Speaking on Sept 27th at a Denver high school, Obama continued to echo Elizabeth Warren’s sensible take-down of the GOP  “class warfare” charge:

Around the 16 minute mark, Obama says:

And keep in mind I’m not saying this because we should be punishing success.  This is the Land of Opportunity.  What’s great about this country is that any of these young people here, if they’ve got a good idea, if they go out there and they’re willing to work hard, they can start a business, they can create value, great products, great services.  They can make millions, make billions.  That’s great.  That’s what America is all about.  Anybody can make it if they try.

But what’s also a quintessentially American idea is that those of us who’ve done well should pay our fair share to contribute to the upkeep of the nation that made our success possible — (applause) — because nobody — nobody did well on their own.  A teacher somewhere helped to give you the skills to succeed.  (Applause.)

Firefighters and police officers are protecting your property.  You’re moving your goods and products and services on roads that somebody built.  That’s how we all do well together.  We got here because somebody else invested in us, and we’ve got to make sure this generation of students can go to college on student aid or scholarships like I did.  We’ve got to make sure that we keep investing in the kind of government research that helped to create the Internet, which countless private sector companies then used to create tens of millions of jobs.

And you know what?  I’m positive — I’ve talked to them, most wealthy Americans agree with this.  Of course, the Republicans in Congress, they call this class warfare.  You know what?  If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will accept that.  I will wear that charge as a badge of honor.  (Applause.)

The only warfare I’ve seen is the battle that’s been waged against middle-class families in this country for a decade now.

(From the transcript of the speech, posted on the White House website)


Steve Benen noted that,

I had a chance to check this rhetoric against the speech as it was written, and most of this was ad-libbed. (Contrary to GOP rhetoric, the president rarely sticks to what appears on a teleprompter.)

The larger point, though, is that Obama’s rhetoric is echoing Warren’s rhetoric in fairly obvious ways. The president, in explicit ways we haven’t heard before, is linking his vision of government activism to a meaningful social contract.

Greg Sargent’s take on it addressed that issue and more:

… the most effective rebuttal to the “class warfare” charge is to stress that raising taxes on the wealthy is not about envy. Rather, it’s about better serving the common good in a way that makes wealth creation possible in the first place.

Another critical point: Obama’s argument doesn’t begin and end with his case about taxes. He’s weaving it in with a broader argument he’s making about values and today’s Republican Party. By regularly invoking the crude reaction of some audience members at GOP debates — the “let him die” moment, the booing of the soldier — and by continually insisting that we’re all in this together, Obama is trying to build a larger case about the choice voters face, between the optimistic, inclusive, charitable vision he’s fighting for and a fundamentally mean-spirited, exclusionary, pessimistic one that’s cloaked in cries of “class warfare.”

And for me, the whole package speaks to what I believe is the core of progressive politics, and the legacy of liberal belief. Why do we gather in communities and find common cause with each other? because it benefits us all, mutually. That would be a good thing, right?