In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. And I refuse to renew them again.
Actually, it's a pretty good speech. Worth reading the whole thing. (I don't think I've ever said that about a political speech before, and it will probably be a long time before I say it again. Sorry about the NYT link. I tried to find the text on the whitehouse.gov site and failed. If anyone from the White House PIO is reading this, if someone like me can't find the text of the president's most recent speech on your site, you have a serious problem.)
Of course, the Republicans were attacking the speech, particularly the part about raising taxes on the rich, before it was even delivered, lending credence to the theory that Republicans don't actually think about what they are saying but just mechanically object to anything the president says or does, even if it's their own idea.
But there's one very dangerous notion that really needs to be squashed: "now it’s time to tax the people who create the wealth.” (That was Michele Bachman, but you can count on hearing this line from the chorus on Fox News for the next few weeks.) The implication being that 1) rich people create wealth and 2) if you tax them, they'll stop. Both of these ideas are wrong.
Making money and creating wealth are two very different things. You can make money without creating wealth, and you can create wealth without making money. Salman Khan has created vastly more wealth than, say, Angelo Mozilo, but Mozilo made vastly more money. (Mozilo actually made his money by destroying wealth.)
Money and wealth are not completely unrelated, of course, but even when they go together the causality is often backwards from what Republicans tacitly assume. Money is usually the result of creating wealth, not the cause.
"But," you might object, "you need money to create wealth." That's not true. You need capital, but just as money isn't wealth, it isn't capital either. Money can be exchanged for capital (tools, factories, computers) just as it can be exchanged for wealth (food, clothing, shelter, entertainment). But money is distinct from both wealth and capital, and just because someone has money doesn't mean they got it by creating wealth, or will use it to create more. Furthermore, the government has been a very effective creator of capital: Interstate highways. The military-industrial complex (whether you like it or not, it's capital). Much of our medical and aerospace research and higher-education system. The Internet. All created by or with significant help from the government.
The proposition that the rich are the (sole) creators of wealth, and that taxing the rich destroys wealth, is sheer nonsense.