Why Blaming the Rich Works
President Obama laid out his campaign, in fact his whole first four years, based upon the FDR strategy of blaming the rich during the Depression years. Even when FDR's policies proved to be counter-productive, at one point killing a slight recovery and sending the Great Depression deeper, he survived by attacking the utility companies, Wall Street, the Rockefellers etc.
Class envy, similar to the Biblical injunction about the "love of money" as well as the sin of envy, is one of the oldest tricks in politics back to basically Cain and Able. Capitalism, based on the principle of deploying capital (i.e. money) effectively as opposed to just being labor dependent, lend to the rise of industry. This led to efficiency and productivity, the gains in lowering costs and raising standards of living by specializing, utilizing equipment, etc. The rewards of capitalism went to capitalists, many of whom became filthy rich which led to backlash similar to that against noblemen and kings versus serfs from earlier history.
But in the US, unlike Europe and other regions, and partly because of our history, our geography and most importantly our religious traditions we treasured freedom more, were more skeptical of government, and believed in taking care of the needy among us who fell thru the cracks. But over time, especially after the Great Depression, the government expanded to provide for those left behind in social security, in medicare, food stamps, public housing, etc. We also went to a graduated income tax to fund it. But compared even to Europe, our blended system (there from our founding but less so in some areas when there was more wilderness - but still nationally funded railroads, canals, education, etc - the Congress even provided Tyndale Bibles to schools, how about that!) had far less intervention.
Obama, in order to justify the largest and fastest expansion of government since FDR, has resorted to the often hinted at but not systematically exploited "very rich" versus everyone else core strategy.
He ran his election on this theme: the Republicans, led by a rich man Mitt Romney and backed by these millionaires with independent spending, want to balance the budget by cutting aid to regular folks like you - social security, medicare, student loans, building new bridges for the ones that are falling down, basic housing for those who have little or nothing - by giving tax cuts to the rich. Shame on them.
People looked around and saw some huge homes, when they were struggling to pay for their home. Consumption of fantastically expensive cars, clothes, wine, travel, multiple mansions, etc - Donald Trump being a loud-mouthed example - yet unwilling to pay "their fair share" (as defined by Obama). When you are hurting and struggling it is easy to buy into this envy.
So Obama won, the Democrats gained in the House and stunned the Republicans in the Senate races. He won on the issue now being debated: tax the rich, don't cut the benefits for regular folks to protect the rich.
It is wrong, won't work, will stagnate the economy and generally undermine our core economic system. But it also explains why most people will blame the Republicans if we do indeed fall off the fiscal cliff. Nearly 2/3 believe it will be because Republicans want to protect their rich friends.
We have a lot of education to do. Like explaining what capitalism is before we become totally a socialist country.