Appearing yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan had this to say:
Class warfare may make for good politics, but it makes for rotten economics. We don't need a system that seeks to divide people. We don't need a system that seeks to prey on people's fear, envy and anxiety.
As I watched Ryan's performance unfold, some dark corner of my brain couldn't help but appreciate the man's gall. Truly, his statement could now be the gold standard for the concept of the best defense being a good offense.
He was, after all, half right when suggesting that class warfare makes for rotten economics.
As beautifully demonstrated in a recent set of charts from Dave Gilson and Carolyn Perot, the American wealthy class has been engaging in class warfare since the mid-70's when the rich apparently decided that it no longer served its purposes to share the profits of good times with their middle class employees. And they got away with it. As income levels of the upper five percent have skyrocketed, the middle class has experienced a decidedly downward trend in their household earnings.
For the middle class, the class wars have, indeed, made for rotten economics.
But for the wealthy? Not so much.
In fact, contrary to Paul Ryan's suggestion, there is nothing remotely rotten about the economic results experienced by the richest among us since the corporate CEO's and Wall Street titans began their attack. The effort has gone so well that the five star generals of the wealthy forces, people like David and Charles Koch, have expanded their objectives to do away with anything that might impede corporate profits. Emblems of the middle-class such as unions, regulations that protect the public from harmful byproducts of corporate activities, the right to vote, etc. are not only under attack but are falling like flies on the battlefield.
Still, the GOP Congressional leadership has been trying to push the "Obama as creator of class warfare" pitch for a number of years now. While the propaganda effort has had some limited effect, the plan seems to be gaining steam as we head into the election cycle. You could see it front and center on yesterday's talk shows as numerous Republicans jumped on the Obama as the perpetrator of class warfare meme.
And who can blame them?
Not only have the forces of the wealthy managed to have their way with relative ease, they've actually been able to convince many of their victims to join their side.
Witness the Tea Party, a collection of people financed by the Kochs and their wealthy friends who have joined forces with their enemy without even knowing they have done so. By sounding the alarm about the dangers of government, the upper class is tricking their enemy into believing that, if they lay down the only defense they have (the government), it will all go better for them. The wealthy class is preying on the confusion that exists in the minds of these folks, confusion that produces posters and battle cries like "Keep government out of my Medicare."
As for Obama's engaging in class warfare—that is now precisely what he's doing.
It's about time and not a moment too soon. In fact, it has been way too long in coming.
But turning what has been a lackluster defense of the middle class into an effective offense is going to first require that the President gets middle class, GOP voters to understand the extraordinary—bordering on insane—folly of their actions. A vote for any Republican in the field seeking the GOP nomination to be president, is a vote for someone who intends to continue and further expand the battle of the classes.
Republicans attempting to disingenuously lay class war at the feet of President Obama should, instead, be thanking their lucky stars that Obama just might become the leader for the middle-class forces that voters hoped he would be when voting for him in 2008. Typically, this type of warfare ends up playing out on the streets where it is never pretty. Better that the President fight this battle within the government than it be fought out where things could get very ugly.
With the middle-class increasingly waking up to what is happening to them—with the exception of GOP and Tea Party supporters who remain locked in the bubble with their earphones on and the volume turned up to 10—how long do Republicans believe that this fight can be contained within the walls of government, both state and local?
While the GOP may be winning this war, they should cast an eye on their future and be careful what they wish for. Sooner or later, the very people who they have caused to suffer and yet continue to support them are going to be forced to open their eyes and figure out who their friends really are.
That's the kind of recognition that can destroy a political party for generations.