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GOP needs a history lesson about class warfare

September 21, 2011 |  2:26 pm

Obama

GOP spin-meisters have identified "class warfare" as the go-to phrase when criticizing President Obama's proposals to raise taxes on wealthy Americans (er, "job creators"). After mostly ignoring such attacks, the president is now on the offensive. On Monday night, laying out his deficit-reduction plans, which include ending the Bush tax cuts for wealthy families and ensuring millionaires are taxed at the same rate as middle-income households, he argued, "This is not class warfare. It's math." He went even further at a Democratic Party fundraiser Tuesday night: "You know what, if asking a billionaire to pay the same rate as a plumber or a teacher makes me a warrior for the middle class, I wear that charge as a badge of honor."

Democrats are cheering the president's newly combative stance, but I'm not sure escalating the absurd "warfare" rhetoric is the best approach. Obama is backing an economically defensible way of reducing the deficit without cutting needed services for Americans at a time they're most needed. To call this class warfare is nonsensical, and proves only that the people who make this charge have no idea what it actually means. But then, that's not too surprising; the same crowd routinely tars the president as a "socialist" because he backs some government regulation of a market economy. That's not exactly the definition of socialism.

To be clear: America has seen class warfare, and the debate over deficit reduction doesn't qualify. Class warfare is what happened at the turn of the 19th century, when nationwide rail strikes prompted violent confrontations between management and labor. In those days, terrorists weren't Muslim extremists; they were often union men with bombs and guns who blew up industrial buildings (including, in 1910, the Los Angeles Times building in downtown L.A. as a protest against the paper's then anti-union stance) and tried to assassinate wealthy individuals. At the heart of the unrest was a yawning gap between rich and poor, which was encouraged by a laissez-faire government approach to industrial regulation.

The wealth gap today isn't as bad as it was then, but it's getting closer. The best way to bring about genuine class warfare, then, would be to do nothing to try to close this gap. And that pretty much sums up the current GOP strategy on taxation.

RELATED:

Waging 'class warfare'?

Meddling with monetary policy

Why (and how) to tax the super-rich

Taxing the wealthy to stimulate the economy?

-- Dan Turner

Photo: President Obama lays out his deficit-reduction plan Monday in the White House Rose Garden. Credit: Evan Vucci / Associated Press

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