In September, President Obama unveiled the American Jobs Act—a $445 billion stimulus package—and the “Buffett Rule”, a surtax on the wealthiest Americans designed to pay for the AJA and add more progressivity to the federal income tax. Immediately, this proposal spawned cries of “class warfare” from the usual crew of Republicans and conservative ideologues. It’s been almost two months since then, and Republicans are still howling about class warfare. Yesterday, for example, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan blasted Obama for his “divisive” rhetoric:
“We’re getting basically a strategy to divide people,” Ryan continued. “To speak to people as if they’re stuck in some class—they’re stuck in some station in their life and the government’s role is to help them cope with it. That is so inherently contrary to what we’re about in this country.”
Aside from the ideological complaints, there’s a political reason for this continued hostility. Class warfare works. Earlier today, Talking Points Memo reported on a memo issued by American Crossroads, the Super PAC formed by Republican strategist Karl Rove. In the memo, director Steve Law warns that the public is responding to the president’s demands for highter taxes on the wealthy:
“It may be the result of larger environmental conditions, or he may be moving the needle himself, but Obama’s ‘tax the rich’ mantra is getting traction,” the group’s director, Steven Law, wrote in a memo. “Our poll found that 64% favor raising taxes on people with incomes above $200,000.”
As Politico noted earlier today, Obama has gone back and forth in his criticsm of Wall Street, oscillating between attacks and hedged understanding. If American Crossroads is right—and other polls suggest that they are—then the right strategy is for Obama to double-down on his tough approach to higher taxes on the rich. “Class warfare” works, and the White House should take advantage of it.