Barron’s D.C. man documents the president’s history of class warfare

Jim McTague of Barron’s notes with interest in his latest “D.C. Current” column that President Obama’s latest “State of the Union” address avoided much of the class-warfare rhetoric that filled previous speeches.

This unilateral cease-fire in his war against the upper crust is far from permanent, however. Obama’s fiscal-year 2015 budget, like the fiscal-year 2014 version, proposes a raid on the well-to-do crowd’s retirement plans and the redistribution of their excess savings to the middle class. Tax-deferred retirement savings would be capped between $2.3 million and $3 million, according to an August 2013 report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Obama probably held back on throwing a verbal haymaker at our most financially successful citizens because it does not poll well. Americans are not Russians. We don’t seek punishment for the financially successful. I asked Joel Benenson why the SOTU 2014 had been scrubbed of class-warfare rhetoric. Benenson, who bills himself as Obama’s “pollster general,” gave a two-part answer:

First, he said, since the fiscal-cliff deal with Republicans last January rolled back the Bush tax breaks for the rich, there no longer is a need for Obama to talk about them. (The agreement increased rates for individuals who make more than $400,000 annually and couples who make more than $450,000 annually from 35% to 39.6%.) And second, said Benenson, it was ludicrous to equate raising taxes on the rich with class warfare. He said Obama had never played the class-warfare card.

Benenson’s answer echoes a line from Obama’s 2012 SOTU address: “Now, you can call this class warfare all you want; but asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”

The record shows that beginning in 2011, Obama began depicting the rich as being rapacious and unpatriotic. This was the year after voters gave the GOP control of the House. With a re-election campaign looming, Obama was looking for a new way to fire up his left-wing base. …

… Obama’s current strategy is to blame the rich for the middle class’s failure to save for retirement, a strategy he first trotted out in his fiscal-year 2014 budget. A fact sheet for journalists from the White House Press Office, distributed immediately prior to this year’s SOTU speech, says that Obama’s next budget will propose “removing retirement tax breaks for the wealthiest while improving them for the middle class.”

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