A Stephen Colbert quote has been making the rounds on social media. In it is a picture of the Comedy Central satirist looking away from the camera with text next to him talking about class warfare.
If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t do it.
For politicians, the great thing about class warfare is that it isn’t a nuanced argument. If you’re poor, you hate the rich. If you’re rich, you don’t care anyway.
It’s why it was a brilliant move for Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry to insist Mitt Romney show his tax returns. Gingrich and Perry…well at least Gingrich, is smart enough to know that “income tax” isn’t truly that, it’s more of a “base wage” tax.
Most of Romney’s “income” is from investments, which is why he’s taxed at 15%. Gingrich and Perry know all people have to read is that Romney, a guy worth a couple hundred million, is taxed at a rate lower than just about everyone who pays taxes.
Playing on the resentment stirred against the 1%, and voila, you have a powerful political tool.
In some ways, this rhetoric is like the NBA or NFL lockouts: millionaires fighting with billionaires about a few zeros.
All of these guys are in the 1%, some of them just like to pretend they’re not. Others, for political purposes, would like you to think they’re not.
In the general election, we’re going to have Obama, a millionaire, against another millionaire. How many zeros is up to the primary process.
But the point I want to make about class warfare is manifested in the Colbert quote (the authenticity of which I haven’t confirmed).
It’s a fallacy purported by the left to make Republicans look cruel and apathetic. Either you’re pro-welfare state with higher taxes on the rich, or you hate poor people.
I’ve spoken many times on the ability for politicians to create these false choices, but that’s what they like to do: create a clear choice, even if it’s a false one.
When Republicans like Paul Ryan and even Michele Bachmann insist that everyone should be paying taxes, the point in saying that is not to punish people with low incomes, it’s to encourage people to be employed and have income.
1 out of every 2 Americans doesn’t pay taxes. 50% of people don’t pay taxes.
Our current one-term president has put more people on food stamps than any president ever. Median income has fallen, unemployment has burgeoned.
The problem is not that we don’t tax people enough. Republicans aren’t against taxing the rich because they think the rich are paying enough, although they do tend to believe that.
Republicans refuse to raise taxes on the rich because it’s not good economic policy.
Furthermore, the more people who have jobs, the fewer people on food stamps and welfare. That means reduced government spending.
Not only that, but more people with jobs means more tax-payers and more income for the government.
Everyone agrees, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, that the poor need help. We disagree on how to get there. Republicans want to put policies in place so people can help themselves.
If you’re on welfare assistance, there’s no guarantee you can help yourself when inflation changes, your needs change, or the economy changes.
If you’re employed, you have the flexibility to make changes.
Democrats have done an wildly efficient job at convincing people that the best solution to their problems is the government.
Republicans need to do a better job convincing people the government is their biggest problem.