By Kate Obenshain
President Obama talks a good line about working with Republicans to avoid the "fiscal cliff." In the next breath he encourages the same destructive class warfare that he has masterfully stoked since early in his first term. He seeks to pit Americans of average income against those who are more successful -- but even more against Republicans, who he insists will do anything to help their "millionaire and billionaire" friends at the expense of all other Americans.
It's all about "us against them."
"I am not going to ask students and seniors and middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit while people like me, making over $250,000, aren't asked to pay a dime more in taxes," Obama said on Nov. 9. But of course, nobody is suggesting that students, seniors and middle-class families pay down even a portion of deficit, much less all of it. Republicans are actually suggesting that the deficit be "paid down" by reducing currently obscene levels of government spending, not by raising anyone's tax rates.
Promises of compromise have not gotten in the way of a strategy that's working. Instead of toning down the divisive rhetoric, the White House is ratcheting it up, invoking even children with disabilities as they paint Republicans as the enemies of the oppressed: "[I]f we ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more," White House spokesman Jay Carney argued, "we don't have to ask seniors, or parents of disabled children, or the least fortunate among us to bear the burden of getting our fiscal house in order."
Obama had previously referred to Republicans as "hostage-takers," accusing them of holding the middle class hostage to their demands for their rich friends. And he's gone back to this well again. "It's unacceptable for a handful of Republicans in Congress to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage," he said recently in Philadelphia.
The rhetoric is working. The Divider in Chief, or "the master of agitation," as he was known in his community organizing days, is doing his thing. If he can convince America that Republicans are the enemy and that rich people earned their wealth dishonestly, he can ram through any policy he wants without having to defend the merits of raising taxes during a time of economic stagnation.
To get more Americans into the spirit of class warfare, the White House has asked "middle-class" Americans to make videos of themselves talking about why taxes should be raised on the rich. The YouTube videos making the best claims for punitive income redistribution will be recognized by the administration for their contribution.
One website funded by union and progressive groups, theaction.org, allows visitors to download kits to build community support for tax hikes on greedy millionaires and billionaires, now universally defined as families making $250,000 per year and above. A downloadable poster reads: "Middle Class Over Millionaires."
As Jim Powell of Forbes puts it: "We need to understand that class warfare is a mortal enemy of economic growth and jobs." Many people do understand just that, Team Obama included. What is not certain is whether President Obama even cares. His goal, apparently, isn't our goal of economic growth and jobs. It's income redistribution -- and class warfare is the ticket to get him there.