Our Classy President

Republicans and many pundits have faulted President Obama for engaging in the politics of class warfare. Addressing the realities of class in America is in fact long overdue. Republicans and conservative Democrats are outraged because if class ever becomes a question that can be openly discussed, the right loses, America becomes a more decent society, and Democrats become the normal majority party.

You want to know about class warfare?

For three decades, the American middle class has been getting whacked. Younger Americans have increasingly found it difficult to get traction in their careers. Job security, health security, retirement security, are all more fragile than in our parents' generation. Our colleague Tamara Draut, has written eloquently about this.

There has also been a Great Risk Shift, as Jacob Hacker has put it, from corporations and governments onto individuals and families. Risks that used to be borne socially -- like losing your job, or falling sick, or becoming impoverished in old age -- are now being thrust back on the individual. (This is known as freedom to choose.)

And all during this period, more and more of the total national income has gone to the richest 1 percent. And the rules that kept financiers from driving the economy off the rails have been dismantled, further enriching the rich and further destroying the dreams of everyone else.

So this country has had plenty of class warfare -- from the top.

Now comes President Obama, drawing a rare line in the sand. No cuts in Medicare and Medicaid, he says, unless a good chunk of the deficit is made up by rescinding the Bush tax cuts and adding a surtax on people who earn over a million bucks a year. This is not class warfare, he insists; it's math.

But let's not kid ourselves. The president is belatedly raising the impolite issue of class in America, and more power to him for doing so. The more he does, the more Republicans are smoked out as defenders of indefensible privilege.

I address these issues at greater length in my piece today in Politico

President Barack Obama has backed into a salutary politics of class. I keep thinking of Winston Churchill's line: You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.

How he got there was infuriating.

All it took was the liberal base kicking and screaming for months about Obama's self-annihilating effort to sacrifice Social Security and Medicare as part of a (mostly Republican) grand bargain; his numbers going to hell, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) being too foolish (or unable)to cut a deal when Obama wanted to give away the store.

There's nothing wrong with class politics when you are speaking for 90 percent of Americans and it emerges that Republicans are defending the privileges of the top 10 percent -- at the expense of the 90."

You can read the rest there.

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