Republican Congressional leaders John Boehner and Mitch MConnell have criticized President Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on people earning over  $1 million per year and called it “class warfare.” The comment would be laughable, if the Republican leaders had not convinced themselves that they really believed millionaires were under siege. It would be laughable that stalwart defenders of free market capitalism are now calling upon a Marxist concept to defend the right of the wealthy not to bear their share of the burden for balancing the nation’s budget. However, it’s not laughable because these guys are serious, and they want us to buy their garbage.

Last week the U.S. Census reported that in 2010 the percentage of people in the United States living under the poverty line rose to 15.1%, the highest rate since 1983 when it was 15.3%. That number rose .8% from 2009 to 2010. Put another way a Northeastern University study estimated that 37% (more than 1 in 3) young families were living in poverty. That’s a family of four living under $22,314. At such a low arbitrary level that means millions more Americans currently live at a level that does not enable them to make ends meet for basic needs. As is always the case, these figures are much higher for African Americans (27% under the poverty line) and Hispanics (26% under the poverty line).

But that’s not the whole story because get this: at the same time more people were losing their homes and jobs and slipping into poverty, the wealthiest 1% of the population (those earning more than $620,00/year in 2008 dollars) increased their income by an average of 7.3% from 2009 to 2010. This group also had an average tax cut of $97,000! Over the last decade the average income of this top 1% group quadrupled from $347,000 to $1.3 million. (This data came from the Coalition for Human Needs )

Simple math doesn’t lie – while the masses at the bottom lost money, the top 1% were gaining money. How did that happen? Class Warfare.

However, it didn’t happen last week when Obama announced his jobs and tax plan, it started 30 years ago under President Reagan who espoused “supply side economics” and substantially cut the taxes of the wealthy with the idea that the riches at the top would trickle down to the masses in the form of jobs and benefits (interestingly the last big rise in poverty came during that time). Reagan also went after the unions, particularly the Air Controllers, and framed the issue that the working people wanting better wages – they were the problem; and so unions have continually gotten weaker ever since.

Then along came the first President Bush and Pres. Clinton who pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which made it easier for companies to go to Mexico in search of cheaper labor and less restrictive regulations about workers’ safety and environmental standards. Not only did NAFTA undercut the right of people to advocate for living wages, but it created all sorts of problems for Mexicans which has led to the mass migration north across the border in search of jobs, even if they come under threat of arrest and deportation.

Then came the second President Bush, who pushed through tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans in the promise that these tax cuts would create jobs. Oops – how is that jobs program coming? O yea we are up to 1983 levels of poverty and unemployment.

Then when Obama proposed universal health care the lobbyists and corporate interest groups flooded the congress with “influence” (read: lots of campaign money), so that the bill that passed (and they still criticize) was gutted of its most powerful provisions for health care for the needy.

At the same time the stock market crashed and the banks “too big to fail” almost did. People lost their homes to funky mortgages, and Presidents Bush and Obama bailed them out so they could help those folks restructure the mortgages, right? Oh no, the banks  gave their top execs those bonuses they had been so long denied for the great job they had done managing their and our money. At the same time along Goldman Sachs and their ilk were making bundles on our suffering and theirs.

Then in 2010, Republican governors like Scott Walker (WI), Tom Corbett (PA) and Chris Christie (NJ) (as well as many others) supported by ultra-right wing wealthy backers like the Koch brothers began slashing state budgets in the name of “fiscal responsibility). Interestingly they still couldn’t tax the rich or the corporations; they just cut public school budgets and social services for the poor and working class.

The really sad thing, is not only did both Republican and Democratic leaders systematically bilk the middle and working classes and pad the pockets of the wealthiest 5% of the population, but they got millions of middle class folks to think this problem was all due to “big government” “socialists and liberals” and “illegal immigrants.” So the Tea Party folks are marching and chanting for policies that literally will slash their incomes and undermine their financial security.

So Obama finally gets the courage to tax the rich, and Boehner and McConnell want to call it “class warfare?” Come on guys our “hope and change” President has finally had enough and he is calling your bluff. The war has been going on for a long time, and we are just getting around fighting back. And I hope we will. I hope we will take to the streets like the people of Cairo and Madison, Wisconsin, and say enough is enough. 

Employers if you want a tax break – create jobs. Rich folks, don’t hide behind the line “it will hurt small business;” we can create tax credits for small business employers. Provide support and incentives for green jobs and local businesses to flourish. Stop giving tax breaks to the Exxons of the world, and let the rich folks man up like Warren Buffett, and say, you know, $97,000 in tax cuts, that’s not needed. Let them show that they care about the financial state of the country. Let them show they want to part of the solution to the debt crisis. Let them bear their part of the financial burden.

Class warfare – yea it’s been going on for 30 years. Let’s just keep in mind who started the war.