I once had a boss who was independently rich, and when I asked him for a raise, he turned me down, adding that he, too, had forsaken a raise that year. A surge of anger, resentment and sheer hatred welled up in me, and were it not that I needed the job, I would have gone for his throat. His unthinking and unthinkable attempt to make common cause with me brought to mind Anatole France’s observation that “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Now it brings to mind Barack Obama.Okay. Yes. But: It's been noted many times, when rich people like Warren Buffet beg to be made to pay their fair share, that when you pay your taxes you can make a voluntary additional payment to the federal government. So why don't they just chip in some extra?
Obama's tossing in 5% is a way of saying, that's the additional amount that seems fair to ask. I can't change the tax law on my own and make all rich people pay 5% more, but I will voluntarily do what I think all should do. It's basically the golden rule. You can't make everyone do what you want them to do, but you can be the example of what you think all should do.
But Obama didn't portray his 5% contribution as an example for all rich people, a reminder, as we approach April 15th, that you can jack up your own tax payment because you see that's your fair share or just because you have plenty of money and you'd like to be generous and try to help with the many good and necessary things the government does.
No, Obama characterized his 5% as sharing the sacrifice that the sequester is forcing some public sector employees to make. It's just not the same kind of sacrifice. He won't even feel his sacrifice. And if he does, he can ease his tiny pains with another deluxe vacation and a few more concerts at the White House performed by whichever pop stars his daughters are enthusing over this month.