Pundits Intensify Attacks on Talk of Wealth Gap, Media Matters' Research Shows

January 31, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

Discussion of the nation’s growing economic inequalities inevitably leads some pundits, notably on the Right, to assert that such talk is fueling “class warfare.”

In his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke to that charge when he raised the need for the nation’s super wealthy to pay more in taxes. “You can call this class warfare all you want,” Obama said. “But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”

But the president’s assertion is unlikely to dissuade conservative pundits from whining about so-called “class warfare” anytime soon.

Indeed, Media Matters For America has complied research detailing the Right’s obsession with “shouting class warfare,” whenever the president or others, for that matter, delve into discussion of the nation’s economic inequalities. 

For example after the president’s State of the Union address, Rush Limbaugh claimed that the president’s use of the word “fairness” was “code for class warfare.”

And likely not surprising, Limbaugh’s theme as Media Matters notes was echoed on Fox News. On the network’s “Fox & friends,” the hosts advocated for the poor to pay income taxes. “Kick in a buck, kick in something!” co-host Steve Doocy cried.

Although class warfare has long been bandied about by the Right whenever talk of raising taxes on the wealthy occurs, the Occupy Wall Street protests and commentary from several economists and more moderate policy makers have intensified the class warfare rhetoric. Elizabeth Warren who advocated for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been hit with it for her straightforward discussions of income inequality and the need for the nation’s uber-wealthy to start paying their fair share in taxes.

As Media Matters notes, however, the Right is likely ramping up its class warfare rhetoric in light of statements from high-profile figures, such as billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, maintaining that their kind simply don’t pay enough in taxes.

In a fall 2011 interview with Business Wire, Buffett elaborated on his public comment that there “has been class warfare waged, and my class has won.” He said, “It’s been a rout.” Buffett was talking about the inherent unfairness of the tax code.

Finally, Media Matters noted recent polling that shows Americans are widely in favor of altering the tax code to make the super wealthy pay more. See the group’s research here.

Speaking of economic inequality and its impact on a growing number of people, The Huffington Post highlights a new study by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) that shows how perilously close millions of Americans are to falling into poverty. The Census Bureau in a study released last year revealed the large number of Americans who have been shoved into poverty because of the Great Recession. The CFED’s study reveals, “Nearly half of U.S. households (43 percent) have almost no savings and 27 percent are ‘asset poor,’ meaning they lack both savings and other assets to cover basic expenses for just three months if a layoff or other crisis leads to loss of income.”