Obama: “At a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”

$5.5 million in 2009 for our President is not, apparently, that certain point.

UPDATE: It would be a shame if this were lost in the comments – from Island Surveyor:

The link contains all the presidential returns, back to FDR’s 1040 for 1913.

The IRS Form 1040 for that year is worth a glance and some thought as to how far “fiscal policy” and the tax code have come. The full instructions are 1 page.

FDR made all of $4,000 in salary and $8227 in dividends. The lowest tax bracket was 1% on incomes of $30 – 50K, and the highest bracket of 6% on incomes over $500K.


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28 responses to “Obama: “At a certain point, you’ve made enough money.”

  1. not so anonymous

    who is “YOU” in “you’ve”? Some people make so much money they can do serious, unfettered, ngo, good, and set things up so that it can continue after their demise…The world would be worse off without them…who are YOU to deprive the world of their generosity and power?

  2. Island Surveyor

    The link contains all the presidential returns, back to FDR’s 1040 for 1913.

    The IRS Form 1040 for that year is worth a glance and some thought as to how far “fiscal policy” and the tax code have come. The full instructions are 1 page.

    FDR made all of $4,000 in salary and $8227 in dividends. The lowest tax bracket was 1% on incomes of $30 – 50K, and the highest bracket of 6% on incomes over $500K.

  3. Cos Cobber

    I am willing to cry uncle and take Carter as my medicine.

  4. Anonymous

    Uh, yeah, Chris — FDR made “all of” $4,000 — in INCOME for one year. You’re forgetting the part where he was a massively, massively wealthy scion of one of the country’s wealthiest families.

    There was a reason that conservatives of his day called him a “traitor to his class.”

  5. Island Surveyor

    My point, not too well explained, was that this rich guy, FDR, didn’t even come close to being in a taxable bracket.

    Sort of the Obama approach to a “progressive” tax structure.

    And of course, FDR was still 20 years ahead of Herbert Hoover, the depression, and all that that entailed.

  6. Anonymous

    Liar, Hypocrite can we think of a few more choice words to describe our President. I just can’t wait till November !!!!

  7. Last Liberal Standing

    This is one item that helps get to the heart of the matter, if we want to discuss what the “essence of civilization” means. (Remember that discussion, that was supposed to take place a few weeks ago?)

    You could separate the men from the liberals on their response to this question:

    Is it “sickening” to hear Obama say that at some point, Enough is Enough when it comes to making money?

    As a liberal, I believe it’s not sickening–that such a belief is within the realm of respectable human thought, even for the President of the United States of Capitalism. I happen to agree with Obama, and it seems a pretty easy call.

    Island Surveyor says several times that this belief is sickening. Am I correct in assuming that all decent folk are nauseated by Obama’s opinion?

  8. Island Surveyor

    Mis-understood again. Drat.

    IS is decent and not nauseated, just queasy.

    Just making the observation that the tax burden at the Town level falls on the backs of the working class. Compare Sale to assessment ratios by zone. They’re smoothly non-progressive.

    The Reagan – to – Bush years made the fat-cats fat again.

    And the current air of reform brings us back to the original income tax structure – only people richer than FDR have to pay, evidently. And only 6% at that.

    Now we all pay 6% at point-of-sale, and it only goes up from there.

    Jus’ sayin’.

  9. Anonymous

    I like the fact that Obama only started making serious charitable donations in the last 2 years – when he was running for POTUS.

    The man is a phony. What we see is definitely not whats on the inside. The real Obama can be heard when he is taken off teleprompter.

  10. Cos Cobber

    Last liberal, it would be better to go after the super-uber rich by calling on them to expand their charitable contributions to society and public works. Particularly with public works, it would be nice to see more donations made to build parks, schools and community facilities.

    A president should never publically state a numerical threshold for when someone has ‘made enough.’ Our country was built on meritocracy and although we are always working to make it a better meritocracy, broadly attacking high incomes is akin to saying the meritocracy system is broken or even, unjust.

  11. Pete

    IS mentions assessment ratios by zone. Here are some by price range, based on 419 sales in 2009.
    Under $500,000, 0.96; $500,000 to $750,000, 1.18; $750,000 to 1M, 1.21; 1M to 2M, 1.27; 2M to 3M, 1.30; 3M to 4M, 1.43; 4M to 5M, 1.36; 5M to 10M, 1.44; over 10M, 1.86. Assessment ratios going back to 1970 show similar assessment disparities by price.

  12. W

    I have always advocated, Cos Cobber that citizens like Carnegie need to emerge in todays society and build school and librarys.

    However how do you think people like Bill Gates and the CEO’s of major financial institutions feel when they are constantly harassed by the government including non sense lawsuits brought by the US attorney’s office? Not very giving.

  13. HG

    A belief that the government should work to cap incomes may seem reasonable in some circles. Lenin, et al, had a two-point plan: cap incomes (infringe on personal freedom); don’t let anyone vote. Congratulations, LLS, you only believe in half of the Bolshevik platform. You can dress it up all you want, but you are flat out missing the essence of civilization, which is not just democracy, but individual freedom AND democracy.

  14. Cos Cobber

    W, it seems it has become more fashionable for the super wealthy to sponsor global causes, social services, universities and think-tank groups than tangible community goods. I think that has been a bit of a mistake.

    Why not sponsor a public library, public park or playground with a portion of you donations….probably because it takes more time than they want to give….

  15. Last Liberal Standing


    Here’s what I misunderstood: I thought it was YOUR voice on the tape, commenting on Obama’s “sickening” opinion. I’m still not aware of whose commentary that was.

  16. Last Liberal Standing

    Cos Cobber (and everyone else, probably):

    You say that “Our country was built on meritocracy,” and Chris et al. seem certain that a fundamental principle of worthwhile living is that people ought to be able to make endless stacks of money. The cry of Freedom Freedom Freedom resonates continuously throughout CF’s blog: “No guvment has the right to put its filthy hands on my lucre, dammit!”–and for anyone to suggest that Enough is Enough assaults the heart of every $$ Freedom Fighter.

    But does it really not occur to anyone that much of your “hard-earned” wealth is not really hard-earned? Have you ever noticed that once you get past a couple of humps in the wealth-accumulation process, you can usually get that money rolling in without doing a damn thing to earn it? C’mon, you know that’s often the case. Especially if you got a couple of breaks, or a nice headstart from mom and pop, the process often takes care of itself.

    Some of you will say, “Hell, I worked like a dog for years, and now I’m entitled to reap reap reap.” Others will think (and probably not say), “Gulp. I did inherit quite a pile from mumsey and daddy, but THEY worked 20 hours a day for their entire lives, and why can’t I enjoy the fruits of their labor?” And others will just start calling names, sounding ever so much like cantankerous New England farmers, rather than deal honestly with the question.

    Let’s face it. After you’ve made a couple of sh**loads, what are you going to do with a third, fourth, and fifth? Do you really have no concern about the masses of have-nots? You don’t feel a twinge of guilt about a second or third home, a $100G vehicle, or an extraordinarily luxurious life? Can you really convince yourself that every have-not is a lazy, dishonest, inferior person who DESERVES his/her lot in life?

    I can’t convince myself of such an absurdity. I’ve known plenty of people who worked very hard–much much harder than some of the super-wealthy people who cherish their “hard-earned” lifestyles–and yet had nothing to show for it. (Full disclosure: My father worked two jobs–hard physical labor jobs–for most of his adult life, and he died broke. He wasn’t a gambler or drinker. He caught some bad breaks. And compared to some others, even in America, he did okay.)

    So sayeth the incurable bleeding heart, LLS.

    • I love you, Last Liberal, but I’ve got to say, I’ve struggled every day since I was 18 to make enough money to first, take, care of myself and later, my family, and never found it getting any easier.. I probably should have gone into teaching.

  17. Last Liberal Standing

    Yup, CF, you made a bad career choice. Us techrs got it maid. Im rakin it inn, & never hav to lifta fingr.

    (Eye tea ching lush, bite away.)

  18. cos cobber

    LLS, I don’t even know where to begin. There is so much to say. You are clearly a bleeding heart and that would be fine if liberal “guilt” didn’t demand, by law via the tax code, to make me pay for it. Now before you go assuming I’m some sort of stone cold anti-government fundamentalist, let me tell you that I actually appreciate many of our social programs and safety nets. My issue is that its never enough. What we have now is enough, improve what we have, work with the budgets we have.

    To your point about under appreciated hard working people. As many people I see get bad breaks I see the same number who put themselves there out of sheer stupidity and laziness. The government has a very limited ability, if any, to distinguish between the two. I know it gets tiresome to hear the same old story, but its true that everyone I know who makes a high income (400k+ ) works their ass off; even the few I know make over $3M a year. They work long hours 5 days a week and often they are either working on the weekend or on call for the weekend. The jobs are stressful and very intellectually challenging. They also require a combination of skills that are uncommon. The only people I know who don’t work hard and yet have big cash to spend are the kids of these people. The parents though, they work hard. The reason the money gets easier as you make more money is because you grow a skill set that is rewarded and you learn based on experience how to do it better each time thereafter. Not everyone learns the right lessons along the way, but generally speaking that is how it goes. The second dollar is easier because you learned in the process of making the first dollar.

    Furthermore, if life deals you bad breaks, is it healthy, it’s the right thing to do for the government to come in and “fix” it somehow. Just how do they do that without it becoming an endless game of “jimmy has one, where’s mine!” In many respects, aside from providing a bottom rung safety net, social engineering by the government is a lose-lose proposition as rewards are mismatched with the value society has given the output.

    Fortunately we live in one of most socially and economically mobile and open societies. Everyday the company I work for competes against other companies which are often based in lower cost of living areas of the country (Charlotte, Denver, etc) providing the same services for a lot less money. In 10 years I have heard many clients say we are expensive which is true, we are expensive. I have also seen many low cost competitors come and go while we’re still here, standing taller than ever. The reason we have survived despite our high fees is because our superior performance and the added value we bring to the deals. The losers did not win because we were “taxed” to quit. Back when the marginal tax rates were sky high Hollywood actors (Reagan) would stop making pictures for the year once their earners had reached the top tax rates. I suppose that is one way to broaden employment, but is it fair to force someone out because they are too good at what they do? If we are going to do with this our economy then lets also change our professional sports. Hitters with more than two extra base hits in a game have to sit out the next game. How about with consumer products, we could do the same thing. Apple has sold too many iphones for the year time to sit down and let poor Ericson who has nothing to show for their efforts get some, boo-hoo. Our meritocracy has a certain among of societal noise and chaos but it would pale in comparison to the chaos of an anti-competitive techno-welfare state.

    The right way to curb the income growth of super high wage earners is to ensure that we have open and free markets for as many products as possible. People are welcome to step up and challenge my business everyday…that is fair and that is something I can respect.

  19. Last Liberal Standing


    If you’ve “struggled every day” to take care of yourself and your family, and you have “never found it getting any easier,” you’re not in the category of wealth-amassers that President Obama was referring to when he said, “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” Sorry to tell you that.

    Seems to me that what the alarmists and name-callers are “sickened” by is not so much the idea of, “Hey, c’mon, buster, don’t you have enough comfort and luxury to last several lifetimes?” Instead, it’s the fact that the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES personally feels that way, which the Obamaphobes interpret as, “I’m going to determine what the upper limit is, and I’m going to make it impossible to make more than that.”

    Obama did NOT say that. And if you’ll simply listen to what he DID say, immediately after the part about “made enough money,” you’ll have one fewer excuse to carry on about his purported “sickening” “Marxist crap.”

    But who wants one fewer excuse, right? It’s so much more fun to spew.

  20. Anonymous

    I’m sorry but that 5.5 mil is well worth it. Obama works much harder than nearly every American and he deserves to make that much and honestly, 5.5 mil is pocket change compared to what some people make. He is referring to those people who make upwards of 100 mil a year and just continue to make more and more money. I hate how people are against him for this quote he actually EARNED that money and is simply is not even that much…

  21. Last Liberal Standing


    We agree on more than you might think. Perhaps you’ll come to see me as Last Reasonable Liberal Standing. . . . or not.

    Let’s look at a few of your recent statements.

    “You are clearly a bleeding heart” – I admitted as much, just a few lines above the point where you said this.

    “I actually appreciate many of our social programs and safety nets. My issue is that its never enough.” – I agree! Sort of. Where we might not agree is: At what point does the government decide, “That’s enough, you rotten freeloaders and weaklings!” (We’re right back to the Obama observation that Enough is Enough, only in this case it’s about the government deciding how much, if at all, it should gouge the haves and redistribute to the have-nots.)

    “As many people I see get bad breaks I see the same number who put themselves there out of sheer stupidity and laziness.” – You could be right, though I wonder about the proportion of bad-break receivers to stupidos and idlers. It’d be tough to conduct a study for the purposes of establishing the ratio. (“Please fill in name, age, ethnic affiliation, stupidity quotient, and coefficient of laziness. On a scale of 1 to 10, estimate the degree to which life has bequeathed you an unplayable lie.”)

    “The government has a very limited ability, if any, to distinguish between the two [between deserving and undeserving folks].” – Correct! In view of that “very limited ability,” there need to be limits to governmental largess, lest we wind up supporting ever-larger legions of economic parasites and, in the process, quashing effort and innovation and bankrupting the country. (How’m I doing so far? I’m not being facetious, by the way.)

    “everyone I know who makes a high income (400k+ ) works their ass off; even the few I know make over $3M a year. They work long hours 5 days a week and often they are either working on the weekend or on call for the weekend. The jobs are stressful and very intellectually challenging. They also require a combination of skills that are uncommon.” – Damn! Here’s our first point of serious disagreement, and how can I challenge you about “everyone [you] know who makes a high income”? I suspect you’re fooling yourself about this, but I don’t know the people you know, of course. I’ll stipulate further that I don’t really know ANY people who are currently working and taking in fabulous sums–at least, I don’t know them up close.

    But I do know quite a few people who “have it made” in the sense that they never have to work again. They have enough guaranteed income to let them sleep in every day, play golf, travel, dine out, buy expensive clothes, purchase extravagant toys and gifts, live wherever they like (even live in two or more different geographical locations during any given year, based on a need for endlessly swell weather), and NEVER need to worry about insufficient funds. Furthermore, many such people have been in this condition since their forties or fifties. Some may have worked their asses off for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years (though not all of them did anything of the kind), but I have serious reservations about: whether they played by the rules along the way; whether they got some outrageous breaks and favors; and whether they did substantial damage to their families, their colleagues, their rivals, their societies, and/or their planet during their asses-off years. Not to mention: whether they married into or were born into such riches.

    You might well counter with, “Bull! I know these prosperous amassers of wealth, Last. You don’t! They are all upstanding citizens in every sense. Back off!” So I’ll back off, but I remain skeptical about the portrait of top-level moneymakers as a group of uniformly deserving, endlessly hard-working straight arrows.

  22. Cos Cobber

    LLS, you want to find a way to apply your definition of “fairness” by the extension of government policy and programs which are pro-wealth redistribution. I say that if society seeks to curb wealth concentration then the best way is to ensure we have a highly competitive marketplace. If the incomes mismatch the service, then new competion when enter the market forcing a reduction in pricing and ergo, lower incomes for ownership. I believe that using the tax code and public policy to simply dissuade wealth concentration will do more harm than good. That is our difference in a nutshell.

    I grew up in a rural environment in the northeast where the wealthy person in the community was the pediatrician and perhaps the high-end second home builder. The only substantive industry around was building weekend homes for city dwellers. Otherwise, not much going on at all. I did not come into contact with anyone I would define as wealthy until my second job after college.

    Laws and regulations aimed to ensure openness and fairness are laws I can respect. Study after study already demonstrates that we have one of the most open and mobile societies in the history of mankind.

    Honestly, the only time I encounter people who I perceived to have a mismatch between skills and income/wealth is when I come into contact with the kids of great wealth creators. Yes, there are many “rich” kids who are respectful and try to carry their own weight, but many don’t. I am not about to advocate an aptitude test to inherit wealth however. I am never jealous of these people either as I know the few dollars I have I made myself and that is all the satisfaction I need. Time and foolishness will eventually wipe out the undeservedly wealthy anyway (that’s why we make absurd sports cars!)

    About being a teacher. I have some friends who are teachers and my observation is that their friend ands family circle is ruled by teachers and other government workers. With limited exposure to the private business world, I suppose its easy to see where misunderstandings and paranoia creep in. I am a pro-business guy and yet when I was 22 with my only exposure being low level private employment, the tippy top did seem like a privileged club with secret rules. Now that I am working at the top I see that its all rather straight forward. Produce what your client wants or watch them walk. That’s it. Target, Walmart, McDonalds, even the neighborhood hippy coffee shop has to live by the same rule. If you ignore this principal, you will lose business and lose your job. If products are priced too high (ie profits are too high), new competition will enter the fray to erode pricing.

    What if Steve Jobs stopped creating products severally years ago because of a dissuasive tax code? We’d be stuck using those lousy PALM products. It’s a real possibility.

    I know a popular artist who mints $20,000 painting in a matter of a couple days work. He’s a hippy, lives a charmed life and does really well. I don’t know what he makes, but lets just say, wouldn’t it be interesting if in the future the tax code was so dissuasive that an artist is discouraged from making art!

    I know you think Obama’s speech was aimed at billionaires. Big policy ideas are set at the top. I fear that once the notion that ‘enough is enough’ creeps in as an acceptable train of thought, then its only a matter of time for the policy to continually ratchet the ceiling down once in place. It’s the wrong way to achieve the objective. Push more kids into hard sciences, graduate from college on time with honors, be flexible about you early employment years (hrs will be long), be prepared to work and lets have more competition to challenge the billionaires for their bucks. Don’t take it by law.

  23. Last Liberal Standing


    It could be that you don’t care for the approach I was trying in my previous posting. That approach involved my quoting your statements back to you and saying to what extent I agreed or disagreed with them. It’s a piece-by-piece approach, rather than a great-big-statement-of-principles approach, but I believe it’s a better way to establish where our differences really are. After all, if we agree on many issues, let’s establish that, and we won’t have to waste time shouting about matters that are already settled.

    But, as I say, you may not like that way of discussing things: I didn’t notice any acknowledgment, in your follow-up, that we might have some viewpoints in common. Instead, you’ve hit me with a new set of general statements, some of which I would love to disagree with–but there are many to choose from, and I’m starting to think we’ll just go round and round. And round.

    I have to attempt a clarification, though, in response to your paragraph that begins, “About being a teacher.” I’m not sure what your point was in the first few sentences of the paragraph. Are you saying that many teachers lead a sheltered existence and don’t know anything first-hand about the world of business? Whatever your point, this sentence is a gem: “With limited exposure to the private business world, I suppose its easy to see where misunderstandings and paranoia creep in.” I’ll do you a favor and not take offense.

    Um, besides being a teacher for almost 20 years, I have also: worked on communications systems for four years in the US Air Force (in Thailand and on the West Coast); installed sprinkler irrigation systems in California vineyards for three years; and done carpentry, handyman repair, ditch digging, tree cutting, gasoline pump replacement, and general contracting for a total of more than ten years. If I suffer from “misunderstandings and paranoia,” which I probably do, it’s not from limited exposure to the world outside the classroom.

  24. Cos Cobber

    LLS, I never had the lofty objective of isolating our differences down to a few choice points. We are too far apart to make it worthwhile, particularly on the most important and fundamental point.

  25. Last Liberal Standing



    “We are too far apart to make it worthwhile” evokes an image of you sitting up straight-backed in your chair, arms folded stubbornly across your chest, as you insist that you could NEVER have significant points of agreement with a guy who calls himself a bleeding-heart liberal. “I WILL not waste my time trying to understand his thinking!” you seem to be saying; “I DON’T have anything in common with a wealth-hating, business-phobic, ivory-tower school teacher. I won’t I won’t I won’t!”

    Your Declaration of Non-Agreement reminds me of an experience I had about seven years ago, when I was busy “wasting my time” in online debate with a guy who called himself BlueZone Jim. We disagreed dramatically over the invasion of Iraq specifically and the use of American military power generally. When I tried the approach of “Let’s see where we agree and where we disagree,” and I started by trying to paraphrase some of his pronouncements into my own words (“Let me know, BlueZone, if I am expressing your opinion accurately . . .”), he immediately disowned the process. “I’ll have no part in this nonsense,” he told me, in words to that effect. I think he suspected a trick–as in, “Hey, BlueZone, once you see that we aren’t two entirely different species, maybe you’ll be fooled into agreeing with me!” Whatever his reasons were, he refused to engage in a process that is a widely accepted way of bringing divergent opinions to the meeting table.

    My guess is that a seriously right-of-center mindset distrusts the very notion of a meeting of the minds, because that mindset prefers a world where conflicting opinions are black and white, not gray. One person’s right, the other’s wrong. Nothing in the middle, where minds might meet.

  26. Cos Cobber

    LLS, way to make a big assumption and be completely incorrect about it. Its not that I am afraid to enter into an extended conversation because it might change my opinion….its because I just dont find coming to an understanding in this faceless medium of interest to me. It wont accomplish a thing and I dont get anything out of it emotionally or intellectually. I see nothing but wasted time ahead in continuing this dialogue on this very subject matter. We each took a couple turns at sharing our view and thats personally all I need. You seem to want something more and thats great, you’re just not going to get it from me. I am comfortable with letting disagreements stand.

    Subjects which can be answered in various shades of gray are fun to debate and worthy of perhaps parsing down to agreements. I don’t see this as an issue that is answered in shades of gray. Its either you believe that wealth is unjust and needs redistribution by government policy or you don’t.

    Moving on…

  27. Last Liberal Standing

    Here’s the problem, as I see it: The people who frequent this blog site are much happier in letting off steam, tossing around a few epithets, swapping denegrating nicknames for people and groups they disagree with, and “moving on” to the next newsy excuse for venom-spewing, than they are in resolving differences–or getting wiser!

    Yes, my intentions are different. I’m seeking whatever wisdom you, CF, and other “right-thinking” individuals have to offer. Only rarely do I think you’re going to wake me up to a new insight by pushing out a stream of charming insults; it’s much more likely that I’ll smarten up through the process of honest, patient interaction with you thick-headed chumps. (Probably not the most tactful way to get what I want, is it?)

    Anyway, I see that you’ve had enough. I’ll leave you alone.