Over the last three decades, wealth has become increasingly concentrated at the top. The middle class is struggling with stagnant wages and a growing class gap; poverty rates are soaring; the jobs crisis seems never-ending; and a growing number of Americans are suggesting it’s time for a larger conversation about economic inequalities and tax fairness.

Newt Gingrich believes that conversation must not occur. In fact, the Republican presidential candidate questions the patriotism of those who choose to draw attention to the problem.

“I repudiate, and I call on the President to repudiate, the concept of the 99 and the 1. It is un-American, it is divisive, it is historically false…. You are not going to get job creation when you engage in class warfare because you have to attack the very people you hope will create jobs.”

Even for a candidate who says truly ridiculous things on a daily basis, this is extraordinary.

Let me get this straight. A disgraced multi-millionaire, who’s run an ethically-sketchy “business conglomerate” while spending vast amounts of money on high-priced jewelry for this third wife, feels comfortable lecturing struggling Americans about even noticing the growing class gap.

And no one finds this disqualifying for national office?

When Republicans demand the middle- and lower-classes sacrifice, while shielding millionaires and billionaires from any concessions at all, the American mainstream isn’t even supposed to talk about it? When GOP policies impose a new Gilded Age on society, it’s “un-American” to even debate the propriety of the regressive agenda?

Since when is it consistent with the American tradition to try to shut down a debate over fairness and economic justice? For that matter, since when is it an “attack” on the extremely wealthy to ask them to pay Clinton/Gingrich-era tax rates that allowed the rich to thrive in the 1990s?

What’s more, let’s also not overlook Gingrich’s selective approach to unity. Today in South Carolina, Gingrich said it’s un-American and divisive to pit a majority against a minority. But as my friend Kyle Mantyla noted today, Gingrich said the opposite at the recent “One Nation Under God” event where he told religious right activists “that they are the majority in the country who must stand up and take this nation back from the ‘minority elite’ who are ruining it.”

So to recap, when it comes to the economy, Gingrich believes we’re all one people, and we must pay no attention to the wealth that divides us. When it comes to the culture war, we’re not one people, and those who believe as Gingrich does should target and defeat those Americans who disagree.

If a right-wing voice rails against the “minority elite,” he’s speaking the truth. If an Occupy activist rails against the “minority elite,” he’s an un-American radical.

Got it.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.