Commentary Magazine


Class Warfare Won’t Fix the Economy

In his press conference today, President Obama threw down a challenge to Republicans over the debt limit. When asked how he could hope for a resolution to the current stalemate that could pass Congress when he is insisting a deal must include tax hikes the GOP oppose, Obama made it clear he thinks the Republican leadership will fold like a cheap suit.

As far as the president is concerned, the Republican position is “not sustainable.” His idea of “a balanced approach” involves minimal spending cuts along with a raft of soak-the-rich proposals he believes are good political weapons. Obama repeated again and again the issue was a matter of taking scholarships away from kids, eliminating research on food safety and health care for the elderly in order to continue giving, “millionaires and billionaires” and oil companies tax cuts on their “private corporate jets.”

While the president started off his talk by saying he was interested in reviewing government regulations of business that inhibit growth, not only could he not name a single regulation he doesn’t like, it’s clear the entire focus of his approach to both the deficit and the economic downturn is based on hostility toward the private sector. The president may think most Americans agree with him rich people should have their taxes raised, but he seems to be unaware of the link between job creation and the level of taxation on businesses and business owners.

The reason why the GOP position on debt limit negotiation is sustainable is that raising taxes on the private sector in the middle of an economic downturn with rising unemployment is a recipe for disaster. Speaker John Boehner not only knows he would face a full-scale revolt among his members if he does back down to the president, he also understands doing so would be bad for the economy.

Though the president continually bragged about how he had faced down his own constituency by embracing some minimal cuts in entitlements, he is still most comfortable when he is playing the class warfare card. Indeed, that seems to be the only card in his hand. Talking about private jets and oil companies may seem like a good re-election strategy, but it does nothing for the economy. The president needs to understand resentment of the wealthy won’t do anything about the rising unemployment numbers that are making Obama’s re-election an increasingly shaky bet.