At an event in Las Vegas this afternoon, Obama offered his most extensive rebuttal by far to the bogus GOP charge that the push for higher taxes on the wealthy is about “class warfare” and “envy.”
The whole thing is worth a watch — the tone was not one of outrage, but one laced with a good deal of mockery and derision:
Obama made what I think is his clearest case yet that the debate over whether to increase taxes on the wealthy is one that involves choices and priorities. He spelled out that if we don’t ask the wealthy for a bit more, either the deficit will go up, or the burden of doing all the sacrificing to bring it down will fall on those who are least equipped to bear it. He also framed a clear choice between keeping tax breaks for the wealthy and investing in “everything else,” a twist on the 99 percent versus one percent argument that didn’t sound personal at all and came across as eminently sensible and even undeniable. In this narrative, we face a stark choice: Either keep tax cuts for the rich, or invest adequately in the future viability of the whole country.
Obama also waded into the Elizabeth Warren argument — the case that people don’t get rich in a vacuum, and that the wealthy can afford to give a little more back to keep the society that helped enable their good fortune fuctioning smoothly:
“Each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, felt a responsibility to each other and to our country and helped to create all this incredible opportunity that we call the United States of America. Now it’s our turn to be responsible. And it’s our turn to leave an America built to last for the next generation. That’s our job. And we can do it.”
I don’t know how decisive this particular argument will be to the outcome of the general election — the state of the economy on Election Day 2012 may trump all. But tax fairness and inequality will be important, and this argument seems like a clear loser for Romney, particularly given his own wealth and diminutive tax rate.
Indeed, all indications are that Romney is going to continue making the “envy” and “class warfare” barbs central to his case. But it’s getting harder to figure out who the intended audience for this line is at this point. Does anyone buy it? Given what polls tell us about the mood of the country right now, one wonders if any Republicans will ask themselves whether it’s really a good idea to rush headlong into the general election brandishing the small-minded “envy” and “division” argument against the case Obama made above.