FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Not Declare Class War and be Done With It

by DAVID MACARAY

Not only has the so-called “trickle-down” theory of economics been revealed to be a cruel hoax, but most of the good industrial jobs have left the country, the middle-class has been eviscerated, the wealthiest Americans (even in the wake of the recession) have quintupled their net worth, and polls show that upwards of 70 per cent of the American public feel the country is “headed in the wrong direction.”

No jobs, no prospects, no leverage, no short-term solutions, no long-term plans, no big ideas to save us.  While the bottom four-fifths struggle to stay afloat, and the upper one-fifth cautiously tread water, the top one-percent continue to accumulate wealth at a staggering rate.

Thanks to the global engine, there are now hundreds of billionaires.  Oligarchies, “client-state” capitalism, wanton deregulation, CEOs earning monster salaries, corporations receiving taxpayer welfare, and half the U.S. Congress boasting of being millionaires.  Meanwhile, personal debt in the U.S. continues to soar, one in ten people are out of work, and food stamp usage sets new records every month.

Yet, even with near-record unemployment, the Department of Commerce reported this week that U.S. companies just had their best quarter….ever.  Businesses recorded profits at an annual rate of $1.66 trillion in the third quarter, which is the highest rate (in non-inflation-adjusted figures) since the government began keeping records, over 60 years ago.  Shrinking incomes, fewer jobs….but bigger corporate profits.  Not a good sign.

Yet when you broach the dreaded subject of “class warfare” you get blank stares.  When you try to demonstrate, through charts and graphs and scores of real-life examples, that the system is largely rigged to accommodate the wealthy and powerful—and that we face an unfortunate Us vs. Them dilemma—people back away.

There’s an old joke: An Oxford professor meets a former student and asks what he’s been up to.  The student tells him he’s working on his doctoral thesis, whose topic is the survival of the class system in the U.S.  The prof expresses surprise. “I didn’t think there was a class system in the U.S.,” he says. “Nobody does,” the student replies.  “That’s how it survives.”

The conviction that class distinctions don’t exist in the U.S. raises some obvious questions:  Could this stubborn belief be driven by something as simple as old-fashioned optimism?  Or is it a form of whistling in the dark—combating fear and despair by denying that things are as bad as they seem?  Or could it be the product of self-delusion and vanity….of no one wishing to be labeled “working class”?

Whatever the reason, it goes way beyond the arithmetic.  Reminding people that the rich are not only dedicated to hanging on to what they have but committed to accumulating more—and constantly trolling for additional ways to game the system—doesn’t elicit much more than a stifled yawn.  No one gets spooked.  “That’s always been true,” they grumble.

But what does spook them is the suggestion that this dynamic has become institutionalized, that the deadly trifecta of greed, globalization, and collusion between government and business has more or less rendered the American Dream unattainable for a large segment of the population, and that the country’s best days are clearly behind it.  This is where people balk.

Years ago on the former CNN panel show, The Capital Gang, there was a segment where paleoconservative Robert Novak was arguing over tax rates with the show’s resident “liberals,” journalists Mark Shields and Al Hunt.  After the usual bickering,  Novak dropped his bombshell.  He bluntly accused Shields and Hunt of trying to “foment class warfare.”

Panic ensued.  Instead of defiantly answering in the affirmative (“Hell yes, we’re talking class warfare!!”), these two guys practically fell over themselves in protest, vehemently denying the accusation.  They reacted as if Novak had accused them of high treason.  It was pathetic.

In former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich’s excellent memoir, Locked in the Cabinet, there’s an account of Lloyd Bentsen, Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, making a similar reference.  In reply to Reich’s observation that the wage gap was widening precipitously, Bentsen says, “Look, Bob, we shouldn’t do social engineering through the tax code.  There’s no reason to declare class warfare.”

While the rich obviously don’t want us rocking the boat, the disparity has become so alarming, even billionaire investor Warren Buffet broke ranks and acknowledged that the Bush-era tax cuts should be allowed to expire.  Said Buffet, “If anything, the wealthiest Americans should pay even more in taxes.”

Buffet aside, as long as those three catch-phrases—class warfare, social engineering, and redistribution of wealth—provoke the same Pavlovian responses from Republicans and Democrats alike, the rich have nothing to worry about.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail