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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Christie, Obama and “Class Warfare”

It’s not often these days that you read a newspaper editorial worth republishing. But Newark’s Star-Ledger, which obviously follows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pretty closely, provided a tart and important response to Christie’s blast at the president for “class warfare” during his Ronald Reagan Library speech earlier this week. It’s worth quoting at length:

Clue phone for the governor: America is not demoralized by the notion of increasing taxes on top earners. Polls show that big majorities support the idea. Some even show that most Republicans do.
And the reason is not that rich people are evil. Obama never suggested that. And few Americans think that.
The reason is that we need the money. We are entering a period of national sacrifice and most feel it should be shared. Obama is drawing a line on that, saying he’d veto big cuts in middle-class programs such as Medicare unless Republicans agree to this shared sacrifice.
It’s remarkable that Christie can look across the American landscape today and conclude that our priority should be to protect the interests of those at the top of the pyramid, the one group that is doing okay.
What about the middle class? Their productivity at work is rising steadily, feeding growing corporate profits. But their incomes are dropping like rocks. And poverty is surging.
It is not class warfare to point out these facts. It is class warfare to ignore them while fending off any attempt to ask more from top earners.
It is especially galling to hear this from Christie, who raised taxes on the working poor by cutting their tax credits. Are they better able to take the blow?

Pols like Christie cannot have it both ways. They cannot thrill centrist pundits by calling for “shared sacrifice” and then turn around and insist that means imposing still more sacrifices on the low-to-moderate income Americans already being buffeted by the Great Recession, while insulating the wealthy, who are doing extremely well at the moment, from any “sacrifice” on grounds that they need to be rewarded for having, as Christie puts it, “achieved the American dream.”
If Christie really wants to show some courage in attacking “class warfare,” he could take a few shots at those Republicans who deeply resent what Rick Perry has called the “injustice” of the working poor not owing federal income taxes. So long as conservatives think “shared sacrifice” means making the tax system even more regressive even as economic inequality reaches unprecedented levels, they truly do need a “clue phone” from the real world.

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