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The Nation

It's Not "Class Warfare" When the Rich Do It

Last night, the White House released details of President Obama’s plan for deficit reduction: in addition to a $250 billion reduction in Medicare spending on the provider side, and $330 billion in immediate spending cuts over the next decade, the president wants an end to the Bush tax cuts on the rich, and a millionaire’s tax called “the Buffett Rule,” after bilionaire investor Warren Buffett. The White House hasn’t released details on the exact mechanism of the Buffet Rule, but it would exist to ensure that high-income individuals pay a higher marginal rate than the middle class. Together, the tax increases would raise $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.

Not only is this good policy – it begins to correct tax imbalances that hugely benefit the wealthy – but it’s good politics. It provides a stark contrast to the Republican message of tax cuts for the rich, tax increases for the poor and spending cuts for everyone else, particularly those that rely on government programs: students, children, seniors and the unemployed.

In response, Republicans have brushed off their old rhetorical standby: “class warfare.” “Class warfare will simply divide this country more. It will attack job creators, divide people and it doesn’t grow the economy,” Rep. Paul Ryan said last night on FOX News Sunday. “Class warfare may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics.”


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Of course, Paul Ryan is the author of a plan that slashes discretionary spending and turns Medicare into an under-funded voucher scheme, so that the federal government can afford more and greater tax cuts on the wealthy. As a whole, the Republican Party has enthusiastically endorsed plans to slash social and anti-poverty spending to the bone, cut taxes on rich people and corporations, and crush organized workers. And this is to say nothing of right-wing attacks on the poor and working-class as “moochers” who don’t deserve the (paltry) benefits they receive. Given the extent to which they have monopolized attacks on the non-rich, Paul Ryan – and every other Republican – should be laughed off of the stage whenever they accuse Democrats of “class warfare”

As it stands, I look forward to media personalities demanding for the president to explain his hatred for rich people and the “producers” that shower us with their bountiful job creation. Or something.

Jamelle Bouie

Jamelle Bouie is a Slate staff writer covering politics, policy, and race.

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