House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) blasted President Obama on Wednesday for promoting policies that stir class warfare.
Ryan lit into the Democratic administration for suggesting an increase in taxes on wealthier Americans to trim the deficit, saying that instead of "appealing to the hope and optimism that were hallmarks of his first campaign, [President Obama] has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment."
"This has the potential to be just as damaging as his misguided policies,” Ryan said.
“Sowing social unrest and class resentment makes America weaker, not stronger."
In a highly charged speech at the the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, Ryan let loose with his pent-up frustrations, criticizing the president for taking his "we can't wait" message around the country, touting his $447 billion jobs package while calling Republicans obstructionists.
The White House has tried to get on offense this week by announcing several policy actions intended to circumvent GOP opposition to the president's legislative program on jobs. The proposals have included changes to a housing program to help homeowners refinance, adjustments to student loan payments and enhanced efforts to put veterans back to work, specifically in the healthcare sector.
"Instead of working with us on these common-sense reforms, the president is barnstorming swing states, pushing a divisive message that pits one group of Americans against another on the basis of class," 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."
He called the president's criticisms of Republicans "petty and trivial," pointing to more than a dozen bills the House has passed to help spur economic growth and deal with the debt, "only to see the president’s party kill those bills in the do-nothing Senate."
Ryan also defended his House-passed budget proposal and encouraged the president to take another look at the measure.
"The House-passed budget was full of proposals to get rid of corporate welfare and crony capitalism," he said. "Rather than raising taxes and making it more difficult for Americans to become wealthy, let’s lower the amount of government spending the wealthy now receive … The politics of division have always struck me as odd: the eagerness to take more, combined with the refusal to subsidize less."
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 parts of the president’s jobs package. So far, all efforts have failed to garner enough support — 60 votes — needed to move forward.
The speech comes as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) drops a draft plan to exempt most corporate foreign income from taxation, pushing the discussions over tax reform another step forward.
The Michigan Republican’s plan to move the country to a territorial system, according to lobbyists and media reports, would except 95 percent of a corporation’s offshore profits from U.S. taxation.
Ryan wove the argument of class warfare throughout his firery speech, arguing, "Given that the president’s policies have moved us closer to the European model, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that his class-based rhetoric has followed suit.
"We shouldn’t be surprised, but we have every right to be disappointed," he said.
The speech follows one Ryan delivered last month at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he made the argument that the nation's fiscal situation won't improve until Medicare reforms are undertaken.