President Obama’s plan to allow the Bush tax cuts for incomes above $250,000 to expire at the end of the year has revived the Republican talking point that he is waging “class warfare” against the wealthy, a point Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R) drove home in an entirely new fashion today.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Kyl claimed that the president’s usage of the phrase “middle class” is “misguided and wrong and even dangerous.” Calling for an end to rhetoric about classes, Kyl blasted Obama for “incessantly” talking about class, “particularly the middle class”:
KYL: Most prominently, we have a president who talks incessantly about class, particularly the middle class. Maybe you’ve noticed that. He defines class strictly by your income. In the president’s narrative, someone who makes $199,000 a year is a member of one class and someone who makes $200,000 belongs to another class. Does that make sense? Indeed, each day the president’s out on the campaign trail championing himself as the great protector of what he calls the middle class and pitting these Americans against their fellow citizens by arguing that the wealthiest class is victimizing them through the tax code.
Kyl went on to explain that America doesn’t have “a true class-based society,” since we don’t have an “ingrained class system” or “noble bloodlines,” a point that seems to ignore every common usage of the “middle class” in our political system.
As ThinkProgress has repeatedly noted, the president’s plan to end the tax cuts that benefit only the wealthiest Americans doesn’t amount to class warfare — in fact, it still maintains a sizable tax cut for them too. And while Kyl claims “class is a loaded term that’s not appropriate for our debates about income,” the talk about who pays their fair share is a hot topic for the GOP too. Republicans have pushed the false notion that 47 percent of Americans don’t pay federal taxes to make it seem that it is actually the poor and middle class who aren’t paying enough in taxes, and Republicans consistently opposed an extension to the payroll tax cut, which primarily benefited middle class workers.
The House GOP budget, meanwhile, gutted the social safety net, taking 62 percent of its cuts from programs that benefit the middle and lower classes. And while the GOP maintains the idea that reducing the debt and the tax burden on the wealthy will help middle-income Americans, the last decade has proven that to be utterly false. Republicans promised prosperity and job growth when they passed the high-income Bush tax cuts in 2003; what followed was a decade of rising deficits, anemic job growth, and a massive recession that decimated middle- and lower-class families and programs that benefit them.