The Washington Post

Karl Rove and company are losing the argument over inequality

In that big Times story yesterday, Steven Law, the leader of the Rove-founded Crossroads groups, conceded that Obama is winning the argument over tax fairness and inequality. With the President now pitching the Buffett Rule, Law admitted the tax debate is playing Obama’s way, because it feeds the idea that Mitt Romney favors an “economic plutocracy” in which the deck is stacked against the middle class.

So get ready for Crossroads’ response. Mike Allen reports that Crossroads is launching targeted ads and a petition — wait for it — to pressure Obama and Warren Buffett to pay up more in taxes themselves if they really think the rich should be paying more.

Seriously. Via Noam Scheiber, here’s the new Facebook petition from Crossroads:

President Obama and Warren Buffett are deeply troubled by how low their taxes are. Nothing is stopping them from paying more in taxes voluntarily. Sign the petition to encourage Obama and Buffett to put their money where their mouths are when it comes to the “Buffett Rule.”

This might not be worth bothering with, if it weren’t for the possibility that some form of this message may find its way into Crossroads’ massive impending ad blitz, too.

Really, it continues to amaze that people in positions of real influence could venture something this idiotic with no evident sense of embarrassment. The problem Obama and Buffett are trying to address isn’t that each of them personally can’t pay more in taxes if he so chooses. The problem they are trying to address won’t be fixed if Obama, Buffett, and another dozen wealthy Americans write more checks to the federal government. Rather, they are trying to solve a society wide problem that threatens the future of a country of over 300 million people — one that, in their telling, requires a bit more sacrifice from high earners as a whole class if we are to have any hope of solving it.

This latest move is about nothing more than muddying the waters, pure and simple. The silly implication that there’s something hypocritical about calling for higher taxes on the wealthy when you are wealthy yourself and could just write a check if you really wanted to is about nothing more than sowing confusion about who is really looking out for whose interests.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this type of muddying effort on the topic of inequality. Crossroads recently ran an ad attacking Elizabeth Warren as too cozy with Occupy Wall Street before abruptly shifting gears and running another spot attacking Warren as ... too cozy with the big banks because of her role overseeing TARP funds — even though she’s been one of TARP’s biggest critics.

Ultimately, this is one of the things that's so pernicious about these outside groups. They can devote serious resources to spreading messages that are designed to do nothing more than blur lines, muddy waters, and sow confusion — even as the chief beneficiaries of their activities avoid any accountability for them.

This is what it looks like when you don’t have any real arguments.

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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