Despite a long history of scapegoating lower-income families and those in need, media conservatives continuously attack President Obama's proposals by shouting "class warfare." In fact, the majority of Americans support reforms that would address systematic inequality.
Right-Wing Media Drum Beat: Obama Engages In "Class Warfare"
Limbaugh: "Fairness" Is "A Code Word For Class Warfare." Reacting to President Obama's State of the Union address, Rush Limbaugh criticized Obama for discussing "fairness" during the State of the Union address, saying: "That's a code word for class warfare." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/26/2012]
Fox Blasted Obama's Speech On Inequality By Accusing Him Of "Class Warfare." Fox News figures responded to Obama's December 6, 2011, speech on inequality in American by accusing him of engaging in class warfare. [Media Matters, 12/6/11]
But It's Media Conservatives Who Regularly Attack Lower-Income Americans And Those In Need
Fox & Friends Called For Tax Hike On The Poor. During the January 25 edition of Fox & Friends, co-hosts Gretchen Carlson, Brian Kilmeade, and Steve Doocy advocated for raising income taxes on the poor:
CARLSON: I think, so when the president says "fair share" there's a couple points here, and earlier last hour I said maybe there should be a disclaimer underneath, which is the reason that we're putting up this graphic for you. Because if in fact you're paying tax on ordinary income, and you're in the highest tax bracket, then you're paying 30-some percent. But then if you take that money that you've already paid taxes on, and you go and invest and you make a profit, a long-term profit, more than a year of investment, then you pay another 15% on top of that. And by the way, with the "fair share" argument, 47% of Americans don't pay federal income tax.
KILMEADE: That didn't get into the State of the Union.
CARLSON: But that didn't get into it, but that is also part of the fair share. So if we are going to be fair to everyone, should those people then starting paying at least something?
DOOCY: Kick in a buck, kick in something!
KILMEADE: And in many cases some are getting refunds on money they haven't earned, They go beyond the money they earned for the year come April, so that's where a lot of that tax money's going. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/25/12]
Fox Business Pitted The "Takers" Of "Government Handouts" Against The "Makers." After a National Bureau of Economic Research study concluded that social safety net programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, were highly effective at keeping people out of poverty, Fox Business launched a week-long series pitting the "takers" of "government handouts" against the "makers" in the economy. [Media Matters,5/24/11]
Fox Business Scolded Poor People For Not Being Ashamed Of Their Poverty. During the May 19 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney attacked anti-poverty programs as evidence that the U.S. now has an "entitlement mentality." Fox commentator Charles Payne then scolded people in poverty for not being "embarrassed" about needing public assistance:
PAYNE: Krystal [Ball], there's no doubt that these are good programs. I think the real narrative here, though, is that people aren't embarrassed by it. People aren't ashamed by it. In other words, the there was a time when people were embarrassed to be on food stamps; there was a time when people were embarrassed to be on unemployment for six months, let alone demanding to be on it for more than two years.
I think that's what Stu is trying to say, is that, when the president says Wall Street is at fault, so, you are entitled to get anything that you want from the government, because it's not really your fault. No longer is the man being told to look in the mirror and cast down a judgment on himself; it's someone else's fault. So food stamps, unemployment, all of this stuff, is something that they probably earned in some indirect way. [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 5/19/11, via Media Matters]
Fox's Stuart Varney On Low-Income Americans: "Many Of Them Have Things -- What They Lack Is The Richness Of Spirit." During the August 25 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co. at Night, host Stuart Varney hyped a Heritage Foundation study showing that many Americans in poverty own appliances, saying: "The image we have of poor people as starving and living in squalor really is not accurate. Many of them have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit. That's my opinion." [Fox Business, Varney & Co. at Night, 8/25/11, via Media Matters]
Right-Wing Media Routinely Attack Low-Income Americans As "Lazy" Or "Having Poor Work Habits." In a July 2010 post at The American Spectator, conservative pundit and frequent Fox News guest Ben Stein wrote: "The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities." A month later, Stein repeated his attack, writing:
[A]s I noted before, in my small circle of friends, anyone who has good work skills and a decent personality can get a job. I am not talking about the national scene. Just my little world. The chronic complainers and the malcontents and the unrealistic are the ones who cannot find work they want. The people who really want to work can get work. It might not be great work, but it's work. [The American Spectator, 7/19/10, 8/27/10, via Media Matters]
Fox Nation And Wash. Times On Occupy Wall Street And Its Demands: "Don't Feed The Lazy." A November 18, 2011, op-ed in The Washington Times, titled, "Don't feed the lazy," which was hyped by Fox Nation, claimed that "Occupy Wall Street's demands undermine real compassion." The op-ed stated:
It is interesting to note that according to the Bible, one of the criteria for receiving aid was a willingness to work. Entitlement was not an option. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."
Paul is not being cruel or heartless in this passage. He is expressing a truth that those who are able but unwilling to work should be disqualified from receiving charitable help, thereby allowing their natural need for food to drive their effort to work. This is a profound and often overlooked financial principle.
Attitudes toward poverty, debt and entitlement make reaching common ground with those in the Occupy Wall Street movement difficult. Compared to many around the world, they live in relative comfort, with access to food, shelter and liberty. But rather than embracing equal opportunity, they seem to clamor for equal outcomes.
Moreover, Warren Buffett Has Admitted That It's "The Rich Class That's Making War"
Warren Buffett On CNN: "There Has Been Class Warfare For The Last 20 Years, And My Class Has Won." From CNN Correspondent Alison Kosik's September 30, 2011, interview with investor Warren Buffett:
KOSIK: Mr. Buffett, let's talk taxes for a moment. You know, you have been very outspoken about millionaires, about the uber-rich paying their fair share of taxes. But since, you know, since the portion of their taxes really isn't going to make a huge dent in the deficit, are you happy seeing your suggestion, this new Buffet rule, becoming more of a basis of a political battle that really -- that really has turned into class warfare?
BUFFETT: Well, no, actually, there has been class warfare going on for the last 20 years, and my class has won. We are the ones that got our tax rates reduced dramatically. [CNN, 9/30/11]
Buffett: "There Has Been Class Warfare Waged, And My Class Has Won." In a November 2011 interview with Business Wire CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz, Buffett again said, "Through the tax code, there has been class warfare waged, and my class has won," adding, "It's been a rout." Huffington Post reported:
The billionaire investor, cited as the third-richest person in the world by Forbes, said in an interview with the CEO of BusinessWire -- a unit of Buffett's own conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway that publishes press releases -- that while there have been improvements in some areas of the economy, many others haven't fared so well.
Winners, Buffett says, include corporations, who have seen good equity returns, as well as the wealthiest American citizens. The losers? The housing market and average American worker.
"Through the tax code, there has been class warfare waged, and my class has won," Buffett told Business Wire CEO Cathy Baron Tamraz at a luncheon in honor of the company's 50th anniversary. "It's been a rout." [Huffington Post, 11/15/11]
Gates: "People Like Myself" Aren't "Paying As Much As They Should." In a January 25 interview with the BBC, Bill Gates said, "Right now, I don't feel like people like myself are paying as much as they should":
GATES: Well the United States has a huge budget deficit, so taxes are going to have to go up. And I certainly agree that they should go up more on the rich than everyone else. That's just justice.
BBC HOST: Is that a message you think that works with other people as wealthy as yourself, or is it just a small circle of friends -- yourself, Warren Buffet, a few others.
GATES: Well, I hope we can solve that deficit problem with a sense of shared sacrifice -- where everybody would feel like they're doing their part. And right now, I don't feel like people like myself are paying as much as we should. [Think Progress, 1/25/12]
And Most Americans Support Policies That Would Increase Taxes On Millionaires
Study: Millionaires Support Raising Taxes On The Rich. The Wall Street Journal reported on a Spectrem Group survey which found that 68 percent of millionaires support raising taxes on those who earn $1 million or more per year:
Warren Buffett isn't the only rich guy who wants to higher taxes on the rich.
A new survey from Spectrem Group found that 68% of millionaires (those with investments of $1 million or more) support raising taxes on those with $1 million or more in income. Fully 61% of those with net worths of $5 million or more support the tax on million-plus earners. [The Wall Street Journal, 10/27/11]
CBS/NY Times Poll: Most Americans Say Investment Income Should Be Taxed At Same Rate As Earned Income. A CBS/New York Times poll found that a majority of Americans support taxing capital gains and dividends at the same rate as work income. From the article headlined: "Most Americans agree with 'Buffett rule' Concept":
The government taxes income earned through investments at a lower tax rate income earned from working, but half of Americans think that should change, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll.
[Fifty-two] percent of Americans say that capital gains and dividends should be taxed at the same rate as income earned from work because the current policy increases the federal deficit and is unfair to people who don't have money to invest, according to the poll. Thirty-six percent approve of the current policy of taxing capital gains at a lower rate because it encourages investment and helps the economy.
[CBS News, 1/24/12]
National Journal Poll: Most Americans Supported Democratic Surtax Proposal. In its October 2011 poll, National Journal found that "a whopping 68 percent of adults support the Democratic surtax" on those earning more than $1 million annually:
Those surveyed were asked about a possible 5 percent surtax on those earning more than $1 million annually. The idea got considerable discussion earlier this fall when Congress considered President Obama's jobs package. Senate Republicans united against the bill and were joined by some Democrats, making it impossible for the measure to pass in a chamber where 60-vote majorities have become the norm because of filibustering. Still, a whopping 68 percent of adults support the Democratic surtax to pay for the cost of their jobs plan. [National Journal, 10/19/11]
SEIU Poll: Nearly Three Quarters Of Americans Support Tax Increases On Wealthy. In September, 2011, Talking Points Memo reported on a Daily Kos/SEIU poll which found that an overwhelming majority of respondents support the "Buffett Rule":
In the first public polling available on the so-called "Buffett Rule" specifically -- the proposal to raise taxes on millionaires advocated by billionaire investor Warren Buffett -- Daily Kos/SEIU's weekly "State of the Nation" survey asked the following: Do you support or oppose ensuring that people who make over a million dollars a year pay the same percentage of taxes or more on their total income as those who make less than a million dollars a year?
The answer wasn't close. 73 percent supported the idea, versus 16 percent who did not, and 11 percent who were unsure. The poll was of 1,000 registered voters. [Talking Points Memo, 9/27/11]