Obama uses class resentment to pass buck

December 10, 2011


— In the first month of his presidency, Barack Obama averred that if in three years he hadn’t alleviated the nation’s economic pain, he’d be a “one-term proposition.”

When three-quarters of Americans think the country is on the “wrong track” and even Bill Clinton calls the economy “lousy,” how then to run for a second term? Traveling Tuesday to Osawatomie, Kan., site of a famous 1910 Teddy Roosevelt speech, Obama laid out the case.

It seems that he and his policies have nothing to do with the current state of things. Sure, presidents are ordinarily held accountable for economic growth, unemployment, national indebtedness (see Obama, above). But not this time. Responsibility, you see, lies with the rich.

Or, as the philosophers of Zuccotti Park call them, the 1 percent. For Obama, these rich are the ones holding back the 99 percent. The “breathtaking greed of a few” is crushing the middle class. If only the rich paid their “fair share,” the middle class would have a chance. Otherwise, government won’t have enough funds to “invest” in education and innovation, the golden path to the sunny uplands of economic growth and opportunity.

Where to begin? A country spending twice as much per capita on education as it did in 1970 with zero effect on test scores is not underinvesting in education. It’s mis-investing. As for federally directed spending on innovation — like Solyndra? Ethanol? The preposterously subsidized, flammable Chevy Volt?

Our current economic distress is attributable to myriad causes: globalization, expensive high-tech medicine, a huge debt burden, a burst housing bubble largely driven by precisely the egalitarian impulse that Obama is promoting (government aggressively pushing “affordable housing” that turned out to be disastrously unaffordable), an aging population straining the social safety net. Yes, growing inequality is a problem throughout the Western world. But Obama’s pretense that it is the root cause of this sick economy is ridiculous.

As is his solution, that old perennial: selective abolition of the Bush tax cuts. As if all that ails us, all that keeps the economy from humming and the middle class from advancing, is a 4.6-point hike in marginal tax rates for the rich.

This, in a country $15 trillion in debt with out-of-control entitlements systematically starving every other national need. This obsession with a sock-it-to-the-rich tax hike that, at most, would have reduced this year’s deficit from $1.30 trillion to $1.22 trillion is the classic reflex of reactionary liberalism — anything to avoid addressing the underlying structural problems, which would require modernizing the totemic programs of the New Deal and Great Society.

As for those structural problems, Obama has spent three years on signature policies that either ignore or aggravate them:

l A massive stimulus, a gigantic payoff to Democratic interest groups (such as teachers, public sector unions) that will add nearly $1 trillion to the national debt.

l A sweeping federally run reorganization of health care that (a) cost Congress a year, (b) created an entirely new entitlement in a nation hemorrhaging from unsustainable entitlements, (c) introduced new levels of uncertainty into an already stagnant economy.

l High-handed regulation, best exemplified by Obama’s failed cap-and-trade legislation, promptly followed by an EPA trying to impose the same conventional-energy-killing agenda by administrative means.

Moreover, on the one issue that already enjoys a bipartisan consensus — the need for fundamental reform of a corrosive, corrupted tax code that misdirects capital and promotes unfairness — Obama did nothing, ignoring the recommendations of several bipartisan commissions, including his own.

In Kansas, Obama lamented that millions “are now forced to take their children to food banks.” You have to admire the audacity. That’s the kind of damning observation the opposition brings up when you’ve been in office three years. Yet Obama summoned it to make the case for his re-election!

Why? Because, you see, he bears no responsibility for the current economic distress. It’s the rich. And, like Horatius at the bridge, Obama stands with the American masses against the soulless plutocrats.

This is populism so crude that it channels not Teddy Roosevelt so much as Hugo Chavez. But with high unemployment, economic stagnation and unprecedented deficits, what else can Obama say?

He can’t run on stewardship. He can’t run on policy. His signature initiatives — the stimulus, Obamacare and the failed cap-and-trade — will go unmentioned in his campaign ads. Indeed, they will be the stuff of Republican ads. What’s left? Class resentment. Got a better idea?

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. His email address is letters@charleskrauthammer.com.


thirdplanet 5 years, 11 months ago

Think of the two most messed up industries with rising costs with no rising value, health care and education. And what two industries does the government play too large of a role in, health care and education. Its not mere coincidence, whenever the government gets involved, problems go unsolved.

And of course there's plenty of you who simply can't trust the economists or the businessmen, successful members of the private sector can be swiftly dismissed with accusations of greed.

How do you think the bureaucrat or the politician gets ahead? Our angelic "civil servants" who can do no evil. There the most corrupt individuals in this country, far ahead of our bankers and brokers. Yet we must go to them, for they see all and know all, and will save us from the miseries of this world.

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

Too bad the gov is involved with the miltary.

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

I mean, really, all those government employees and civil servants are reponsible for our national defense. Third is right, we should down the government and military, and let our well-regulated militia roam the streets

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

Come to think of it, all those lazy gov workers out there building streets and sewers and roads, what a waste of my money. Let them rot in debtors prison while us real people walk on magically maintained infrastructure.

pace 5 years, 11 months ago

Now remember, we are suppose to pretend there is no racism in their hatred of Obama. They need to risk the economy because if they don't, Obama might get reelected. Reelecting President Obama is class warfare, that is the sound bite. They are against raising taxes, so ending the tax cuts for the middle class and poor is completely different than ending the tax cuts and HUGE loopholes for the richest. Those two things are different. One really will stimulate the economy, the other will continue pouring into fat portfolios. One might help Obama get reelected, and the other helps a few "special' people of no particular class, just regular joes. Don't call them hedge fund manager, ultra wealthy, or money lenders. They are the job creators, the term job creators means stash it, steal it., send it over seas. One of them are worth 1,000 people who just want a job and a home. Those 1,000 are monsters.

Obama is a courageous and tolerant President. Good luck to him. Class warfare, no. The old old story, yes. Clean up congress. Clean up our tax laws.

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

Thank you for being here to remind us the poor, the powerless, are the reason the economy is stuck in the doldrums. I guess they just arent spending enough money.

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

Hope? Is that a joke Tom? Anyway, with the current group of R candidates, hope is about the only chance you have.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 11 months ago

Ahhh 1970. Back when I paid .27/gallon for gas and my dad, already a 16 year veteran on the railroad, brought home 150$/week paychecks and was making good money. If we are spending "twice as much per capita" as what we spent then, in real dollars we're spending a heck of a lot less. /sigh It's the usual smoke and mirrors. I guess there's one born every minute.

beatrice 5 years, 11 months ago

"They will always need someone to blame for their sad lot in life."

Thanks for being the living proof.

jayhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

Gandolf and Cait Pavlovian pups are dancing in your mirrors. You can't wait to criticize anything Krauthammer writes. Ganndolf, you waited all of 22 minutes after midnight to make the first comment on this thread while Cait was up early, ten minutes before five to jump on board. Your actions are the very definition of Pavlovian. And you accuse others?

jayhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

Your opinion must be respected as being an intelligent response, while anyone who disagrees with you must be insulted by calling them "Pavlovian pups".
Ring that (midnight) bell and we'll ready ourselves for your (salivating) comment. Pavlovian indeed.

jayhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

Thank you for clarifying your position. :-)

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

Sounds to me like youre part of the problem, and the tattoed phone totin bar flies are the real Americans. You are not spending, and they are. Dont you know how Capitalism works?

pace 5 years, 11 months ago

while the wealthy Not job creators are sucking the bones of the poor. aren't they cute though.

cato_the_elder 5 years, 11 months ago

Another excellent analysis by the most perceptive national columnist writing today. Thanks to the J-W for continuing to publish Mr. Krauthammer's highly incisive columns.

cato_the_elder 5 years, 11 months ago

If Krauthammer's columns weren't incisive, the clueless leftists on this forum wouldn't get as exercised as they do whenever he says what they don't want to hear.

bad_dog 5 years, 11 months ago

"exercised", oh Grand Master of grammar & spelling?

cato_the_elder 5 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Jimo 5 years, 11 months ago

This from our "incisive" fellow who said "The notion that the Bush administration is responsible for the state of our economy when Obama took over is the biggest lie promulgated by the Hard Left in my lifetime."

cato_the_elder 5 years, 11 months ago

On the contrary, it was, and remains, the biggest lie promulgated by the Hard Left in my lifetime. The state of our economy when Obama took over was caused directly by severe abuses in the mortgage lending market on the part of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, originally engineered by Jimmy Carter and then by Bill Clinton, and fully implemented thereafter by Franklin Raines, Christopher Dodd, and Barney Frank, among others. The Bush administration tried to rein in Fannie and Freddie's practices, to no avail. Raines, Dodd, and Frank all ought to be in jail for what they did.

Of course, that's not what you have been spoon-fed by the Daily Kos, MSNBC, and Michael Moore. Moreover, since you have previously stated on this forum that "The only feudalism we have in America is the concentration of the nation's wealth in the hands of a few," your radical views on forced wealth redistribution by government deprive you of any credibility.

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 11 months ago

Geez Krauthammer, get a clue.Dem interest groups... teachers. I guess the Dems are the only ones who want 1st class education for their kids.Lord knows the rethugs don't need it, they can always just make up stuff as they go along.Your idiocy amazes me.

jaywalker 5 years, 11 months ago

" I guess the Dems are the only ones who want 1st class education for their kids.Lord knows the rethugs don't need it, "

Shouldn't throw around a word like 'idiocy' when you preface with the above.

beatrice 5 years, 11 months ago

BAA: "When it comes to bad behavior by adolescents and children, I believe that we have an obligation as adults to attempt to teach good behavior. After all, they are our future. When that bad behavior comes to our attention (regardless of the way it is exposed) we need to intervene and try to correct that bad behavior. There are many ways to accomplish that, but reinforcing and supporting bad behavior is not one of those ways."


And what of when the "bad behavior" is practiced by adults? Time to grow up BAA.

beatrice 5 years, 11 months ago

Please show me where I condoned what the high schooler wrote. You won't be able to find it since you are simply mistaken. As I would argue in your case, I said that she has the right to say whatever stupid thing she wants, but I recognized that it was indeed immature. (I was more concerned with the governor's office, the use of taxpayer funds to search social media, and how they handled it.)

However, as you rightly observed yourself, it wasn't exactly an act of maturity. Remember, I am quoting you when it comes to calling it "bad behavior." Those are your words, and then you turn around and do the exact same thing. That makes no sense.

Do you really want to base your own actions on the foolish behavior of a high schooler? Really? Is that honestly the best you have to offer this site? That is the point I am making here, and sadly, I am sure you already know this to be true.

You certainly have the right to be act as maturely as a high schooler. I just want to know, why don't you aim a little higher?

jayhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

Within that second group resides a large spectrum of people who have inherited a wide range of monies. Sure, we could look to the old robber barons of a long ago era and see their descendants still living off the wealth that was created 5 or 6 generations ago. Names like Kennedy and Rockefeller come to mind. Not only were the able to parlay their money into wealth that lasted generations, but the were able to achieve remarkable power in business and politics. But what about the guy who worked hard all his life so that his child wouldn't have to work as hard. The guy who worked 16 hour days, built a business, bought and paid for a nice house, put a fair amount of money off to the side so his child wouldn't have to work so hard. Who should get that wealth? And if having inherited a business that continues to bring in money, having inherited a home (or maybe even two, a vacation home at a resort) that has been paid for, and having inherited a nice sum of money, why is it wrong for the intended recipient of that wealth to actually receive that wealth?
Correct me if I'm wrong, Agnostic, but the tone of your comment sounds as if you think there is something wrong with inherited wealth. There are several problems with that line of thought, if that is indeed your thinking. First, if inheritance is not an option, why would a person work so hard. Productivity would decline. The thriving business, one that employs many, would be a venture never begun. Not only would the owner's wealth be something lost, but also all the jobs he created. Our economy would either stagnate, or at least grow at a much slower pace. That in turn would cause us to look much more like a third world country, where everyone is desperately poor. Or equally poor. See Cuba for a good example of a country that experienced some success but then took a radical turn towards equality. But even if I'm wrong, even if without inheritance, the economy did not stagnate, if wealth accumulation continued (another way of saying productivity continued) until a person's death or retirement, who would/should inherit the wealth? If the person who accumulated the wealth, the person who did all the hard work, the person who took all the risk, cannot designate to whom that wealth goes, then to whom should it go? The state? Is that really a better option?

jayhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

I was watching "60 Minutes" maybe 2 months ago. They did several interviews with COE's of major corporations, GE being one of them. They all mentioned the high corporate taxes here, the second highest in the world. The response to these high taxes was that American corporations were fleeing this country and putting trillions in banks overseas. Switzerland was a favorite destination. As far as they were concerned, it was only responsible thing to do in light of international competition. Again, not a perfect analogy to your capital gains tax issue. But it does highlight that in a complex international system, compromises will have to be made if we want investments made here. If raising capital gains taxes results in a flight of those investments overseas or it goes into other non-producing ventures, then we lose the 15% without any comparable gains elsewhere.
The CEO of GE said he'd love to add jobs here, and in fact they were adding some. But they were adding much more overseas for all the well known reasons, lower wages, less regulations, etc. I'd like to do things that will benefit all the people of this country. However, the world has become so complex that I want to avoid encouraging more jobs and more wealth from simply going to the Cayman Islands, or Switzerland.

deec 5 years, 11 months ago

Except GE paid no taxes last year on their 57,000 page tax return.

jayhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

Exactly correct. All legal as well. The more complex our tax system becomes, the more the wealthy and international corporations benefit from it. Instead of making it more complex, with new laws, and new loopholes to be found by resourceful teams of accountants, simplify the system. I've long advocated a flat tax. Eighteen percent, or 20%, or 25%. On everything, by everyone. Just a few sentences, no deductions. Done. But adding layers upon the layers that already exist will benefit those that already benefit.

deec 5 years, 11 months ago

Except you seem to saying GE is forced to move jobs overseas due to the high taxes they pay here. They don't pay any taxes here. So 0% is too much tax for them to pay?

jhawkinsf 5 years, 11 months ago

There's a million different ways to avoid taxes in one given year (57,00 pages of ways). If GE paid zero taxes year after year, then you'd have a legitimate point. I doubt that is the case.
High wages and regulations here encourage jobs to go overseas, high corporate taxes encourage profits to be placed overseas, a complex tax system encourages creative accounting. All these are things available to corporations and the very wealthy. Those tax benefits and loopholes are available to us on paper, but the common person doesn't have the resources to avail themselves of those benefits. Making the system more complex, with additional layers of tax laws, codes, loopholes, etc. won't accomplish it's intended goals. Unless it's your goal that some company pays zero taxes after filing a return that is 67,000 pages long.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 11 months ago

Buried in the middle of this article is a fallacy so broad you could drive a truck through it. Krauthammer claims we are spending double on education what we spent in 1970. What he neglects to mention is that, after adjustments for inflation rates, the buying power of one dollar in 1970 is equal to almost SIX dollars now. This means that, in actuality, we are spending two thirds less than what we spent in 1970. The real miracle is that kids are doing as well as they are. Seriously, Charlie, do you truly think that all of America are FOX watching, Koolaid drinking fools? Or do you just write to the ones that already buy your BS hook, line and sinker?

kochmoney 5 years, 11 months ago

It's also a lie to say that there's been "zero effect" on test scores.

But I understand if he thinks things worked out better back in 1970. We could go back and return to the top marginal tax rate of 71%. That would help with the debt he's fussing about, and we could even use it to shore up those "out of control" entitlements that aren't currently contributing to the debt.

repaste 5 years, 11 months ago

"Charles Krauthammer", is that his real name? Do you know his middle name! Does he write anything but anti-Obama stuff? Do you know how much the RNC pays him?

tbaker 5 years, 11 months ago

The president's approach to the coming campaign shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. His world-view is well known. Dividing Americans, pitting one against the other, shifting blame, none of this should be news to anyone. He really has no choice because he cannot run on his record. A lot of Americans will fall for this BS too, make no mistake. If the man is anything, he is an amazing campaigner. Of course the reaction from the right is equally predictable; shine the hot lights on all the things the President would prefer remained concealed from public view, like his record. So which approach will win? Will the President immunize himself from blame using the bogie man “rich” for all the country’s troubles, or will a factual examination of the abject failure of his policies sway the electorate. He risks much with his approach. This comes off sounding a lot like sour grapes and dodging responsibility to most folks.

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

You idiot. What he says publically and what done behind the schenes are not the same. Obama was not out there doing a victory lap claiming "mission accomplished.". No, instead he worked with his advisors and generals and got Bin Laden, but you did not here about the behind the scenes planning.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

After more than 30 years of Republican policies promoting class warfare against the middle/working class, Obama would have to be a total idiot to ignore the low-hanging fruit they've created for him. (Not that he won't continue to promote a Republican-lite version of the same policies.)

Sunny Parker 5 years, 11 months ago

How long does Obomby get to keep blaming everyone else for his failure?

JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 11 months ago

The think that made America great is that everyone was given the opportunity to succeed. Granted we've had problems with this ideal with slavery being the most obvious example. However, the great experiment in American democracy requires a well educated population. Unfortunately, the Republican Party would rather cut taxes than provide for the education of our children.

kochmoney 5 years, 11 months ago

I don't know who this "Big Daddy" is that you keep nattering on about, but I do know that the president of the USA got his education at Harvard.

beatrice 5 years, 11 months ago

I know my portfolio is doing much better since Obama came into office. Under Bush, it had tanked.

In reading comments on the coaching situation in KU football, it was interesting to see how many people were saying that it would take at least 5 years to turn a football program around and that Gill wasn't given enough time. Something as massive as the United States economy, however, and many of these same people expect things to turn around immediately. Very odd.

Armstrong 5 years, 11 months ago

3 years and 0 signs of recovery. Obama would have at least some support if it looked like the economy was pointed in the right direction. Other then seasonal hiring the jobless rate has been unchanged in 3 years. After 3 years there still is no sign of improvement the economy has flatlined. So tell me Mrs Trump how did your " portfolio " get so good ? Or is it Mrs Pilosi ?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

Actually, by most measurements, the economy has recovered, if recovery is defined as "not as bad as it was."

But by all means, let's put Republicans back in there-- you know, the ones who are primarily responsible for tanking the economy to begin with.

beatrice 5 years, 11 months ago

Again, my portfolio is doing much better now than when Bush left office. That absolutely is a positive sign. The Dow under Bush was on a spiral, hitting 7949 on his last day. It continued to fall as a result of the collapsed economy Obama inherited. The Dow is now hovering around 12,000. That is a positive sign that, for some reason, you pretend isn't true.

I am not a Trump, but I recognize that it is important to have a personal money management portfolio if I plan on retiring comfortably some day. I highly recommend it.

You are mistaken by claiming the decline -- far from a major drop, certainly -- in unemployment is strictly based on seasonal hiring. Of course, we will see what happens after the first of the year. Hopefully, it is a sign that things are improving and that companies are starting to hire again. Outside of political reasons, I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to see that happen.

The recovery is taking a long time. However, it is showing improvement.

beatrice 5 years, 11 months ago

Interesting to see someone repeatedly describing a black man in charge as "Big Daddy." I'm surprised that the moderators allow it.

Zombies are often racist.

beatrice 5 years, 11 months ago

I said zombies are racist. Are you admitting to being a zombie, a banned user returning to these boards under a new name?

Don't worry, we all know why you use Big Daddy to describe President Obama.

beatrice 5 years, 11 months ago

Admonished? Oh my.

Were you asked to write a letter of apology?

Armstrong 5 years, 11 months ago

Obama is practicing the tried and true tactic of diversion. If you have no leadership ability, no policy the public will digest, no realistic shot at doing what you promised, when all else fails blame the other guy !

esteshawk 5 years, 11 months ago

He got us out of Iraq ( a promise), and he got BinLaden ( a promise), he got the economy turned around (a promise), and got health care reform approved ( a promise). A poor leader could not do all that in the face of more filibusters than any other President ever, even for policies that have ALWAYS had R support.

Armstrong 5 years, 11 months ago

Out of Iraq -yes. Got Bin Laden -yes. Economy turned around - laughable. Health care reform -laughable. Obama presidency - laughable. Some people will vote for anything with a D in front of it, that seems to be the case here

Crazy_Larry 5 years, 11 months ago

Charles Krauthammer, another shill of the Establishment. He's bought and paid for to stoke the fires of division amongst the citizenry. All the B.S. spewed concerning "our current economic distress" and "out-of-control entitlements", but no mention at all of defense spending.

Our military budget for FY 2011 was approximately $740 billion in expenses for the Department of Defense (DoD), $141 billion for veteran expenses, and $48 billion in expenses for the Department of Homeland Security, for a total of $929 billion. The DoD baseline budget, excluding supplemental funding for the wars, has grown from $297 billion in FY2001 to a budgeted $534 billion for FY2010, an 81% increase.

Defense spending, 1964 to present: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/InflationAdjustedDefenseSpending.PNG

I live Ike. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8y06NS...

Pass me a beer. Go Chefs!

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