The War Over Class War: Economic misunderstanding, not overblown rhetoric, is the real problem with the president
IT DOES not take much to be accused of waging class warfare in America. The charge was levelled last year at Mitt Romney, of all the unlikely leftist agitators, when he suggested that certain tax breaks should be available only to those who earned less than $200,000. Rick Santorum, one of Mr Romney’s rivals for the Republican nomination, though he had promised never to use the word “class”, earned a similar rebuke for pointing out that he came from humble origins, supposedly an implicit contrast with Mr Romney, whose father was a governor and cabinet secretary.
For those who see such comments as tantamount to storming the Bastille, Barack Obama’s recent behaviour might bring to mind St Petersburg in 1917. According to Mr Romney, he is attacking nothing less than capitalism and the free-enterprise system. An article in Forbes magazine calls Mr Obama a “socialist in the European reform-Marxism tradition” although not, to be fair, “a communist of the cold war tradition”. John McCain, whom Mr Obama defeated to win the presidency in 2008, detects “class warfare at its worst”.
The main evidence of Mr Obama’s proletarian sympathies is a couple of advertisements recently released by his campaign depicting Bain Capital, the private-equity firm Mr Romney founded and ran for 15 years, as a rapacious corporate raider. In one, downtrodden former employees of a steel mill in which Bain Capital invested describe the firm as a “vampire” which “sucked the life” out of the business, leaving them not only without work but without the health insurance or pensions they had been expecting. In another advertisement, a woman laid off from an office-supply factory asserts that Mr Romney “doesn’t care anything about the middle-class or the lower-class people.”