It's not class warfare. It's math.
-President Barack Obama
That quote was from the president's speech announcing a plan to reduce the deficit. Included in the plan is a choice -- either close tax loopholes that allow the rich and corporations to dodge their fair share of the tax burden or end the high end Bush tax cuts which, as the president rightly pointed out, were intended to be temporary anyway. In fact, when Bush asked congress to make them permanent after the fact, congress refused.
There's no reason that Obama couldn't have demanded both the closure of the loopholes and the end to the bottom heavy tax structure -- none other than Barack Obama being Barack Obama and leading with a concession. But that's another post. This post is about the claims by Republicans that asking the wealthy to pay their fair share is "class warfare."
[Los Angeles Times:]
Top congressional Republicans on Sunday accused President Obama of trying to incite class warfare with his proposal for a new tax on millionaires and said they would not support the measure because it would hurt economic growth.
"Class warfare … may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics," House Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said on "Fox News Sunday." "We don't need a system that seeks to prey on people's fear, envy and anxiety. We need a system that creates jobs and innovation and removes these barriers for entrepreneurs to go out and rehire people."
The strong opposition by Republicans means the millionaire tax proposal is unlikely to pass Congress. But it promises to become a highly charged centerpiece in the battle over deficit reduction and job creation that will be a focus of the 2012 elections.
It takes a lot of guts for Paul Ryan, whose own budget-balancing plan would rob everyone's Medicare fund to finance further tax breaks for the rich, to try to play the "class warfare" card. You want class warfare? Ryan's plan is class warfare.
And are those high-end tax giveaways as necessary as Republicans say? Of course not. Everything they say the tax cuts will do are already failing to materialize. When Bush asked for them, they were the GOP's flavor of stimulus, meant to reinvigorate the economy and create jobs. The result? George W. Bush had the worst record of job creation of any president since the Great Depression. This is what the Republicans argue is going to work for sure -- this time. Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!
By removing "these barriers for entrepreneurs to go out and rehire people," Ryan means gutting regulations. Most of the regulations Republicans want to target have been in place during good times and bad, so the idea that they're holding America back is ridiculous on its face. If you do something crazy, like ask business owners if regulations and taxes are killing them, they say no. Like anyone who has to live outside the Republican Ivory Tower, where failed theories and wishful thinking count as Gospel, business owners know that the problem is weak demand, not hocus-pocus about "uncertainty" and burdensome government regulations. If no one's buying, no one's hiring. It really is just that simple.
Further, by attacking the deficit the way the GOP wants to, you reduce demand, not increase it. Republicans like to talk about how the rich pay most of the taxes -- regardless of how much they pay as a percentage of their income -- but they don't acknowledge that the vast, vast majority of economic activity in the United States comes from everyone else. If you're actually taking things away from the not-so-very wealthy to pay for tax cuts that benefit the oh-so-very wealthy, the economy will never improve. People spending money is the economy -- the entire economy -- and tax cuts that benefit only the wealthy at the expense of everyone else do nothing but increase deficits. This isn't even a matter of debate anymore, it's proven. All the Bush tax cuts did was blow a hole in our budget and fail to create jobs or stimulate the economy. In fact, by the end of the Bush administration, we were in the worst economic situation of any since the Great Depression. In Republican circles, I guess that's what passes for resounding success.
So "class warfare?" Republicans have been waging for a decade and all their victories have been Pyrrhic. Only a tiny handful are better off because of them and everyone else is screwed. If the GOP thinks class warfare is such an awful, scandalous thing, there's an easy remedy.
They can stop waging it.