Obama's Wealthy, Educated Supporters

Obama's Wealthy, Educated Supporters


David Brooks has has an interesting analysis of Barack Obama’s donor base, which is heavily reliant on well-educated, information-age workers.

Once, the wealthy were solidly Republican. But the information age rewards education with money. There are many smart high achievers who grew up in liberal suburbs around San Francisco, L.A. and New York, went to left-leaning universities like Harvard and Berkeley and took their values with them when they became investment bankers, doctors and litigators.
Amazingly, Democrats have cultivated this donor base while trending populist on trade by forsaking much of the Clinton Third Way approach and by vowing to raise taxes on capital gains and the wealthy. If Obama’s tax plans go through, those affluent donors could wind up giving over 50 percent of their income to the federal government.

They’ve managed to clear these policy hurdles partly by looking out for tort lawyers and other special groups. But mostly they have taken advantage of the rivalry between the two American elites.

Forget what’s the matter with Kansas. How about what’s the matter with Google executives? As Brooks points out, there are a lot of Democratic voters who are quite wealthy and who are voting in direct opposition to their economic interests.

Brooks thinks, if Obama wins, all his wealthy supporters will make sure those tax rates are never significantly raised. I’m not so sure I’d bet on that. But I know one thing: if elected, Obama will be our first information-age president and his victory will be thanks largely to the information-age class. Look for that group’s values and needs to drive his presidency.

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  • http://stubbornfacts.us/ Tully

    The uber-wealthy aren’t all that bothered by higher taxes. They already have more than they can spend, and lots of ways to reduce their “income” to near nothing, as Warren Buffet does. The effective rate of taxation on the very wealthy will never be higher than the corporate tax rate, and usually closer to the capital gains rate.

    And once out of the $100k/yr or so limit on SS taxes, the marginal rate automatically drops.

    Just something to think about.

  • gerryf

    I don’t know–perhaps these people realize that a a system that only favors the richand greedy is detrimental to the nation as a whole.

    When you trot out your Kansas analogy, your problem here is that you are equating “personal interest”” with money.

    What’s the Matter with Kansas postulates that the people of Kansas are voting against ALL of their interests.

    Maybe this information technology class (Google executives, as you called them), can see beyond ONLY selfish personal needs and can see the bigger picture.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot.com michael reynolds

    Working class people have been voting against their economic interests, why shouldn’t the rich? Why should it surprise us that wealthy, educated people care about issues other than money?

  • Tunde

    I guess in Mr. Brooks’ world you should always vote for the politician who lets you keep most of your money. How very innovative and evolved.

  • http://www.writeslikeshetalks.com Jill

    Justin – how would this research influence what you’ve written re: the value of small donors?

  • http://www.donklephant.com Justin Gardner

    @Jill – Alan Stewart Carl wrote this post.

  • http://www.buzzflash.com meg

    For a more accurate analysis of the numbers Brooks uses so erroneously, see our original report here: http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/analysis/321

  • wj

    In addition to Tully’s excellent point (why worry about higher taxes if you already have more than you can ever spend?), consider. Some people actually believe in the virtue of fairness, even if it is not in their personal economic interest. I can (and do) believe that the capital gains tax rate ought to be identical to the tax rate for wages and salaries. And that SS taxes ought not to cap out at $100,000 (or wherever it is this year).

    Would it raise my personal taxes? Yup. Some years, it would raise them substantially, even though I haven’t managed to achieve the “more than he can ever spend” position. But it would still be the right thing to do. (Pretty much Buffett’s position on the subject to — especially when he discovered that a secretary in his company paid a higher rate than he did.)

  • Bob

    Actually gerryf, that’s exactly what Kansas was talking about. The whole theory was that working class people were going against their economic interests. My big problem with that was always that how does someone who is rich getting a tax break actually go against my own economic interest. That and I believe people can vote for things besides money.