By Dan Froomkin
11:37 AM ET, 04/16/2009
Nobody likes taxes, particularly on April 15. So President Obama used the occasion to issue a pledge to simplify the tax code. Obama haters used the day to express their opposition with tea bags. And the Obamas and Bidens released their tax returns.
Michael D. Shear writes in The Washington Post: "Barack Obama's successful quest for the White House powered the sales of his nonfiction books, making him millions even as he assumed the presidency, his tax returns show.
"As a candidate in 2008, Obama earned about $2.6 million from the sale of his books, 'The Audacity of Hope' and 'Dreams From My Father,' according to returns the White House released yesterday....
"Together, Obama and his wife, Michelle, paid about $855,000 in federal taxes. They would have received a $26,000 refund, but asked that the amount be applied to their 2009 income taxes instead.
"The returns, Obama's first released while president, show that he donated $172,050 to charities, including $25,000 to both CARE and the United Negro College Fund."
Ryan J. Donmoyer and Hans Nichols writes for Bloomberg that Obama's taxes would have been "higher by about $102,000 if his budget plan were in effect."
Here is the text of Obama's remarks on tax policy yesterday. "I decided not to bring Bo today -- because he stepped on my economic speech yesterday," the president said, before explaining that "we need to simplify a monstrous tax code that is far too complicated for most Americans to understand, but just complicated enough for the insiders who know how to game the system. So I've already started by asking Paul Volcker and my Economic Recovery Board to do a thorough review of how to simplify our tax code, and to report back to me by the end of this year. It's going to take time to undo the damage of years of carve-outs and loopholes. But I want every American to know that we will rewrite the tax code so that it puts your interests over any special interests. And we'll make it easier, quicker and less expensive for you to file a return, so that April 15th is not a date that is approached with dread every year."
Meanwhile, as Michael Finnegan and Janet Hook write in the Los Angeles Times: "Republicans sought to ignite a popular revolt against President Obama on Wednesday by staging 'tea party' protests across the nation to demand lower taxes and less government spending -- but the tactic carried risk for the party.
"With half a million or more jobs vanishing each month, many Americans are less concerned about how much Washington deducts from their paychecks than whether they will have a paycheck at all...
"Gallup polls released this week found that 53% of Americans approve of the expansion of the U.S. government to help fix the economy, even if most of that group wants it scaled back once the crisis abates. And 48% think that the amount of federal income taxes they pay is 'about right,' a finding that shows anti-tax sentiment near a historic low for the last five decades."
And The Washington Post's Dana Milbank describes what he saw at the tea party across from the White House yesterday:
"'Hey Big Brother: Show us Your Real Birth Certificate,' said one sign in the rain-soaked crowd.
"'Blackbeard Obama, King of the Tax Pirates,' said another.
"A third showed the president dressed up as Steve Urkel, the nerdy black kid with big glasses and suspenders from 'Family Matters.' 'Did I do that?' the sign said, showing a graph of the economy plunging...
"Though ostensibly an anti-tax protest, it was more of an anti-Obama festival. Among the messages: 'The Audacity of the Dope,' 'O Crap' and Obama as an acronym for 'One Big Awful Mistake America.' Some messages were ugly ('Napolitano -- Obama's Gestapo Queen,' 'Hang 'Em High Traitors,' and a sign held by a young girl saying 'Victim of Child Tax Abuse'). Others were funny ('Don't Talk to Me! I Forgot My Teleprompter'). Certain ones had sinister overtones ('Tax Slavery Sucks,' and 'Obama bin Lyin'). Then there was the guy holding a Cabbage Patch doll by its hair with the message: 'My kid's growth stunted by your stimulus.'"