“Envy is sadness at another’s good,” wrote Fulton Sheen in Victory Over Vice. “In our time, envy has taken on an economic form.”
What happens when an entire political party crafts its appeal and reelection strategy around envy? Sadly, the Democratic Party has been doing just that for a long time, and with renewed vigor under the presidency of Barack Obama.
President Obama demands that the rich “pay their fair share.” In fact, the top 1% of income earners in America pay 38% of all federal tax revenue (click here). The top 5% pay 59%. The top 10% pay 70%. The top 25% pay 86%. The top 50% pay 97.3%.
In other words, the rich are certainly paying their fair share. It is a statistical fact that they pay the vast share. The poorest Americans, conversely, pay literally nothing in income taxes.
But President Obama excoriates not only the rich for allegedly not paying enough, but lambastes Republicans who oppose higher income taxes that would simply continue to subsidize the federal government’s inability to control its reckless, out-of-control, downright immoral, pathological spending behavior.
Did I say pathological? You bet I did.
Did you know that from 1965-2009 the federal government never—not one time—cut annual spending? That’s right, not once—not even by one penny one single year over 44 years. If you don’t believe me, seeing this for yourself is as easy as Googling “historical tables deficit,” where one can view two sources: CBO historical tables (Congressional Budget Office)and OMB historical tables (Office of Management and Budget). These are the official sources for data on federal budgets. In the OMB link, look at Table 1.1, titled, “Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits: 1789-2016.”
You’ll notice that once upon a time our nation’s political officials were capable of cutting spending and balancing a budget. It used to happen all the time, under both Democrat and Republican presidents—even under big-government progressives/liberals like Woodrow Wilson and FDR. That suddenly changed, however, in 1965, the start of LBJ’s Great Society. It was that watershed year when our federal government began an outright spending addiction.
To see the figures on a chart (again, click here) is an awakening. Take a close look: The annual rise in federal spending by your U.S. government is a steady, non-stop, unbroken, upward climb for over 40 years.
Apply this to any other walk of life. Do you know of a family or business or church or anything that has spent more money than it takes in for 44 consecutive years? Have you done that? If you have, then you’re reading this article from a prison cell.
From a Christian perspective, you are a bad steward. You are irresponsible. You are not living virtuously. You are filled with vice. And yet, that is precisely the behavior of your federal government, which, worse still, is passing along this generational debt to your children and grandchildren and their grandchildren.
But who’s at fault? The Democrats and President Obama have an easy answer; it’s the envy-based answer: the rich.
Their class-based rhetoric continues undaunted, calling out the alleged true culprits for the nation’s economic/fiscal woes: corporate “fat cats,” “Wall Street,” “Big Oil,” private “jet owners,” and other possessors of wealth that Vladimir Lenin described as “reptiles.” The Democrats’ goal is to mobilize their masses with anger not at the federal government for obscene spending habits, but at the dastardly and undeserving “rich” for supposedly not paying enough to the U.S. Treasury.
When the newly elected Republican Congress protested the idea of raising taxes on the highest income earners to further subsidize our government’s spending addiction—mercifully trying to take away the needle or bottle—President Obama fumed. He called a bitter press conference, where he angrily derided “tax cuts for the wealthy” as the Republicans’ “Holy Grail.”
Unfortunately, this rhetoric has astonishing success among the Democratic Party faithful. Every time I write an article like this I brace myself as I click open my email box. It gets flooded with irate mom-and-pop Democrats filled with a consuming hatred at “rich” people, who they blame for their problems. It is sick to see, especially when you understand how this self-destructive mentality is being fostered by a political party.
And when the rich aren’t a sufficient enough demon, the Democratic Party seeks out another, with the Tea Party being the latest manifestation. I recently posted here a piece on Vice President Joe Biden reportedly referring to Tea Party members as “terrorists.” To hear Democrats using such incendiary language, and around the time of the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001, is breathtaking. But even more depressing was the reaction by Democrats’ followers, who immediately followed suit. One reader of my post at Catholic Exchange did just that, writing:
The Tea Party is responsible for our country’s credit rating being downgraded because they are unwilling to offer a solution to our current budget problems. They can’t offer a plan to cut enough money to balance our budget, and they won’t compromise on any tax increases to add revenue. Now we are faced with poor credit that is going to cost taxpayers even more money, making the already terrible situation even worse. They in fact are terrorists. They are doing everything they can to destroy America.
When I read this, I felt truly hopeless. This nation has been attacked by terrorists. This nation knows what terrorism looks like—or so I had thought.
Needless to say, it isn’t the Tea Party or even real terrorists who have destroyed our budget and economy; it is the people in the federal government who from 1965-2009 could not manage to cut annual spending by literally even one penny one year. Then, on top of that, they pumped and printed and borrowed another $800 billion for a 2009 “stimulus” package that didn’t stimulate—and must be paid back. And guess what? They seek hundreds of billions more for the same failed purpose.
Leave it to Democrats to find a way to corral the Tea Party movement into their class-warfare campaign, and with accusations of “terrorism” no less.
It is poisonous, destined to yield the bitterest fruit.
“We must teach our children to hate,” Vladimir Lenin instructed his education commissars. The Bolshevik godfather declared that hatred was not only “the basis of communism” but “the basis of every socialist and Communist movement.”
Class envy has been a defining staple of the political Left for centuries. It brings out the worst in people. Unfortunately, we have a political party that deems it a great utility.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press) and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.