Is President Obama Fomenting Class Warfare Against the Upper Middle Class?

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October 12, 2011; Source:  Politico |  Urban-development expert Joel Kotkin believes that President Obama is playing the class warfare card. He describes the President’s strategy as a “crass attempt to cash in on envy among the masses,” calling it “both un-American and noxious.” That’s pretty tough language, even if Kotkin were a rock-ribbed conservative, which he is not. But what has Kotkin particularly ticked off is his belief that Obama’s class warfare is not going to touch the “plutocrats” but is instead aimed at “the upper end of the middle class, whose income is most vulnerable to taxes.”

In Kotkin’s words, “Though the president’s rhetoric focuses on ‘millionaires and billionaires,’ his proposals do less harm to the ultra-rich and their trustifarian offspring than to the large professional and entrepreneurial classes, whose members are earning more than $200,000 a year” but who are hardly captains of industry or hedge-fund moguls. Kotkin calls the administration’s rhetoric “fundamental[ly] disingenuous.”

Sounding at times like a tent-dwelling member of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Kotkin argues that the rich can avoid taxes via loopholes created by the rich for the rich in addition to paying lower tax rates on capital gains. He sounds even more like an “Occupod” when he whacks Republicans as being “incapable of acknowledging the threat to democracy and our social order now posed by the growing concentrations of wealth.”

That concentration of wealth, Kotkin argues, is actually abetted, not ameliorated, by philanthropy. He contends that some of the rich avoid taxes “like [Warren] Buffett, [by] put[ting] vast amounts into foundations — in [Buffett’s] case, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where it sits tax free.” Interestingly, Kotkin suggests that upper-middle-class professionals are “particularly vulnerable to any reduction of write-offs for mortgage interest and state taxes,” referring to the President’s proposal to cap itemized deductions.

It seems like Kotkin believes that Obama is protecting the plutocrats in much the same way as the Republicans do, or at least his policies end up having that effect. He concludes, “It’s time to finally acknowledge that the whole ‘trickle down’ from Wall Street approach has been discredited—and with it the current regime of class privilege. You don’t have to be a member of Occupy Wall Street to doubt that what’s good for the top investment bankers is necessarily good for the vast majority of the country.”

Three questions for NPQ Newswire readers:

  • Do you believe that President Obama is consciously adopting a strategy of class warfare, playing for votes in a Jacksonian appeal to the “masses,” tapping their hostility and resentment of the upper middle class as a political maneuver?
  • If so, do you think that President Obama has, in this class warfare strategy, identified the wrong class of rich people as targets, with the result that he is whacking the upper middle class rather than the super wealthy?
  • Do the President’s policy proposals, regardless of his rhetoric, end up protecting and coddling the super-wealthy “millionaires and billionaires” that he ostensibly thinks should pay more to help the nation out of this recession?

Let us know what you think.—Rick Cohen

  • Terry Fernsler

    Most people who are actually among the wealthiest would like to think of themselves as middle class. We need to compare what people are earning, however. Did you know that an individual earning $250,000 a year IS in the upper 1%? Knowing that, it hardly seems that President Obama is “picking on” the upper middle class.