The White House likes to make it seem as if President Obama is floating just a bit above the raucous race to succeed him. Sure, he’s keeping an eye on the whole thing. But he’s not really focused on it. The president isn’t even planning to watch Wednesday’s Republican debate, just like he didn’t see the last one.
“He’s got better things to do,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday.
The latest evidence that Obama is actually paying very close attention to the presidential campaign came less than 24 hours later, when he used a forum with CEOs to renew his call for raising taxes on hedge fund managers by closing the so-called “carried-interest loophole” that allows them to skirt potentially millions of dollars in income taxes. Obama and congressional Democrats have been making that case off and on for years, but it has gone nowhere in Congress. On Wednesday, the president saw a fresh opening, and he seized it.
Speaking before the Business Roundtable, Obama noted that “two leading candidates on the Republican side” were now on the record in support of closing the loophole. He was referring to Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, who have each been touting their positions on the issue in recent weeks. Ending the tax break would force hedge-fund managers to pay the top income-tax rate of 39.6 percent on most of the profits they earn for other people, rather than the much lower capital-gains rate. The change wouldn’t be a major money-saver for the government (about $18 billion over a decade), but it has become a symbol of how the tax code benefits the wealthy.