Class War Heats Up

Photograph Source: bixentro – CC BY 2.0

It’s no secret that Big Money disliked the tax hikes in Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) bill. Indeed, the rich pretty much killed them. And Biden hasn’t countered them by arranging for the Federal Reserve to pump money into his programs for working people, because, after all, the Fed only gives money to people who are already loaded. Or, as human rights activist Ajamu Baraka recently tweeted: “The rulers pump 120 billion a month into the hands of capitalists through the Federal Reserve. So they can fund anything they want by creating the money to pay for it.”

U.S. billionaires pretty much have the run of Congress and the White House. Just to make that clear, corporate lobbyist heavy hitters from the Chamber of Commerce, Pfizer, ExxonMobil and the Business Roundtable brazenly and intensely assaulted BBB tax raises, which would have brought their taxes up to a mere 28 percent from 21 percent. They did this so defiantly and ostentatiously that back on September 9, 100 groups from the other side urged congress to stand up to this plutocratic bullying.

These 100 opposing organizations, led by the Economic Policy Institute, denounced the tens of millions of dollars spent by wealthy corporations to attack “the most transformative and equitable budget proposed in a generation.” The EPI assemblage included the AFL-CIO, Americans for Tax Fairness, Center for American Progress, League of Conservation Voters and dozens more. Suffice it to say these signatories are pissed. They don’t like what corporate America is up to.

And what it’s up to is called class war. Most recently it was conducted by arm-twisting all so-called moderate Dems to kill the formerly $3.5 trillion bill’s corporate tax increases. Because our oligarchs aren’t content with a handful of billionaires owning as much wealth as the entire middle class. They want more. And they certainly don’t intend to relinquish any of it. Oh no, they have no plans for doing that.

But rich corporate America may have pushed things too far. It may have awakened a sleeping giant. For as workers quit in droves – as many commentators noted in recent weeks – those that stay…go out on strike. In August roughly 4.3 million workers walked off the job for good. That’s 2.9 percent of the workforce. And those that aren’t saying, in the words of a Bernie Sanders’ operative, “flip your own damn burgers and sweep your own damn floors,” strike instead.

Ten thousand John Deere workers went on strike in October, as did 31,000 Kaiser employees, while 60,000 Hollywood production workers negotiated a deal to avoid a strike, according to the Washington Post on October 17. “All told, there have been strikes against 178 employers this year,” the Post noted. “The strike drives in 2021 run the gamut of American industry: Nurses and health workers in California and Oregon; oil workers in New York; cereal factory workers in Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee; television and film production crews in Hollywood; and more.”

And tens of thousands of potentially striking workers “are waiting in the wings,” as Jonah Furman and Gabriel Winant observed in a labornotes article on October 18. Strike season has only begun. It already includes, according to the labornotes report: 2000 hospital workers in New York, a one-day walk-off of 2000 telecommunications workers in California, 450 steelworkers in West Virginia, 1000 miners in Alabama, 700 nurses in Massachusetts, 200 bus-drivers in Nevada, 400 whiskeymakers in Kentucky and some recently settled strikes by 2000 carpenters in Washington, 1000 Nabisco factory workers across the country and 600 Frito-Lay workers in Kansas.

This fight by quitting or striking sure contradicts the summertime GOP lie that lazy workers had degenerated into couch potatoes thanks to over-generous unemployment benefits. That GOP fabulation got quite the media hype. So much that now we have white house advisor Jared Bernstein reassuring business that Americans who won’t work now, will flock back to the job market in January, having exhausted their savings, according to the New York Times on October 26. As journalist Chris Floyd tweeted: “This is the economic plan of the ‘new FDR’: grind people down until they’re starving, then watch ‘em crawl back to take shit jobs for shit pay.”

Tales of slothful workers got the reptiles on the other side of the aisle quite riled up too. So back in August a bunch of lousy Republican governors refused those federal benefits, at the behest of their corporate masters, and voila! No workers! Did workers flock to toil for $8 an hour at demeaning jobs? No, they did not! Workers stayed home, thus embarrassing those poor governors, already exposed as stingy Scrooges trying to starve their constituents into taking miserable jobs for wretched pay; but now they stood revealed as boneheads, who, in addition to being monsters, were so wrong that the only way to describe them is, well, stupid.

But then, reactionaries have been proved wrong so many times, that it’s not normal to conclude they’re anything other than dimwits. Remember that idiot Ronald Reagan and his “trickle down” economics? How’d that theory work out for the blind ideologues in the GOP? It failed, utterly. But they still cite it.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, then the entire GOP and most Dems are off their rocker. They believe in the benefits of trickle-down economics, just like they believe in neoliberalism and that if you gut the state, affluent corporations will cure inequality, just like they believe the U.S. brings freedom, peace and progress to the countries it bombs. The notion that if you let some greedy creep hog all the wealth, that will somehow fatten the wallets of the multitudes he stole it from, is spectacularly imbecilic. Yet that is the GOP creed, and lots of “moderate” Dems buy it too.

How they buy it is a real head-scratcher. It seems obvious that if one person makes out like a bandit, wringing every last dime out of everyone else, it’s time to rearrange the economic system and its power relations. But most of our elected officials adamantly refuse to see this elephant in the room – because their donors pay them not to. So, you say, they’re not nitwits, they’re corrupt. But ah, there comes a point where numbing the brain with corruptly ingested talking points becomes a form of stupidity.

So when those donors said “no more unemployment benefits,” they believed their lamebrained ideology and expected obedient wage-slaves, not strikes, mass resignations and employees telling them they can take their crappy job and shove it. Where will all this lead? Well, to the horror of corporate big-shots, and evidently of the Biden administration, it has already caused some wage increases. Chances are good those wages must rise a lot more before the majority of the 4.3 million who quit can be enticed back. Labor shortages mean labor power. They mean workers call the shots. All-Amurican reactionaries may overtire their meager brains all they want, trying to figure another, cheaper way out of this, but the odds don’t stack up on their side. There’s only one answer to labor scarcity: pay higher wages. Or don’t – and watch neoliberal capitalism crumble. It’s a long wait till January.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Busybody. She can be reached at her website.