Should Congress be blind to class differences? Democratic lawmakers confuse fighting for the middle class with using the middle class as an excuse to seize revenue from the wealthy. Facing an unemployment rate that refuses to budge and a dismal economic forecast, the middle class is being beaten up badly enough without the Democratic Party’s help.
Both parties will land more blows before Christmas vacation. Their dispute has nothing to do with job creation or stimulus. It is about deciding who to reward and who to punish when resources are in short supply. Taxpayers are being taunted with a payroll tax cut and an unemployment benefits extension for the long-suffering middle class, which is also being threatened with a tax hike if no agreement is reached. If Democrats get their way, higher earners just get a tax hike, along with a heaping measure of blame.
Last year, the Christmas season brought us sanctimony and gridlock over the same issues. The president told Americans in December 2010:
This is where the debate has stood for the last couple of weeks. And what is abundantly clear to everyone in this town is that Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost or impact on the deficit. 
Twelve months have passed. Little has changed. The unemployment rate was 9% in January. It is still 9%. There has been much talk and little action on the debt. Washington’s perfect political storm would be entertaining if it did not have real consequences, like the newest stain on our credit from Fitch. Now we have another deadlock, and the grandstanding is in full swing. As the holidays near, it is beginning to feel a lot like last year’s Christmas. This is what Senate Democrats are telling us:
Leading GOP Lawmakers, After Demanding Massive Tax Cuts For Wealthy in Debt Reduction Talks, Are Suddenly Cool To Renewing Tax Cuts That Help [sic] Middle Class. 
One year ago, the Fiscal Commission considered a payroll tax holiday. Their report went nowhere because the group failed to agree even among themselves. The payroll tax cut was on the super committee’s plate, too, before they followed the Fiscal Commission down the path of indecision and disagreement to obscurity. Despite Congress’s efforts to forestall a debt decision, the responsibility is back on their shoulders. The $255 billion cost of the payroll tax cut is testing ground for the much larger decision of how they are going to get around sequestration, and if they do, how they are going to sell the country on whatever scheme they dream up to further delay action on spending.
The president continues to bargain for more time to fix the economy. He hides behind the middle class sacred cow to excuse the failure of his recovery policies:
It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy where hard work is valued and responsibility is rewarded. It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy that restores security for the middle class and renews opportunity for folks trying to reach the middle class. It’s going to take time to rebuild an economy that’s not based on outsourcing or tax loopholes or risky financial deals, but one that is built to last, where we invest in education and small business and manufacturing and making things that the rest of the world is willing to buy. (Applause.) 
Mr. Obama’s blameful words accompanied the Democrats’ less than hopeful response to Mitch McConnell’s GOP plan for funding the payroll tax cut:
However, Democrats’ proposal would put more money in the pockets of middle class families and create more jobs. The Republican proposal cannot pass the Senate as it stands, but now that Republicans have reversed their position on this middle-class tax cut, we look forward to working with them to negotiate a consensus solution. 
Job creation is a rallying cry because we have seen so little of it, but neither party is focused on jobs. This is about making good on their word. Democrats are not going to be satisfied until punishment for the economy has been meted out to those they have blamed. The GOP’s proposal to freeze pay and trim the ranks of federal employees is not going to fly when the president is letting loose with invective like this on the day they unveiled their plan:
I mean, how is it that they [Republicans] can break their oath when it comes to raising your taxes, but not break their oath when it comes to raising taxes for wealthy people? That doesn’t make any sense. (Applause.) .
But I want to make sure that we do this responsibly. So what I’ve said is, to pay for this tax cut, we need to ask wealthy Americans to pay their fair share. (Applause.) 
This is not a battle over the middle class. It is not about the wealthy. This is a war over spending money by politicians who long ago forgot what they are being paid to do. McConnell’s plan includes a voluntary contribution option. The GOP should throw down the gauntlet to the White House, and to their colleagues in the House and Senate and see if they are inclined to trim their own salaries, and perhaps throw in a little extra. This is the very least they could do, a symbolic gesture in a year where pointless gestures are about all we should expect.
1..The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. Statement by the President on Tax Cuts and Unemployment Benefits. December 6, 2010. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/12/06/statement-president-tax-cuts-and-unemployment-benefits, retrieved November 29, 2011.
2..United States Senate Democrats. Senate Democrats Announce Plan To Vote On Casey Bill To Stop Huge Tax Hike From Hitting Middle Class. November 28, 2011. http://democrats.senate.gov/2011/11/28/senate-democrats-announce-plan-to-vote-on-casey-bill-to-stop-huge-tax-hike-from-hitting-middle-class/, retrieved November 28, 2011.
3..The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. Remarks by the President on the American Jobs Act. November 22, 2011. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/22/remarks-president-american-jobs-act, retrieved November 28, 2011.
4..United States Senate Democrats. Reid Spokesman Statement on Republican Payroll Tax Cut Proposal. November 30, 2011. http://democrats.senate.gov/2011/11/30/reid-spokesman-statement-on-republican-payroll-tax-cut-proposal/, retrieved November 30, 2011.
5..The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. Remarks by the President on the American Jobs Act. November 30, 2011. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/30/remarks-president-american-jobs-act, retrieved November 30, 2011.