“Class war.” How absurd. House Speaker John Boehner has said that pitting different income levels against one another is “not the American way.” He conveniently omits that America has been in a class war for years now, and the top 1 percent has been winning it to the detriment of the lower 80 percent. For his sponsors, it is very much the American way.
Obama’s advisers have tried, perhaps naively, to present the president as a reasonable compromiser, hoping that Republicans would respond in kind. That might have worked 50 years ago, when everybody saw benefit in getting along, but the problem now is that petulance and intransigence have been overwhelmingly effective in today’s politics. All that strategy did was to make him look weak.
The key, then, is to be equally petulant and intransigent, but in a way that resonates with the vast swath of the American people. The top one percent, while they do have most of the cards stacked in their favor, still have only one vote each, just like the poorest among us (at least, those who haven’t been disenfranchised by Republican vote suppression efforts).
Progressives understand why the wealthiest ought to pay proportionately more than the rest of us in taxes. After all, they’d hardly miss the money. Not everybody agrees with the progressive viewpoint, however. So an easier argument to make, and a much harder one to counter, is that they ought to at least pay the same amount as the rest of us. Being forced to defend wealthy people’s lower proportional tax burden shines a spotlight on how craven the Republicans really are.
Of course, the Obama plan has no chance of passing. Joblessness will continue to be unacceptably high until the 2012 election. Its sole cynical goal is to shift the blame for this mess to the other side, and to make sure it sticks by election day. It doesn’t do much for the people who are currently unemployed, but when you’re dealing with bought-and-paid-for toadies who refuse to give an inch, it is—sadly⎯the last, best hope for the country.