Monday, September 19, 2011

Of Course They Did

Not like it’s a big surprise, but the Republicans are finally getting around to rejecting President Obama’s jobs bill. And just for good measure, they’re trotting out the tired old “class warfare” trope.

The so-called “Buffet rule” would make sure millionaires pay about the same tax rate as the employees that work for them. It’s named after billionaire Warren Buffet, who has said that he is taxed at a rate of about 17.4 percent, while his secretary is taxed at a rate of about 36 percent.

“If you tax something more, Chris, you get less of it,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “Class warfare, Chris, may make for really good politics, but it makes for rotten economics. We don’t need a system that seeks to divide people and prey on peoples’ fear, envy and anxiety. We need a system that creates jobs and innovation, and removes these barriers for entrepreneurs to go out a rehire people. I’m afraid these kinds of tax increases don’t work.”

Mr. Ryan is correct in one respect; it does make for good politics. And he should know, because that’s basically all the Republicans have done for the last three years. Think about it: can you name one jobs plan or budget plan that the GOP has come up with other than something that is either so loaded in favor of the corporate side or so knee-jerk anti-Obama that it could pass the laugh test?

That’s a trick question, because since the beginning of the Obama administration, the Republicans haven’t come up with, in the immortal words of Haley Barbour, diddley. Each one of their budget proposals has been little more than a campaign flyer, and the only one that was more than ten pages was Rep. Ryan’s, which was so fatal to programs such as Social Security and Medicare that even his fellow Republicans were backing away from it.

The response to the Obama plan from the Republicans was so predictable that you could have called it in the first inning. But here’s where it gets good, finally (hopefully). The president is not backing down. In fact, he’s doubling down.

Bill Keller’s complaint about ambivalence notwithstanding, it is a relief to see — at long last — the president and the White House not afraid to draw the “class warfare” attack. In fact, I’d be surprised if they didn’t want it because they’re sure that this time it could be a winner. All you have to do is point to the record profits that Wall Street, the banks, and the large corporations made this year and last, remind the viewers how the tax code is skewed to the rich and the “job creators,” call bullshit on the “uncertainty principle” that has become the new way of saying “I got mine, screw you,” and stir up a little more genuine populism among the voters instead of that ersatz Tea Party brand that is about as grass roots and spontaneous as a holiday parade in North Korea.

Yes, it’s politics. At this point, that’s about all you are going to get. So if this is class warfare, make the most of it.