When Democrats promise to defend the middle class, they don’t seem eager to defend middle-class values. Instead, they emphasize programs designed to keep middle-class numbers high by making sure that fewer people get rich—or stay poor. A family earning $250,000 a year and with, say, five children may well consider itself middle class, but in President Obama’s oft-expressed view, that family counts among “the millionaires and billionaires” who need to pay more to the government. The left’s effort to promote middle-class numbers involves twin priorities: to give enough money to poor people so they can join the bourgeoisie and to take enough money from prospering people so they’ll feel less able to wander away from the middle-class reservation.

To conservatives, this redistributionist agenda constitutes an affront to the self-reliant approach that enabled prior generations to rise to the middle class in the first place. Taking wealth from people who earned it and giving it to people who didn’t may, arguably, advance the economic interests of Middle Americans, but it also profoundly violates their traditional sensibilities.

And nothing offends those sensibilities more profoundly than profligate spending and runaway debt.