We will be treated this year to a stark con­trast in visions for Amer­ica. That con­trast can­not be made clearer than by con­sid­er­ing a pair of tax pro­pos­als before Con­gress this week.

Repub­li­cans in the Sen­ate blocked con­sid­er­a­tion of a Demo­c­ra­tic pro­posal known as the Buf­fett Rule, which would have cod­i­fied a clearer pro­gres­sive income tax, and would have resulted in an esti­mated $36.7 bil­lion per year in addi­tional fed­eral rev­enue. (Cor­rec­tion: the esti­mated $35 — $47 bil­lion is for a ten-​​year period.) Vir­tu­ally simul­ta­ne­ously with that act, Repub­li­cans in the House announced a new tax cut pro­posal, which would increase the deficit by almost exactly the same amount as the Buf­fett Rule would have reduced it. (Cor­rec­tion: the Repub­li­can pro­posal would increase the deficit by about $40 bil­lion in a sin­gle year.)

That’s right…after spend­ing three years whin­ing about the deficit, the Repub­li­can reject a bill that would have made at least a token move in the right direc­tion, and rec­om­mend instead an increase in the deficit.

Why would they engage in such bla­tant self-​​contradiction? The rea­son is sim­ple. The Buf­fett Rule would have raised taxes on wealthy peo­ple. The Repub­li­can pro­posal would lower taxes on wealthy peo­ple. It’s really that straightforward.

It’s been obvi­ous for a while where the inter­ests of the Repub­li­can Party truly lie. On Octo­ber 20, 2000, while run­ning for Pres­i­dent, George W. Bush gave a speech at the annual Al Smith Din­ner for char­ity. As part of his remarks, he said, “This is an impres­sive crowd — the haves and the have-​​mores. Some peo­ple call you the élite; I call you my base.” It was meant to be a joke, of course. But the cal­lous­ness of the humor is part of a pattern.

While run­ning for pres­i­dent in 2008, John McCain couldn’t recall how many houses he owns. Mitt Rom­ney has made one such éli­tist gaffe after another. But it’s not just about the arro­gant per­sonal atti­tudes of Repub­li­can standard-​​bearers and their inabil­ity to con­nect to the aver­age Amer­i­can. Those are just symp­toms of a deeper prob­lem. For many years, Repub­li­cans have been engaged in what can only be called all-​​out class warfare.

It isn’t exactly news that income dis­par­ity in Amer­ica is near­ing an all-​​time high, eerily sim­i­lar to the dis­as­ter year of 1928. What is amaz­ing, how­ever, is the unbri­dled eager­ness with which Repub­li­cans are seek­ing to increase that disparity.

Take this week as a case in point. The pro­posed Buf­fett Rule would have ensured that Amer­i­cans with annual income over $1,000,000 would pay a min­i­mum mar­ginal tax rate of 30 per­cent. The com­pet­ing Repub­li­can tax plan in the House, specif­i­cally pro­posed as an alter­na­tive, would give a one-​​year 20 per­cent tax reduc­tion to “small busi­nesses” with fewer than 500 employ­ees. This includes most pro­fes­sional sports teams, thou­sands of mil­lion­aire stock traders, and Paris Hilton, all of whom are “small busi­nesses.” In fact, roughly 49 per­cent of the pro­posed $35-​​billion-​​plus tax give­away would go to millionaires.

It could be argued that, besides help­ing to enrich the wealthy, giv­ing some of that money to actual “small busi­nesses” would help cre­ate jobs. Repub­li­cans don’t have much cred­i­bil­ity on that argu­ment, after defeat­ing nearly every aspect of the Amer­i­can Jobs Act. It would be pos­si­ble to tar­get actual small busi­nesses for tax assis­tance — for exam­ple, by giv­ing cuts to busi­nesses with aver­age salaries under $100,000 and total rev­enue under $10,000,000. The Repub­li­can plan doesn’t do that. It’s designed to pro­vide a par­tic­u­lar wind­fall to wealthy indi­vid­u­als who have incor­po­rated, and to use “small busi­ness cuts” as a Tro­jan Horse in order to do it.

Repub­li­cans aren’t inter­ested in cre­at­ing jobs, or in improv­ing the econ­omy in any other way — at least, not before they make another round of elec­toral gains. We know this. John Boehner told us so.

In point of fact, sim­ply reduc­ing income taxes for small busi­nesses tends to reduce invest­ment. How can this be? Because income taxes are assessed after busi­nesses expenses (includ­ing employee salaries) have been paid. Income taxes are assessed on money that isn’t rein­vested in the busi­ness. By reduc­ing cor­po­rate income taxes for small busi­nesses, we encour­age busi­ness own­ers to take money as profit rather than using it, for exam­ple, to hire more peo­ple. It dis­cour­ages investment.

Is this what the Repub­li­cans wish to have hap­pen, or is it a case of unin­tended con­se­quences? There is a pat­tern of where wealth has been going for the last three or four decades, par­tic­u­larly over the last quar­ter cen­tury. Recent Repub­li­can pro­pos­als would increase the wealth gap even more.

The Ryan Tax Plan — the plan that Rom­ney called “mar­velous” — would elim­i­nate the secu­rity of Medicare, slash Pell grants, main­tain $40 bil­lion in tax give­aways to oil com­pa­nies, and give $3 tril­lion in addi­tional tax cuts to the wealthy and to huge cor­po­ra­tions. Would it at least bal­ance the bud­get after all that? No, it wouldn’t:

The Tax Pol­icy Cen­ter looked into the rev­enue loss asso­ci­ated with House Bud­get Chair­man Paul Ryan’s plan to cut the tax code down to two rates of 10 per­cent and 25 per­cent. They esti­mate the changes would raise $31.1 tril­lion over 10 years, or 15.4 per­cent of GDP. That’s $10 tril­lion less than the tax code would raise if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire, and $4.6 tril­lion less than it would raise if all of the Bush tax cuts were extended.

It increases the gap between receipts and expenses by $4.6 tril­lion dol­lars more than keep­ing the dis­as­trous Bush tax cuts in place.

If Repub­li­cans are unin­ter­ested in cre­at­ing jobs, and don’t care about the deficit, what are they after?

It’s been men­tioned sev­eral times already. They’re des­per­ate to reduce taxes on the most wealthy, eager to elim­i­nate our social con­tracts such as Medicare and Social Secu­rity, anx­ious to dis­man­tle envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions, con­sumer pro­tec­tions, and assis­tance for col­lege stu­dents. Rom­ney wants to get rid of the Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment. Dur­ing the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial debates, the can­di­dates tried to out­bid each other in list­ing fed­eral depart­ments they would elim­i­nate, from the EPA to the Depart­ment of Education.

House Repub­li­cans even want to cut food stamps for America’s most needy, in order to avoid the cuts they agreed to last year in the Pentagon’s bud­get — cuts that resulted from their refusal to pay for the spend­ing they wanted.

Observe the pat­tern — cut­ting pro­grams that ben­e­fit aver­age Amer­i­cans or the poor, while insist­ing on tax cuts that ben­e­fit the wealthy. Their pro­grams and pro­pos­als would main­tain immense deficits and use those deficits as an excuse to slash pro­grams that help 90 per­cent of Amer­i­cans, while yet again cut­ting taxes on the wealthy. All this, while the wealth and income gap soars to his­toric lev­els.

I’ve con­cen­trated here on eco­nomic issues. But there are social issues involved as well, and the pat­tern con­tin­ues, an éli­tist pat­tern of restrict­ing the many while ben­e­fit­ing the few — restrict­ing access to health care, restrict­ing the right to vote, restrict­ing the right to marry, restrict­ing the right to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing.

There is class war­fare going on in Amer­ica. In Novem­ber, we’ll be pre­sented with a very clear choice. The good and hope­ful thing about Amer­ica is that We the Peo­ple are self-​​governing. We do not have to sur­ren­der our rights and our wealth to a priv­i­leged few. We cer­tainly can do that if we want to. But it’s within our power to reverse the trend.

(I thank our reader GROG for bring­ing to my atten­tion the mat­ters indi­cated above as “Corrections”.)