House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) took direct aim at President Barack Obama in a speech this morning, accusing him of “preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment” as he travels the country to sell his jobs plan.
In a speech at the Heritage Foundation, Ryan said Obama’s method of rallying public support for his $447 billion jobs package was “sowing social unrest and class resentment” and could be “just as damaging as his misguided policies.”
“Instead of working together where we agree, the president has opted for divisive rhetoric and the broken politics of the past,” Ryan said. “He is going from town to town, impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up straw men and scapegoats, and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments, as he tries to build support for punitive tax hikes on job creators.”
Ryan accused Obama of using “class-based rhetoric” in his re-election campaign. Obama’s tactics, he said, make “America weaker, not stronger.”
“Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were the hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy, and resentment,” Ryan said.
“This has the potential to be just as damaging as his misguided policies. Sowing social unrest and class resentment makes America weaker, not stronger. Pitting one group against another only distracts us from the true sources of inequity in this country – corporate welfare that enriches the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless.”
The speech at the Heritage Foundation marked another high-profile moment for the rising GOP star who many conservatives publicly longed for as their party’s nominee to challenge Obama in 2012. Ryan also gave a health-care heavy speech at Stanford University last month, calling for a comprehensive “replacement” to the health care law – not just a repeal of Obama’s signature domestic policy feat.
In Wednesday’s speech, Ryan defended his budget proposal – which passed the House earlier this year and has been much maligned by Democrats – as a sensible one that gets rid of “corporate welfare and crony capitalism” and “modestly income-adjust[s]” Social Security and Medicare.
Ryan said the class warfare that threatens the U.S. is “[a] class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society. And their gains do come at the expense of working Americans, against entrepreneurs, and that small businesswoman who has the gall to take on the corporate chieftain.”
“It’s disappointing that this President’s actions have exacerbated this form of class warfare in so many ways,” he said.
Obama has called on the wealthy to pay a larger share of their income in taxes, and Senate Democrats have proposed surtaxes on millionaires to pay for various chunks of the president’s jobs package – efforts that so far failed to garner the 60 votes needed to start debate in the upper chamber.
“According to the President’s logic, we should give up on trying to reform our tax code to grow the economy and get more revenues that way,” Ryan said. “Instead, these goals are taking a backseat to the President’s misguided understanding of fairness.”
“The president’s political math is a muddled mix of false accusations and false choices,” he added. “The actual math is apolitical: By the time my kids are my age, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects, the size of government will be double what it is today.”
During the question and answer session, Ryan told the audience he thinks the Occupy Wall Street protests are “fine.” The demonstrators, he noted, have the right to petition the government and air their grievances.
“As long as no one gets hurt and property doesn’t get destroyed, that’s fine,” Ryan said.
But, Ryan added, he’s “not precisely sure what policies they’re shooting for.”