The middle class has no greater friend than President Barack Obama. Rhetorically. This is the way a story not from some conservative source but from mainstream newswire Reuters begins this morning:

Barack Obama enters the final two years of his presidency with a blemish on his legacy that looks impossible to erase: the decline of the middle class he has promised to rescue.

The revival of middle-class jobs has been one of Obama's mantras since he took office in 2009 fighting the worst economic crisis in generations. It was a major theme of his last State of the Union address and is expected to feature in the one scheduled for Tuesday.

President Obama’s SOTU tomorrow night will put forth plans to “help” the middle class that involve class warfare, more spending, and more words. Reuters:

Administration officials said on Saturday the president would propose higher capital gains taxes, new fees on large financial firms, and other measures to raise $320 billion for programs and tax breaks aimed at the middle class.

He never learns. He still thinks that what the middle class needs is more redistribution of wealth from the one percent whose lifestyle the president himself has embraced. He does seem to realize that tax breaks might help the middle class—or is this just empty rhetoric? But he still believes that it is his job to take from some to give to others. That these policies have left us with a slow recovery and less upward mobility than was once the norm in America seems not to trouble him.

The Reuters story gives President Obama credit for stabilizing the economy “which is growing again and last year added jobs at the fastest clip since 1999.” Many of these jobs are part-time jobs and not of the quality the economy once created. Still, the Obama administration's abysmal record with the middle class is becoming increasingly difficult to obscure:

But for the middle class the scars of the recession still run deep. Federal Reserve survey data show families in the middle fifth of the income scale now earn less and their net worth is lower than when Obama took office.

Senator Marco Rubio hit the nail on the head:

“The notion … that in order for some people to do better, someone has to do worse is just not true,” Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Raising taxes on people who are successful is not going to make people who are struggling more successful. … It would also be counter-productive."

Because he has not created a strong economy, because he thinks that the only way one group can prosper is at the expense of another, because he views an economy as a pie that must be cut up rather than something that can be expanded, given liberty to be creative, he has failed. But don’t expect him to give the slightest indication that he knows any of this in tomorrow night’s SOTU.

But this is the kinder, gentler way to look at tomorrow’s SOTU. There is also a more cynical approach, as put forward by John Podhoretz. I have to say: I think Podhoretz is onto something:

You know, you just know, that after the president goes out there and announces he wants to make community college free for all Americans — as though anything government does is “free” — or is unilaterally and unconstitutionally legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants, he comes back to the offices, pulls out the presidential BlackBerry, and gleefully follows along as the Right goes completely ape over these wild policy decisions.

Imagine his delight after it “leaked” that he will propose raising taxes on the wealthy by $320 billion over the next 10 years, including increases to the capital gains and inheritance taxes.

This, of course, has no chance of passing. But then Tuesday night’s State of the Union address could be the first one in history deliberately designed solely to generate a Pavlovian rage response in members of the opposing party.

Back in November, in this paper, Jonah Goldberg asked the question: “Maybe President Obama is just trolling?” Two months later, the question seems to have been answered in the affirmative.

Obama and his team have clearly decided that one of the metrics by which they will measure their success is by just how wild he drives his Republican opposition in Washington and conservatives across the country.

It may be time to return the SOTU to a written statement the president sends to Congress. That was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, and it was a genuine report rather than a cynical baiting of the other party.