In times of economic stress it is helpful for the president to be a cheerleader for the U.S. economy. During the tough times of the late 1970s President Carter blamed the American people for allowing the double-digit interest rates and soaring fuel prices to sour their view of the economy. Now President Obama is going down an even more treacherous path stoking the flames of class warfare to distract from his mismanagement of the economy.

Warren Buffett – Poster boy for income inquality?

warren buffett

Warren Buffett is now regularly quoted by the Obama Administration for saying that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does. Buffett receives the majority of his income from capital gains and therefore pays taxes at a far lower rate. Buffett, as any other person, has the ability to pay additional taxes to the treasury but apparently his guilt over his lower tax rate hasn’t motivated the billionaire to avail himself of this option. President Obama will pick up the Buffett class warfare torch tonight by making Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, his special guest at the State of the Union address.

Bosanek will be a guest in first lady Michelle Obama’s box in the House chamber when the president delivers his third annual report to Congress. Bosanek is the inspiration for the president’s call for wealthier Americans to pay a higher tax rate, known as the “Buffett rule,” which Obama is expected to highlight again in his speech. Rather than find a way to effectively lower Bosanek’s tax rate Obama will do what all Liberals do, find a way to raise someone else’s.

The president’s speech is expected to be full of references to the inequities of our financial and tax systems that the left-wing believes favors Buffett and the rich, when in fact the so-called rich pay the lion’s share of taxes in this country. Nowhere in the speech will the president say that the top 10 percent of taxpayers pay 70 percent of all income taxes collected. The president won’t explain that nearly 50 percent of all income earners in the U.S. pay zero in income taxes. Expect a full-on assault of those who’ve been successful as Obama telegraphs his haves-and-have-nots 2012 campaign message; a recipe for further economic decline.

The Buffett rule is nothing more than another stab at the failed Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which was created as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1969, aimed at insuring that wealthy Americans could not shelter their income to avoid paying taxes. The AMT not only failed to snare wealthy Americans, it became primarily a tax on middle-income earners as is the case with most attempts to tinker with the tax code.

Mitt Romney, in response to increasing pressure to release his tax returns chose perhaps the most inopportune moment, the day of the State of the Union, to release his 2010 tax return highlighting the fact that he paid less than 14 percent on income of more than $20 million. Perhaps Mr. Romney may have considered waiting a day? Which team is he playing for? Romney comes across as one of the rich without the guilt of a Buffett.

White House press secretary Jay Carney left no doubt about the direction of the president’s campaign and the State of the Union address when he said, “The president will be very clear about his vision, will be very clear about his principles … about fair play and people getting a fair shot, economic security and protecting the middle class.” When politicians talk about economic fairness there is no doubt where the discussion will lead.

The president’s solution to all problems is to increase revenue to the federal government; serious budget cutting is simply not in the man’s vernacular. Taking a cue from the Occupy forces, President Obama has chosen to ride the class warfare horse straight through the 2012 elections.

Can the GOP respond to the Buffett rule?

Expect the Republicans to make the obvious argument in response to the president: more of the same failed policies. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday that Obama’s policies “are just going to double down on what hasn’t worked. … It sounds like we’re going to see a rerun of what we’ve seen over the last three years.”

While Boehner and other congressional Republicans focus on the Obama Administration’s continued tax-and-spend policies the president will conduct a campaign on income inequality. Republicans happy to run against a president with a miserable economic record need to recognize that the president will spend this year redefining the nation’s economic issues in class warfare terms, which if effective may well divert the blame from himself to the wealthy. If the president is successful in portraying himself as a soldier for the middle-class with a guilt-ridden Buffett at his side he becomes far stronger in the fall election.

Boehner’s predictable response to the president’s view was, “the politics of envy, the politics of dividing our country is not what our country is all about,” but is far too weak to compete against the bully pulpit of the presidency. Republicans need to stop playing defense and concentrate on a message more in tune with the concerns of the public and that means jobs. If the Republicans can structure their response in terms of jobs and economic growth they have a meaningful response to Obama’s class warfare campaign; if they allow Buffett and Obama to frame the argument they seal their own fate.

The GOP may wish to focus on the message of “failed promises,” but in the famous words of Clinton’s political advisor James Carville, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

A new ad from the Republican National Committee represents the first attempt to focus the argument on the message of Obama’s failure to right the economy. The ad, titled “State of Our Union”, emphasizes unemployment but loses steam when talking about the administration’s failed investments in the green technology. The specifics are fairly unimportant. It’s not about agenda…it’s about results.

Some of the most powerful ads are those that relate “kitchen table” issues, where the inability to pay a mortgage, feed your family and pay for your kid’s education carries the most weight. If the GOP wants to set the tone it must do so in a manner the average family can relate to. As troubling and corrupt as the Solyndra matter may be, when it comes time for John and Jane Doe to make their car payment it isn’t going to sway a lot of votes. More importantly, Americans don’t care if Warren Buffet is uncomfortable with his wealth, they care about their families.

If the Republican Party wishes to unseat the president they must send a message that touches every American and that’s rebuilding our economy; anything else is pure window dressing. The response to class warfare is quite simple: while the president attacks success he’s endorsing mediocrity; Americans cannot rebuild this economy with a president that ridicules achievement. In a capitalistic society we embrace the financial rewards of success, we don’t punish them.

On the other hand, perhaps rather than beating up on all the rich we should put a microscope on Mister Buffett, who has come to believe that now that he’s one of the richest men in the world he can receive absolution by chastising others trying to do the same; amusing how he didn’t come to this conclusion while he was climbing the ladder of success, only after it was secured.  Perhaps we should relieve Buffett of his shame and create a new Buffett Rule where we take all of Buffett’s money and redistribute it to secretaries all across the country.

Let the Obamas cozy up to Warren Buffett’s secretary and deride the wealthy; it won’t create one job. Class warfare only works when the opposition has no response and in this instance the retort is quite simple: How many jobs are created by taxing the rich? If you villainize the wealthy do they expand their businesses? Do capitalists respond to attacks by creating jobs? What does Warren Buffett’s secretary have to do with one job in one plant in Ohio? The Liberals have no answer to these questions, but until the GOP learns to press these issues Obama will control the argument.

(Lead photo courtesy of Alex Wong/Getty Images)