On Wednesday morning, the Republican National Committee sent reporters a segment of Larry Kudlow blasting the president's economic policies, in which the CNBC host chastised the administration for going after corporate tax havens.
"[Treasury Secretary Tim] Geithner talked about taxing the rich, raising taxes on private investment funds and raising taxes on offshore corporate revenues," said Kudlow. "That is more war against investors and businesses in the worst bear market recession in memory. It's an extraordinary stupid performance, to be honest with you"
To elevate Kudlow to attack-dog status is a curious choice by the RNC, not least because corporate tax havens -- in which companies open P.O. boxes in order to pay much lower tax rates -- are incredibly unpopular in this current climate.
The CNBC host, known for his market-oriented and fiscally conservative commentary, is yet another in a line of Wall Street pundits to offer biting public criticism of the president's policies. It's a fight that the White House welcomes and, indeed, is actively pursuing. On Tuesday, spokesman Robert Gibbs called out CNBC's Jim Cramer for having too shaky a forecasting record to be allowed to critique the administration's approach. Earlier, it was Rick Santelli who took on the White House, only to find himself accused of launching faux-populist tirades against the Obama housing plan without actually having read the plan.
Why is the White House responding to CNBC analysts? Because, to the extent that one can paint the network's hosts as creatures and allies of Wall Street, it is smart politics.
In the recently released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 35 percent of respondents said they were most upset by news that bank executives whose companies had received corporate funds were taking large bonuses; 28 percent were upset with mortgage lenders who were making loans to people who would have trouble paying them back; while only 16 percent were upset that Obama cabinet nominees had failed to pay their taxes.
Obama, in short, is trusted far more than Wall Street. As such, observers say, the RNC is taking a risk by positioning Kudlow and others as the spokespeople against Obama's economic plans.
"There is kind of a gamble they are taking," said Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal. "They want to be on the side of every day Americans worrying about their 401k and IRAs but they don't want to go too far and be on the side of the greed that Americans are reacting against... If the spokespeople for the RNC are seen to be spokespeople for the bank executives and the mortgage lenders, then they could be in trouble."
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