Earlier this week, Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) complained to MSNBC's Chris Jansing that he only netted $600,000 in 2010, and just couldn't afford to pay higher taxes. Asked if his position might seem unsympathetic to workers who make $40,000 a year, Fleming responded: "Class warfare never created a job."
The congressman's invocation of class warfare was hardly accidental: In the debate over the "Buffett Rule" -- a Democratic proposal backed by the billionaire to increase taxes on the wealthy -- decrying class warfare has become a go-to response for Republican politicians. Within the past week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have all used the phrase, suggesting that the rule would unfairly target the top 1% of the country -- a group that they refer to as "the job creators."
Interestingly, Warren Buffett agrees that class warfare is a-brewing, but has long argued that the aggressors are on his side of the wealth divide. In 2006, he told Ben Stein "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."
Recently, former Obama administration official Elizabeth Warren, added her voice to Buffett's in a rebuttal of the class warfare/job creator argument, noting that "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own -- nobody." She went on to address some of the basic services that are paid for out of taxes, explaining how they help American businessmen:
"You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory -- and hire someone to protect against this -- because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless -- keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."
The clip was shot in August, back when Warren was exploring a run against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in a bid for Teddy Kennedy's old Senate seat. For Massachusetts voters, Warren's speech suggests that the former Harvard professor and consumer advocate may have the common touch -- a key consideration in any run against the populist Brown. For the rest of the country, it provides a solid, succinct analysis of America's social contract -- and a satisfying rebuttal for the increasingly Libertarian leanings of the Republican presidential candidates.
Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.