In Wednesday’s press conference, Barack Obama said:
It would be nice if we could keep every tax break there is, but we've got to make some tough choices here if we want to reduce our deficit. And if we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars, then that means we've got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship. That means we've got to stop funding certain grants for medical research. That means that food safety may be compromised. That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden. Those are the choices we have to make.
So the bottom line is this: Any agreement to reduce our deficit is going to require tough decisions and balanced solutions. And before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children's education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it's only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys. I don't think that's real radical. I think the majority of Americans agree with that.
If this kind of rhetoric sounds familiar to you, it means that you have not been living under a rock your whole life. In fact, Democratic politicians have been recycling these tired old talking points for well over a century. The Democrats are the party of the people, while the Republicans the party of the well-heeled special interests. And so on. You get the idea, right?
Here’s William Jennings Bryan in 1896:
There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it…
If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.
Here’s Harry Truman in 1948:
We have been working together for victory in a great cause. Victory has become a habit of our party. It has been elected four times in succession, and I am convinced it will be elected a fifth time next November.
The reason is that the people know that the Democratic Party is the people's party, and the Republican Party is the party of special interest, and it always has been and always will be.
Here’s Walter Mondale in 1984:
One last word to those who voted for Mr. Reagan.
I know what you were saying. But I also know what you were not saying.
You did not vote for a $200 billion deficit.
You did not vote for an arms race.
You did not vote to turn the heavens into a battleground.
You did not vote to savage Social Security and Medicare.
You did not vote to destroy family farming.
You did not vote to trash the civil rights laws.
You did not vote to poison the environment.
You did not vote to assault the poor, the sick, and the disabled…
Four years ago, many of you voted for Mr. Reagan because he promised you'd be better off. And today, the rich are better off. But working Americans are worse off, and the middle class is standing on a trap door.