Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Not Declare Class War and be Done With It

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

 

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail