Let’s be thankful that the Republicans decided to channel circus ringmaster P.T. Barnum – credited with coining the phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute” – to craft their message against President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
On the same day Obama offered his well-designed blueprint for the nation, the GOP made two major blunders which prove every argument Obama made against Republicans.
The centerpiece of Obama’s remarks was a call to fairness, to strengthen the middle class by allowing everyone an equal chance to achieve the American dream. In particular, he highlighted income inequality, tax policy that rewards only the wealthiest at the exclusion of everyone else, and subsidies for highly profitable corporations.
As an example, Obama pointed out the blatant inequity that the secretary to Warren Buffet pays a higher tax rate than the billionaire investor. He swatted back conservative arguments that his position was “class warfare,” insisting instead that it’s simple common sense. While people disagree on how much constitutes the “fair share” contributed by each income level, most people agree with Obama that Buffet’s secretary should not pay a higher tax rate than her boss.
Mitt Romney addressed a love letter to Obama the same day by releasing his income taxes to show that he paid 15% federal tax on his $21 million income last year. Most middle-income Americans who look at their tax returns will see that they paid closer to 25%. Who but an ideologue can call that fair tax policy? The only class warfare is that waged by the wealthy and their toadies in Congress who allow them to get away with paying a trifling tax rate.
As if Romney were not enough, the Republicans gave us a twofer in the form of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels offering his party’s response to Obama. Daniels, as warm and fuzzy as a wolverine, insisted that Obama’s speech and policies “divide us” and that the president is driving our economy into “the dead end of debt.”
Did P.T. Barnum write Daniels’ speech? Because only a sucker would accept his words without realizing that Daniels, as budget director to President George W. Bush, pushed our economy into the dead end of debt. Thanks to the Dubya-Daniels twins, we went from a budget SURPLUS to a gaping DEFICIT compounding trillions of dollars and increasing the national debt 86% in eight years. Only low-information, right-wing voters will fall for the Daniels subterfuge.
Daniels is toting plenty of other baggage around that needs to be mentioned if he wants to bask in the spotlight. He is trying to destroy collective bargaining in Indiana, provoking massive protests from liberals and centrist Republicans alike who believe in labor rights. Daniels, like fellow governors in Ohio and Wisconsin, has ignited anger in middle-class voters who rightly perceive that destroying unions also hurts non-union workers. Daniels and other governors, who became union-crushing goons under the tutelage of Koch-affiliated organizations, are seeing their constituents instead standing up for union members.
The most amusing comment after Obama’s speech was made by Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to Bush the Lesser, who griped on CNN that Obama wants to spend “other people’s money on federal programs” while ignoring that Bush spent trillions of other people’s money on an unjust war in Iraq.
John Wright is the author of “The Obama Haters: Behind the Right-Wing Campaign of Lies, Innuendo & Racism” and co-author of “Life Without Oil: Why We Must Shift to a New Energy Future.”