The Obama campaign has found its Joe the Plumber.
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night is expected to emphasize economic inequality, appropriately timed coming off the Occupy Wall Street fall leading up to Tuesday’s release of frequent Republican front-runner Mitt Romney’s tax returns which reveal that the multi-millionaire pays an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent. To hammer home the political game that the Obama campaign has been playing, billionaire Warren Buffett’s longtime secretary will be joining first lady Michelle Obama in her seating section during tonight’s speech.
The guest choice is significant because Buffett’s secretary, Debbie Bosanek, has become the embodiment of the Obama campaign’s central theme in 2012; appeal to middle-class populism disgusted by the excess of the “one percent” in the midst of economic distress.
The central discussion in politics over the summer revolved around the president’s failure to bring both sides together effectively during the debt-limit crisis and subsequent credit downgrade by Standard & Poors, all on top of continued high levels of unemployment and economic uncertainty well into the Democratic President’s first term. Then on August 14 came Buffett’s now infamous New York Times op-ed “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich.”
“My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice,” Buffett wrote in the closing sentence of the piece that was heavily discussed in the media for weeks to follow. In the article Buffett bemoaned the tax rate for America’s highest earners, demanding that the the first thing the then newly instated “super congress” do is raise tax rates on those making more than $1 million.
In subsequent interviews Buffett harkened on a phrase he has used in the past, that his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does.
The White House immediately jumped on Buffett’s phrase and the easily populist call to tax the rich as a means to solve the nation’s deficit woes, shifting the main focus in American politics and the main stream media over night from the nation’s mounting debt and spending, to income inequality, the “Buffett Rule” and the “one percent.” This culminated almost exactly one month following Buffett’s ope-ed, on the September 17 “Day of Rage,” which became the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Come full circle, in a speech that many expect to be purely political theater for the 2012 general election, Buffett’s infamous secretary will watch with the First Lady from the House gallery.
POLITICO notes that it is common practice for presidents to invite guests to sit next to the first spouse that fit with the theme of their address, with Bosanek’s presence a big hint that the address will tilt heavily towards economic issues of fairness.
Bosanek has not made too many public appearances or statements since she became a political buzz word, perhaps because her plight and Buffett’s comparisons to her salary and tax rate have been thoroughly criticized, especially by Glenn Beck’s co-host Stu: