As foreshadowed last week, President Barack Obama introduced the millionaires “Buffett tax” in his plan for the wealthy to pay a fair share of the almost $3 trillion budget shortfall. That sent Fox News into DEFCON 1.

All yesterday and today Fox News has been running the headline: “Is The White House Inciting Class Warfare?” Early morning anchor Steve Doocy introduced the topic today with: “The President is talking about raising taxes and … you know, effectively class warfare.” It continued all day until even Democrat guests were using the martial language. “He’s just declared war on the job creating class in America,” declared former Clinton advisor Dick Morris. When anchors and Democrat guests uses that kind of martial language, the network’s more shrill commentators have nowhere to go but Illuminati land.

With no natural disaster to divert attention, Fox News racked up a collection of claims that Obama simply resents wealth creators, wants to punish achievement, and destroy the business community to pander to his base: the 50% of lazy Americans who pay no tax at all.

One would probably expect that sort of over-the-top rhetoric from a political opponent set to run against the president in 2012. But it wasn’t. Those were the claims that originated on Fox News from network staff and paid contributors before any Republican presidential candidate joined in.

Before a single business owner could be interviewed came the claim that businesses would simply stop hiring people if capital gains was taxed at a higher rate. Growth would stop. US currency would collapse. It’s all over, man. Better go buy collectible gold coins to protect your wealth.

Warren Buffett’s claim was that no investor would stop investing just because their 15% capital gains rate was made equitable with marginal income rates of their employees, typically 35% to 40%.

Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson responded by saying Buffett was trying to mislead Americans, insisting capital gains are not income, and therefore the comparison with his secretary’s taxable income is apples and oranges. It was accompanied by black and white footage of Obama, in campaign mode, saying “the last thing I want to do is raise taxes in a recession”.

Bill O’Reilly made the claim that capital gains are being taxed twice, first as income, and that taxation is strangling America: “If you tax achievement, some of the achievers will pack it in. I like my job but there comes a point that taxation becomes oppressive.”

If any of these claims are justified, their evidence was not aired.

White House officials were forced to respond on other networks and newspapers, meekly suggesting that if they can’t win the argument in Congress, then they’ll just have to win the argument with the American people in 2012.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey