WASHINGTON -- President Obama is escalating his class-warfare attacks on the Republicans for opposing his plan to let the Bush-era upper-income tax cuts expire at the end of this year.
Only it isn't just Republicans he's battling against on this central economic issue in the midterm elections, but a growing rebellion in his own party on Capitol Hill, where fellow Democrats are siding with the GOP.
This increasingly bitter intra-party split over a pivotal economic growth and jobs issue hasn't been getting any serious attention on the nightly network news -- and the White House pretends it doesn't even exist. But it is an embarrassing political weakness in Obama's naive argument that ending George W. Bush's top tax-rate cuts on small businesses, investors and anyone making more than $250,000 a year won't hurt a weakened economy and kill job creation.
A growing number of House and Senate Democrats, and other party candidates seeking open seats in Congress, say that this is no time to be raising taxes on anyone, and they will vote to temporarily extend the tax cuts for all tax brackets, including the wealthiest, until the economy recovers.
A letter drafted by four insurgent Democrats suggesting just that was being circulated in the House this week to build party opposition to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's income tax hike plans, and the early word is that they are attracting signatures on it.
"We believe in times of economic recovery it makes good sense to maintain things as they are in the short-term, to provide families and businesses the certainty required to plan and make sound budget decisions," their letter states.
Its authors: Democrat Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah, Glenn Nye of Virginia, Melissa Bean of Illinois and Gary Peters of Michigan.
Peters, who represents a traditionally Republican district in the Detroit suburbs, says that extending the top tax rate cuts "is the right thing to do, as anything less jeopardizes economic recovery"
These Democrats have a lot of company. Perhaps more than two-dozen House and Senate Democrats agree with them, according to my count, and that number is expected to rise in the days to come.In Connecticut, Democrat Rep. Jim Himes says that making more than $250,000 a year, especially as a small business, "does not make you really rich."
In Florida, Democrat Rep. Ron Klein thinks a one-year extension of the top tax rate cuts is critical in a jobless recovery because "our top economic priority has to be job creation."
In Arizona, Democrat Harry Mitchell strongly opposes the Obama, Pelosi and Harry Reid tax increases, saying, "we need to encourage investment, not discourage it."
In the Senate, the latest defection is Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a member of the Democratic caucus, who told voters in his state Monday that the Bush tax cuts should be retained until the economy regains its health.
"The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be," he told the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.
With so many Democrats abandoning their party's soak-the-rich class warfare, Republicans were further emboldened to push their tax-cutting offensive in the fall campaigns as new data exposes the failure of the $1 trillion Obama spending stimulus to create jobs and expand the economy.
"Americans have had it. They're tired of Democrat leaders in Washington pursuing the same government-driven programs that have done nothing but add to the debt," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor speech Monday.
Introducing legislation "that ensures that no one in this country will pay higher income taxes next year than they are right now," the GOP leader said, "We can't allow this administration to demand that small business owners in this country pay for its own fiscal recklessness."
But Boehner was musing about a legislative trap that Democrats could spring on Republicans to make them vote against the middle class. Within an hour of his remarks, he fired off a statement calling on the Democrats to pass legislation that "cuts spending to 2008 levels for the next year and stops all of the coming tax hikes by freezing all current tax rates for the next two years."
"Anything short of that may selfishly check a political box for the president, but it fails the American people," he said.
Among all the toxic issues killing Democrats in this election cycle -- with Obamacare, jaw-dropping deficits and debt, and historic levels in new spending topping the list -- none is more politically deadly than the jobless economic decline and the Democrats' plans to raise taxes in the midst of what is still being called a recession.
With the Federal Reserve declaring that the economy is showing "widespread signs of deceleration," and the president and his party's leaders in deep denial, the Democrats are about see what a tsunami wave election looks like.