Sunday, September 25, 2011

If This Be Class Warfare, Let Us Make the Most of It.

 (This is this week's newspaper column which does not, for some reason, appear on the paper's website, although it is in the print version. One of the paper's conservative columnists has noted that his column doesn't appear either. We're trying to find out why. Stay tuned. )

One of the most widely used and abused right wing buzzwords of this wild and wacky century is "class warfare." Sometimes it seems as if it's the knee-jerk wingnut answer to everything. Point out the growing inequality of income in America, in which the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and more numerous, and the middle class is getting smaller and being squeezed harder? They won't bother denying it, they'll just complain that mentioning it is "class warfare."  Propose a tax hike on the wealthiest Americans to pay for upgrades to American infrastructure (and in doing so, create more jobs for the companies who do the upgrading)? "Class warfare!" the Teahadists sputter. 

Well, after hearing the whining of Louisiana representative John Fleming, I'm saying "so what if it is?" Fleming, who owns a chain of Subway restaurants and UPS stores back home, recently appeared on MSNBC and complained that by the time  he paid taxes, paid all his bills, and "fed his family" he had "maybe, $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment." When host Chris Jansing pointed out that he probably wasn't going to get a lot of sympathy pointing out that he "only" had 400K left over after expenses, the poor little rich boy went immediately to the standard fall-back, saying "class warfare never created jobs." 

I've got to tell you, Congressman Fleming, when you consider that your buddies in Congress oppose President Obama's plan to cut payroll taxes, which affect primarily middle and working class people, yet continue to insist on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, that sounds an awful lot like class warfare to me. When you consider that that  400K you regard as so paltry is the equivalent of eight median household incomes ($50,000 was the average in 2010, down 2.3 percent from the year before)....well, it makes me want to reach for a torch and a pitchfork, build a guillotine in the front yard, and say, to paraphrase Patrick Henry, "if this be class warfare, let us make the most of it."  

As for the tired old  protest that higher taxes on wealthy people are "punishing success,” I refer you to Massachusetts Senatorial Candidate Elizabeth Warren.  You may remember Warren as the woman who helped oversee the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that the Republicans in Congress are now striving mightily to strangle in its crib. She was recently at a campaign event in Andover and delivered an epic smackdown to the myth of the "self-made American millionaire," saying:  "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own.  Nobody. You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea. God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is, you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.” 

Doggone right. Here's the thing. If there's one unshakable rule of economics, it's that stuff costs money. Roads, highways and bridges cost money. Schools cost money. A powerful military costs money, especially when it’s in two wars. Police cost money, as the NC Highway Patrol showed us when they had to suspend their training academy indefinitely, because of budget cuts--cuts necessitated by the Republican-controlled legislature's refusal to consider tax increases. 

Let's face it:  civilization is expensive. Right wingers like to rail against "freeloaders," but it's the people who become successful because society provides the infrastructure and the freedom to use it, and who then refuse to help pay for it, that are freeloading. 

If you're a member of the middle class, keep one thing in mind:  When multimillionaire politicians or pundits or talk show hosts start hollering  about "class warfare," while opposing tax breaks for the middle class and defending them for the wealthy, they want you to pay for the civilization that made their success possible. They've  already declared war. On you.


Spanish Inquisitor said...

I think Elizabeth Warren has a bright future ahead of her. Good thing she's in a state that is amenable to her thinking rather than some backwater like NC, where she wouldn't have a chance at being elected to Congress.

A apologize in advance for the slam against NC ;)

John P

JD Rhoades said...


Actually, how NC goes depends on what part of the state show up to vote. When, as usually happens, it's the rural areas and Charlotte, you get Jesse Helms and Richard Burr. When the other cities show up, you get Kay Hagen.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

Yea, well, PA is a lot like that too. The "T" of the state (northern and central counties) is pure Alabama. When people show up in Pittsburgh and Philly, we tend to be a blue state. When they don't we go red.

I live in Central PA. Rethuglican to the core, except in the inner cites.

Back to class warfare, when the top 400 families (.0000035%) in America control more wealth that the bottom 50% of the popultion, it seems to me that class warfare is inevitable.

Dana King said...

Great column, JD. Too much fodder there for a reasonable comment, so I'll condense.

We've had class warfare in this country for 30 years, but it's been the haves and their financial jihad against everyone else. Now that the underdogs seem to be thinking about fighting back, it's a bad thing. America has always been like this, but in days past they didn't make you pay for your own Astro Glide.

I was born on Benjamin Franklin's birthday. Both of is are Pennsylvanians. My father's name is Benjamin. So I feel a connection there. My favorite story from is wonderful biography is of Franklin needing five pounds to by a printing press. (I think. Something to start up a business.) A friend referred Franklin to a businessman, who gave Franklin the money from his pocket.

When Franklin asked how it was ot be repaid, the man told him not to worry about it. That sum of money meant nothing to him anymore, but, should Franklin become successful himself, he was to give the money to some other young man who needed a start.

Picture modern Republicans or Tea Partiers using that example.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It's really tragic that the last fifty years of the 20th century will be known as the a golden age for the rights of working people.

Charlieopera said...

Capitalism requires class warfare—fact.

And it is interesting, once again, that Obama and the Democrats are suddenly concerned about the plight of the middle-class (which is effectively non-existent since most are a few paychecks from losing their homes and/or gaining poverty status). His (Obama’s) best friends in 2008 were Goldman Sachs, et al (his biggest contributors/the biggest contributors to ANY presidential campaign, in fact). He squandered his congressional majority while handing over $700 billion no strings attached/no protection for workers). Goldman was rewarded for their support in spades ... they continue to outsource American jobs (as does his job czar from GE).

Yes, he saved the economy ... for corporate America. They have record profits and have treated themselves to record bonuses while continuing to outsource American jobs.

Either he was as naive as portrayed (in his 131 “Present” votes while in the Illinois Senate) or he’s the consummate politician (saying anything while doing nothing) or, as is my opinion, he’s a fucking moron for giving away the store without bargaining for anything in return for the taxpayers he raped to repay his best friends.

Much like his concern for “collective bargaining” (or was it union votes?), his sudden concern for the “middle and poor” class comes right before an election cycle. Do you really believe there is an ounce (ANY) conviction in what he says now?

Frankly, the GOP shouldn’t run anybody ... Obama has done a masterful job at protecting corporate interests and profits.

Yes, it is class warfare and neither major party will even consider doing anything about it beyond the rhetoric that energizes their faithful for the moment.

This weekend the kids protesting on Wall Street were brutalized by the NYPD in a true struggle about class warfare and where was the President?

Nader in 2012 ... the socialists in 2012 ... the communists in 2012 ... anything but these two loser parties that jerk us all off over and over and over again ...

Charlieopera said...

And how 'bout those Buffalo Bills!

Jaye said...

Wow! $200,000 to feed his family for one year! That is really eating high on the hog!

Jaye said...

Wow! If he makes $600,000, and has $400,000 left after feeding his family, they are really eating high on the hog!