If this is class warfare, the Republicans aren't putting up a fight: Mulshine

By Paul Mulshine | The Star Ledger
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on January 19, 2015

Chris Christie and Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign; both talk a good game against class warfare but both have fought on the wrong side.


The great H.L. Mencken once observed that “Every election is an advance auction of stolen goods.”

In that light, let us consider the tax proposal President Obama is expected to introduce in his State of the Union speech tonight.

The proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy and cut taxes on the middle class will of course be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Congress. It’s really nothing more than a debating point for Democrats going into next year’s presidential election.

The Republicans expect to win that debate by accusing the Democrats of “class warfare.” But if this is a war, the Republicans are barely fighting back.

If you doubt that, consider the examples of two likely contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and our own Gov. Chris Christie.

In Christie’s case, he loves to talk about cutting taxes. But what has he actually done?

In 2009, he fended off a couple of conservative challengers in the gubernatorial primary by promising to end the state’s redistributionist school-aid formula and also to restore property-tax rebates for all homeowners.

Once safely in office, however, he forgot about reforming the school-funding formula in favor of scoring points with the Democratic political bosses who prospered under it. When it came to the rebates, he engaged in a bit of class warfare of his own, capping them at a mere $75,000 annual income for working households. The class he was warring against lives in his own Morris County, which had a median household income was $96,300 at the time.

Then there’s Romney. As Massachusetts governor, he pioneered the introduction of class warfare into the realm of health care.

There was little redistributionism in the American health care system prior to the program he put together in collaboration with the famously outspoken MIT professor Jonathan Gruber. He and Romney pioneered a system that incorporates both a mandate that every American have health insurance with a sliding scale of subsidies based on income.

As with Christie’s tax rebates, those subsidies end at about the point on the income scale where the typical Republican voting demographic begins.

Consider a family of four living in Massachusetts. Thanks to Romney - and later Obama, who copied his approach - the family must have health insurance or face a tax penalty. The scale for subsidies is quite generous for the lower-middle class. But the subsidies end at a mere $90,000 - not much for a family of four living in Boston.

Compare that to a country like England, which has a system of socialized medicine. That system may have its faults, but the Queen gets as big a subsidy as a commoner. Here an entire class of people is cut off from subsidies – a class that tends to vote Republican.

The Republicans expect opposition to Obamacare to be a big plus in the next presidential election. And the polls show that a majority of Americans oppose it. But when you dig deeper, you realize that they want more stolen goods, not less.

A CNN/ORC poll, for example, showed that 54 percent of respondents oppose Obamacare while a mere 43 percent support it. That sounds like good news for the GOP - until you dig deeper. Then you find out that 16 percent of those opposing Obamacare say they do so because it’s not liberal enough. Add it up and you find that 59 percent of Americans either support the current system or want even more subsidies.

That’s not surprising when you look at who’s coming out ahead. The median annual income for a family of four in America is about $54,000. Prior to Obamacare, that family would have had to pay $706 a month for health insurance. But now they pay a mere $294 a month, with the government picking up the rest of the tab.

Consider that in light of that notorious 47 percent of people “who will vote for the president no matter what” as Romney so indelicately put it in his failed 2012 run against Obama.

“My job is not to worry about those people,” he said at the time. “I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

He got that right. Keep that in mind as you watch Obama’s spiel this evening. Also keep in mind who’s leading the polls to become the Republican nominee for auctioneer-in-chief next year.

If this is class warfare, the GOP has already surrendered.

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