Republicans have been waging class warfare for years — and winning without working up a sweat. For proof, just take a look at the welfare program for the wealthy that is the U.S. tax code.
Such victories aside, Republicans have always claimed that it’s Democrats who play the class card. Whisper that the top 1 percent pay the lowest tax rate in 80 years, and you’re trafficking in class resentment. Help the working and middle classes get healthcare, and you’re a socialist.
Recently, Mitt Romney called the social safety net “free stuff.” In other words, if the unemployed get insurance or the poor receive food stamps, it’s a giveaway. If a private equity manager pays 14-percent tax on his millions while a firefighter pays 28 percent on his thousands, that’s rewarding risk takers.
This summer, though, Republicans finally have a point. Democrats really are playing class warfare. They haven’t won yet, but with Romney as the Republican standard bearer, they just might.
President Obama’s campaign met with resistance when it first attacked Romney as an out-of-touch businessman whose experience at Bain Capital LLC, rather than qualify him for the presidency, disqualifies him. A few Democrats, dependent for campaign cash on life’s big winners, complained that Obama was attacking free enterprise. Newark Mayor Cory Booker called the attacks “nauseating,” echoing the complaints of Rush Limbaugh and The Wall Street Journal editorial page, who had jumped on Romney’s primary rivals when they characterized his business tactics as “vulture capitalism.”
Democrats have stopped complaining. In the best political ad in years, Obama’s campaign features Romney singing an off-key “America the Beautiful” with lines such as “amber waves of grain” and “God shed his grace on thee” illustrated by images juxtaposing shuttered factories in the United States with the Romney tax havens of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland.
The attack on Romney as exemplar of the exploiter class has been so effective that the Republican candidate has gone rogue on his own résumé, distancing himself from his private-equity career. When Securities and Exchange Commission documents surfaced listing Romney as sole shareholder, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Bain through 2002, Romney cried like a stuck pig. Although he continued earning income as a Bain executive, he now claims it was a no-show job after 1999. (The assertion, made without irony, coincides with the Romney campaign accusing Obama of “crony capitalism.”)
Romney is so spooked by the attack, he gave five network interviews on July 13, which means four of the interviewers didn’t even work for Fox. Curiously, Romney’s attempt to distinguish between “the owner of an entity” and the “person who’s running an entity” did not clarify his political muddle.
Republican strategist Ed Gillespie did Romney one better, describing Romney’s untenable existential quandary — being chairman and CEO of a company in which he had no role — with a phrase that would make Orwell blush. Romney, Gillespie explained, had achieved a state of “retroactive retirement” in 2002. It was political doublespeak for the age of the Higgs boson.