The 'War on the Rich' Is a Myth

No, progressives aren't waging class warfare.

Editorial cartoon satirizing Republicans.
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It took only about a month for the right wing to start chasing its tail over another manufactured war on something. In December it was the “War on Christmas,” and now it’s the “War on the Rich," that systematic attack on the 1 percent by a government playing Robin Hood.

The “War on the Rich” is a myth. It’s propaganda designed to keep the public from questioning the fact that top earners are not trickling down their wealth. Over the last 30 years, conservative economic polices grew the 1 percent’s median salary to $1.2 million and shrank the middle classes’ from a high of $75,000 in 1983 to $55,000 today.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

Despite venture capitalist Tom Perkins' ranting letter to the Wall Street Journal -- in which he suggested that a "progressive Kristallnacht" was possible -- and that papers’ defense of it last week, the idea that progressives are waging economic class warfare is absurd. If there were a “War on the Rich,” the public would overwhelmingly support income redistribution, and President Obama would have remained steadfast in raising taxes on the wealthy.

Although a recent Gallup poll found that two-thirds of the public is unhappy with the current income distribution, three decades of polling asking people if they support specific income redistribution policies contradicts this opinion. Only 25 percent of the public supports raising taxes on the wealthy, and only 30 percent believe the government should help the poor. The GOP long ago won the public over.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

When the Bush-era tax cuts expired last year, the president signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which kept most of the tax cuts in place. He didn't keep his promise to raise taxes on those who made more than $250,000 per year. Instead, tax rates remained at 2012 levels for those who made up to $450,000. People making more saw their marginal tax rate increase from 35 to 39.6 percent, a bump that was President Bush’s idea; it was stipulated in the expiration provisions of the 2001 legislation.

Moreover, the president isn't wildly pushing other redistributive policies. He's turned the heat down on getting Congress to reauthorize an emergency unemployment extension. He supports a politically palatable minimum wage of $10.10 per hour, despite the fact that 40 years worth of productivity gains merit an increase to more than $15 per hour. And he’s about to sign a farm bill that will cut the food stamp program by $800 million annually. These are not the actions of someone who wants to leave billionaires behind.

The 1 percent can sleep tight tonight. No angry mobs armed with pitchforks are coming for them.