woody_zimmerman_118_2007Democrats have settled on their strategy for the 2012 election. It basically amounts to class warfare – a tried and true Democrat chestnut. Republicans will be assailed as the party of the “rich” that wants to hurt society’s most vulnerable citizens. Dems will paint themselves as protectors of the poor, the disadvantaged, the elderly, students, government employees, unionized workers, single moms, minorities, and others dependent upon government largess for their sustenance.

Members of these groups will be told that Democrats are their true champions – the only bulwark between them and starvation, financial ruin, denial of medical care, and even death. Social Security and Medicare are Dems’ particular favorites for scaring the elderly and their children. They have shamelessly demagogued both entitlement programs for decades, trying to convince voters that Republicans want to take away seniors’ medical care and old-age pensions. The endurance of the strategy is a testimony to its success. Democrats will beat that drum until the financial structure of those programs is literally falling down – as, indeed, it now is. And then they will beat it some more.

Both Social Security and Medicare are going broke. Everyone knows this – it’s not a matter of opinion. In both cases, dates are known when reserves will be exhausted and current income will no longer cover expenses. As fiscal estimates are refined, those dates move closer. Something must be done.

Both parties speak of preserving the programs’ “viability,” but that means something different to Republicans than to Democrats. To the former, viability means cutting costs and benefits, and adjusting ages of eligibility, so the programs can survive without significant tax-increases. Republicans know higher taxes will hurt the economy and will be unacceptable to taxpayers. They also know both programs must be brought under fiscal control.

Democrats say relatively little about their “solutions” for preserving the programs. Instead, they shoot at Republicans’ cost-cutting proposals, while posing as “protectors” of the weak, the poor, and the hurting. Dems pretend that there is no real problem, and that only a little tweaking will put things on a sound footing for years to come. Major FICA and Medicare tax-increases and eligibility-age medications were enacted in the 1970s and ‘80s by Democrat-controlled Congresses to make those programs sound for the foreseeable future. (I recall a “75-year fix” being mentioned.) Yet here we are again, facing insolvency. Fiscal soundness is not Democrats’ primary concern in these debates. Politics is the true game.

Before certain audiences, Democrats do take off the “mask” and argue that taxes must be raised to keep the entitlement programs going. They always imply that “the rich” will pay those higher taxes, but the truth is otherwise. Dems depend on the public’s widespread ignorance of history to conceal the fact that people of quite ordinary wealth will pay the freight. This will include young people, whom Democrats depend on to pay for their ruinous, opportunity-depressing programs, far out into the future. Studies repeatedly show that most young people have little comprehension that they will be the suckers in this scam. But their “protectors” in the Democratic Party have no intention of clueing them in.

The latest round in Democrats’ class-warfare initiative has come in the context of the so-called “debt-ceiling panel,” chaired by Vice President Joe Biden. President Obama convened the bi-partisan panel to furnish political cover from the reality that his administration has been largely responsible for huge annual federal deficits and the rapid expansion of the total debt. Getting Republicans to participate in talks to reduce these deficits makes it appear that both parties caused them. This is false, of course, but GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) have made a good-faith effort in the talks, despite the political issues in play.

The class-warfare strategy emerged this past week when Democrats insisted that tax increases be part of any deficit-reduction “plan” linked to raising the debt-ceiling. In particular, Mr. Biden advocates a “two-sided trigger” that would cut spending and invoke automatic tax hikes whenever spending gets out of control. (The “automatic” tax-increase, allowing avoidance of accountability for raising taxes, has long been a dream of Democrats.) This was a new factor in the panel’s deliberations. Mr. Cantor immediately pulled out of the talks, saying that he could not be a party to any consideration of tax increases.

House Speaker John Boehner has backed up Mr. Cantor, saying the bi-partisan talks can resume only if Democrats “take tax hikes off the table.” Mr. Boehner also insisted that Mr. Obama engage in the process, himself. Until now, Mr. Obama has been able to stay aloof and avoid getting his hands dirty in the deficit-reduction details. This is a great political advantage for the president, but not so much for Republicans – especially when Mr. Obama uses his non-involvement to criticize Republicans for being “obstructionist.”

Democrats on the Biden panel are especially keen to eliminate tax “loopholes” for higher-income taxpayers. This would raise paltry amounts of revenue, but would be vastly popular for their class-warfare value among Democrats’ constituencies. So trivial are the amounts of tax-revenues at stake – perhaps in the tens of billions of dollars, vs. trillions in deficits and debt – that Mr. Cantor has said, “…you have to wonder, is this about policy and substance or is this about politics?”

At this writing, it remains unclear if Senator Kyl will be the only Republican participating in the negotiations pertaining to deficit-reductions linked to raising the debt-ceiling. I hope not. Not because of any lack on Senator Kyl’s part, but because Mr. Cantor’s presence as a delegate from the only body where Republicans hold a majority is crucial to cutting a deal that makes real spending cuts and doesn’t raise taxes. If Democrats wear Republicans down on this, the results will not be pretty for the latter. Mr. Cantor is a principled, capable man who must stay engaged.

These are only opening salvos in Democrats’ class-warfare strategy for the 2012 campaign. Dems hope and believe it will energize their base and rouse their constituents to canvass, register new voters, and get them to the polls in great enough numbers to re-elect Mr. Obama and retake the House. Whether this strategy can succeed remains to be seen.

With the economy heading for a double-dip recession and unemployment stubbornly stuck over 9%, class-envy and soaking the rich seem a very weak horse to ride into the election-wars of 2012. But how much do I know about what animates Democrats? I’m just a poor schmuck who always helped pay the bills. The class-envy world is not my world. In the Lord’s Providence, may there be some future time when no Americans live there.