Commentary Magazine


Obama Ratchets Up Class Warfare

President Obama was in full-on campaign mode during his deficit speech today in the Rose Garden, slamming Congress for “dragging its feet” and calling on Republicans to “defend” the “unfairness” of their tax proposals.

“They should be called out. They should have to defend that unfairness,” he said. “Explain why somebody who’s making $50 million a year in the financial markets should be paying 15 percent on their taxes when a teacher…is paying more than that.”

Obama announced he would veto any deficit-cutting legislation that doesn’t include tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations. This leaves the GOP in a tight spot, because many of them have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to oppose any plan that includes tax hikes.

Obama also seemed to take a shot at this “no new tax” pledge, referring to a “pledge to keep that unfairness in place.”

“The only pledge that really matters is our pledge to uphold the Constitution,” he said.

The speech had the same aggressive tone Obama has been taking out on the campaign trail recently, and it was heavier on politics than policy.

“I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same in taxes as a plumber or teacher is class warfare,” he said. “This is not class warfare. It’s math. The money’s going to have to come from someplace.”

His rhetoric will score him points with his progressive base, but doesn’t seem to be as attractive with independent voters. Obama’s speech announcing his stimulus plan was also antagonistic, and it didn’t end up boosting his record low approval ratings.

The president’s deficit-reduction plan, which he’ll submit to the super committee, includes proposals like raising taxes on millionaires and $1 trillion in savings from the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan. The drawdown savings are widely viewed as an accounting gimmick, as they’re not new cuts and were already expected to take place. Read the full plan here.