"Class Warfare": Fox Desperately Defends The Wealthy From Tax Hikes Most Americans Support

››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN & MELODY JOHNSON

Since passage of the deal to avoid a default crisis, Fox News figures have attacked President Obama and Democrats for calling for a "balanced approach" to lowering the deficit and asking the nation's wealthiest to pay "their fair share." In fact, economists across the political spectrum agree that the deficit cannot be lowered in the long term without revenue increases; a majority of Americans support such an increase; and taxes for the wealthy are at the lowest rate they have been in decades.

Obama Calls For "Balanced Approach" To Deficit Reduction -- One Where Wealthy "Pay Their Fair Share"

Obama: Bipartisan Support For "A Balanced Approach" To Deficit Reduction -- "One Where The Wealthiest Americans And Big Corporations Pay Their Fair Share, Too." From President Obama's July 25 address to the National Council of La Raza:

So I've already said I'm willing to cut spending that we don't need by historic amounts to reduce our long-term deficit and make sure that we can invest in our children's future. I'm willing to take on the rising costs of health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid to make sure they're strong and secure for future generations.

But we can't just close our deficits by cutting spending. That's the truth, and Americans understand that. Because if all we all do is cut, then seniors will have to pay a lot more for their health care, and students will have to pay a lot more for college, and workers who get laid off might not have any temporary assistance or job training to get them back on their feet. And with gas prices this high, we'd have to stop much of the clean energy research that will help us free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil.

Not only is it not fair if all of this is done on the backs of middle-class families and poor families, it doesn't make sense. It may sound good to save a lot of money over the next five years, but not if we sacrifice our future for the next 50.

And that's why people from both parties have said that the best way to take on our deficit is with a balanced approach -- one where the wealthiest Americans and big corporations pay their fair share, too. (Applause.) Before we stop funding energy research, we should ask oil companies and corporate jet owners to give up special tax breaks that other folks don't get. (Applause.) Before we ask college students to pay more to go to college, we should ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes that are lower in terms of rates than their secretaries. Before we ask seniors to pay more for Medicare -- (applause) -- before we ask seniors to pay more for Medicare, we should ask people like me to give up tax breaks that we don't need and weren't even asking for. (Applause.) [White House, 7/25/11]

Fox Accuses Obama Of "Conducting What Is Clearly Class Warfare"

Doocy: Obama Is "Conducting What Is Clearly Class Warfare." During the August 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said: "I don't get that. He's conducting what is clearly class warfare. The rich versus the not-rich people, and they are going to be willing accomplices?" [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/4/11 via Media Matters]

Parker: "[Obama] Plays Class Warfare." During the August 3 broadcast of Fox News' Hannity, Fox News contributor Star Parker claimed that President Obama plays "class warfare." From the broadcast:

PARKER: The problem is, Juan, is where people are upset about this type of lavish behavior, is that [Obama is] constantly wanting to make wealthy people pay what he calls a fair share, and he's constantly attacking them. He plays class warfare. That's the dilemma. Now he's hanging around with wealthy. He loves wealth. And certainly we know that this is timely for his re-election campaign.

JUAN WILLIAMS (Fox News contributor): Star, hang on, hang on. Hang on, let me just ask you something. What is duplicitous or hypocritical about saying that people who have benefited from life and business in this great country should pay their fair share if you're going to cut entitlements, Social Security, Medicare --

SEAN HANNITY (host): We're not cutting anything.

WILLIAMS: -- for those who are most vulnerable in this society.

PARKER: Because these are the same people who stand in the way of having discussions about fair tax, flat tax, and other ideas that are coming to the table, so that people really pay their fair share.

WILLIAMS: I don't think anybody's standing in the way.

PARKER: What people are upset about, including what the tea party was discussing, is that when you have almost half the country that does not pay any income tax at all, and then to say that others are not paying enough when they account for more than what 60 percent of what is coming in, and now they're asking for us to re-adjust, and look at our budgets, and perhaps stop wasting away this tax revenue -- this president insists on class warfare.

WILLIAMS: But Star, here is the other side of this.

PARKER: -- this president insists on class warfare.

WILLIAMS: No, it's not class warfare.

PARKER: That's what he does. He interjected it yet again. He talked about the poor, the sick and the elderly. [Fox News, Hannity, 8/3/11]

Andrew Napolitano: Obama, Democrats Engage In "Class Warfare." From the August 3 edition of Fox Business' Freedom Watch:

NAPOLITANO: [E]very dollar the government spends it has taken from the pocket of a person who can no longer spend it. Government destroys wealth by taking it from us.

Democrats deride the idea of job creators and thus engage in class warfare as a campaign tactic against people who risk their wealth to create jobs, insisting on tax hikes as a matter -- not as a matter of sane fiscal policy but of what they say is fairness. The Republicans' only victory this past week was in delaying tax hikes. In all else, they failed. Despite being the heirs to a popular movement, the tea party, which brought them to power in Washington on the idea of a fundamental return to the country's first principles, establishment Republicans have prevented Congress from shedding the liberal orthodoxy that the government's grasp of financial resources must continue to increase. [Fox Business, Freedom Watch, 8/3/11]

Doocy: "The Progressive Income Tax Has Not Been So Fair" To The Wealthy. During the August 3 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said, "[H]istorically, the tax system in this country, the progressive income tax has not been so fair." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/3/11 via Media Matters]

But Experts Agree That A Balanced Approach That Includes Increased Revenue Is Needed To Lower The Deficit ...

David Cay Johnston: "There Is A Simple, Factual Way To Describe What Is Happening To Our Government: We Have A Revenue Problem." In a March 4 Nieman Watchdog column, Pulitzer Prize-winner and economics author David Cay Johnston wrote: "There is a simple, factual way to describe what is happening to our government: We have a revenue problem." From Johnston's column:

Right after the midterm elections, when false claims that lower tax rates increased revenues helped win votes, Fox News captured the lockstep approach perfectly in a piece on its website about how Republican leaders were "on message."

Notice these almost identical quotes from the Sunday morning talk shows five days after the midterms:

We don't have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.
-- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Washington does not have a revenue problem. It's got a spending problem.

-- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

We do not have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.
-- House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

I think it's not a revenue problem; it's a spending problem.
-- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

As framed, these advertising lines are matters of opinion, but how many Americans recognize them for what they are -- opinions, not facts?

[...]

When members of Congress will fight to protect a $53 billion mistake that benefits one industry, giving away our commonwealth for free, it is not just unconscionable. It is part of a pattern of wrecking our government and our economy for short-term political gain. And in this one, the oil companies won the day in the House.

There is a simple, factual way to describe what is happening to our government: We have a revenue problem. [Nieman Watchdog, 3/4/11]

Krugman: "Government Spending Has Continued To Rise More Or Less On Its Pre-Crisis Trend" While "Revenue Has Plunged." In an October 17, 2010, New York Times blog post, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote:

For all those commenters saying that we must have had a surge in government spending -- I mean, look at the deficit! -- a simple picture:

Krugman chart

Government spending has continued to rise more or less on its pre-crisis trend. Revenue has plunged, because the economy is deeply depressed. [NewYorkTimes.com, 10/17/10]

For more on economic experts who have called for a balanced approach to lowering the deficit, SEE HERE.

... Including Conservative Economists

Former Reagan OMB Official: "I Think The Biggest Problem Is Revenues." In an interview with Talking Points Memo, David Stockman, a former Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director under President Reagan, responded to Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) budget plan and stated: "I think the biggest problem is revenues. It is simply unrealistic to say that raising revenue isn't part of the solution." From Talking Points Memo:

While the government teetered on the brink of a shutdown last week over short term funding, economists across the ideological spectrum weighed in on the GOP's long-term plan with negative reviews. The biggest shock came from high-profile economists with GOP leanings, who also criticized it on the merits.

"It doesn't address in any serious or courageous way the issue of the near and medium-term deficit," David Stockman told me in a Thursday phone interview. "I think the biggest problem is revenues. It is simply unrealistic to say that raising revenue isn't part of the solution. It's a measure of how far off the deep end Republicans have gone with this religious catechism about taxes."

Stockman, who directed Ronald Reagan's Office of Management and Budget, approves of Ryan's entitlement proposals, but breaks faith over taxes and the GOP's unwillingness to slash defense spending. [Talking Points Memo, 4/11/11]

The Hill: Bush Economic Adviser Mankiw "Knows Both Tax Increases And Spending Cuts Are Required." In a June 28 Hill op-ed, Mark Mellman, president of The Mellman Group, cited a number of conservative economists and economic advisers who said that some form of revenue increases should be part of a solution to lowering the deficit. From The Hill:

America has both a spending problem and a revenue problem -- too much of the former and too little of the latter. Every serious student of the federal budget, right, left and center, agrees that any realistic solution requires a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases.

Democrats and Republicans on the Simpson-Bowles Commission knew that both revenue increases and spending cuts were necessary to deal effectively with our deficit problem.

N. Gregory Mankiw, the chairman of George Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, knows both tax increases and spending cuts are required. Indeed, Mankiw argues, "The distinction between spending and taxation is often murky and sometimes meaningless." Explaining that giving snipe hunters a tax break for every fake animal they hunt down is no different from setting up a program to pay snipe hunters for each pelt they bring in, Mankiw implicitly criticizes Republicans' unwillingness to end oil-company subsidies and explicitly advocates broadening the tax base and reducing rates to increase revenue. [The Hill, 6/28/11]

For more on conservative economists who have called for a balanced approach to lowering the deficit, SEE HERE.

And Most Americans Support A Balanced Approach To Debt Reduction That Includes Tax Increases

Gallup Poll Found 69 Percent Of Americans Support Reducing Deficit With A Mix Of "Spending Cuts And Tax Increases." A July 7-10 Gallup poll found that 69 percent of Americans favor reducing the deficit either "mostly with spending cuts," "equally with spending cuts and tax increases," or "mostly with tax increases." [Gallup, 7/13/11, via Media Matters]

Quinnipiac: "Voters Say 67-25 Percent That An Agreement To Raise The Debt Ceiling Should Include Tax Hikes ... Not Just Spending Cuts." Quinnipiac released a poll on July 14 that found that "[v]oters say 67-25 percent that an agreement to raise the debt ceiling should include tax hikes for the wealthy and corporations, not just spending cuts." [Quinnipiac, 7/14/11 via Media Matters]

Moreover, Tax Rates For Top Earners Are At Record Lows ...

Bloomberg Businessweek: "Except For A Period From 1988 to 1992, The Top Tax Rate Has Never Been This Low Since 1931." From a December 2010 Bloomberg Businessweek article, titled, "It's A Great Time to Be Rich":

A bonanza of new and extended tax benefits could make it as easy as ever for the rich to stay that way.

[...]

The good news for the rich starts with income tax rates, which for top income groups would remain 35 percent, a rate enacted by former President George W. Bush in 2003. Except for a period from 1988 to 1992, the top tax rate has never been this low since 1931.

"Top rates are incredibly low from a historical perspective," says Indiana University law professor Ajay Mehrotra. The most surprising thing, he says, is that rates have remained at this level even as the U.S. has been fighting two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Historically, income taxes on the wealthy have spiked during wartime: The first income tax was initiated during the Civil War and then later repealed. The top rate on income hit 77 percent in 1918, during World War I, and 94 percent from 1944 to 1945, during World War II. [Bloomberg Businessweek, 12/15/10]

... And Top Earners' Income Has Risen By 256 Percent, Compared To Under 20 Percent For Lowest Quintiles

From 1979-2006, Top 1 Percent Of Earners Saw After-Tax Income Increase By 256 Percent, While Lowest Quintile Saw Income Rise By 11 Percent. A December 2010 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research included the following graph showing the average increases in after-tax income by income group from 1979-2006:

CBO chart

[Center for Economic and Policy Research, December 2010]

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