House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) yesterday gave a speech in which he attacked President Obama for sowing “fear and envy” with his “divisive” call for raising taxes on the wealthy by a few percentage points. “He is going from town to town, impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up straw men and scapegoats, and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments, as he tries to build support for punitive tax hikes on job creators,” Ryan said.
Today, Ryan appeared on CNBC to continue his tirade. After Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE) told Ryan, “I thought your speech was very divisive,” Ryan tried to defend himself by claiming that he is “not worried about” those at the top of the income scale:
But this was a speech about taxes, in large part because it is the venue through which they’re using this class warfare rhetoric, which is extremely divisive. This notion that we should tax and redistribute toward prosperity has been tried so many times in so many different countries and it just doesn’t work. We should be focused not on worrying about wealthy people, I’m not worried about them, I’m worried about people who are not wealthy who want to get up, make something of themselves, rise, succeed, create businesses, go to work, and have a life that they want. To me, it is about removing the barriers to upward mobility. This rhetoric and these policies add new barriers toward upward mobility.
Of course, if Ryan isn’t worried about wealthy people, he has a pretty odd way of showing it. After all, the House GOP approved budget that he wrote cuts taxes for those in the top income bracket by ten percentage points and pays for it with a middle-class tax hike.
And that plan is positively tame compared to Ryan’s much-ballyhooed “Roadmap for America’s Future,” which would have raised taxes on a full 90 percent of the population in order to give the richest one percent of Americans an annual tax break of more than $200,000.
Even Ryan’s own constituents have slammed him for defending tax breaks for the wealthy. Instead of facing up to growing income inequality paired with plunging tax rates for the rich, all Ryan can do is promulgate the false talking point that taxing those at the top of the income scale would hurt small business and then claim that others are engaging in class warfare.