Raise taxes on the rich? “Class warfare” the Republicans rail. Any discussion of inequality, says Mitt Romney, should be held privately “in quiet rooms.”
Yet the Romney agenda for the country opens a new offensive in class warfare — only on the side of the few, not the many. America’s inequality has already reached extremes not seen since 1929 before the Great Depression. In 2010, the richest 1 percent captured an obscene 93 percent of the nation’s income growth. The top 1 percent now has as much wealth as 90 percent of Americans.
As Warren Buffett, one of America’s richest men, told New York Times columnist Ben Stein: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Romney and Republicans demand extension of the extra Bush tax cuts that go to those earning more than $250,000 a year. In addition, Romney calls for slashing individual tax rates across the board by 20 percent, eliminating the estate tax that applies only to the multimillionaires and sustaining the concessionary 15 percent tax rate on capital gains income overwhelmingly pocketed by the wealthiest Americans.
He promises to pay for these tax cuts by closing “loopholes,” but refuses to identify them. But even with the most generous assumptions, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center — a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution — found that the rich don’t collect enough in loopholes to pay for the proposed tax cuts. Romney’s tax plan would end with the richest Americans getting a tax cut while most Americans end up paying more.
Class warfare straight up.
On spending, Romney claims that he can cut federal spending while increasing spending on the military and putting off his (poisonous) plans for Medicare and Social Security for a decade (so that those 55 and over won’t vote against him). But neither Romney nor running mate Paul Ryan will reveal what they would cut. Ryan’s budget calls for devastating cuts in Medicaid and food stamps. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that more than three-fifths of the Ryan cuts in the first decade come from programs for the poor. Class warfare again.
Add to this the Romney “Bain Capital” economic policy. Romney criticizes Obama for not signing more corporate trade treaties, despite the fact that our trade policies not only ship jobs abroad but rack up more than $1 billion a day in trade deficits, more than half to China. (To be fair, Romney pledges to certify China as a currency violator, but every candidate promises to get tough with China, then folds once in office).
Romney also wants to repeal even the modest reforms of Wall Street that Obama got through Congress. He opposes raising the minimum wage and echoes Republican scorn of worker rights and unions. But the decline of unions has contributed to an economy in which workers no longer gain a fair share of the increased productivity and profits that they help to create. Once more, class warfare on the side of the CEOs and against working families.
Increasingly a Southern-based “whites only” dominated party, Republicans wrap their class warfare into scorn for “those people”: poor people of color. Can they consolidate support among white blue-collar workers, even as their policies attack those workers? Divide and conquer is an ancient strategy in warfare and in politics. Will it work for Mitt Romney, so clearly a man of, by and for the 1 percent?
We’ll know in November.