippi, etc.). Remember that while you can hate Hollywood, San Fran, New York...all are cornerstones of the world economy, whereas most of the red states could float off into the Gulf of Mexico and the only thing that would go down is the federal deficit.

    September 19, 2007 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  22. JRBuckley, Chandler, AZ

    I dont know if using the phrase "Robin Hood" is very balanced CNN. Are you turning into Fox News?

    September 19, 2007 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. Pan_theFrog

    What % of each dollar earned do the top 1% pay in taxes each year? The middle class pays about 20%. Does the CEO of Exxon pay 20%?

    When one group makes 90% of the money shouldn't they pay 90% of the taxes? Or is that going to make them only be able to buy 25 Hummers this year instead of the 60 they bought last year?

    How about this: We give every America a $1000 tax cut. Do you think that the folks making $1,000,000+ a year are going to notice it? I know that the family making $25,000 sure is.

    September 19, 2007 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Stay strong. We love you.

    September 19, 2007 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  25. Dirck the Noorman: NYC, NY

    Maybe we should just cut taxes for the bottom 90% of earners so they contribute 0% of the total (instead of their current 30%).

    If a hyper-wealthy guy earning $200K a year has to fork over 36% to the federal government, we should expect at least something from that tragically poor bottom 90%.

    If their own efforts arent addequate to provide revenue for the government, maybe they should just work for the govt 36% of the year. Pick up garbage, clear IEDs, whatever. Would that be fair?

    September 19, 2007 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
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