In Defense of Class Warfare
We’ve been hearing a great deal about “class warfare,” lately, though it’s hardly a new phrase. It conjures up some fairly intense imagery, at least in its recent incarnation as a retaliatory accusation against those who have protested the concentration of wealth among the top ten percent. I don’t know about you, but when I hear it I definitely see visions of angry peasants storming palaces, torches in hand, crying out for the heads of the affluent elite. There might even be pitchforks involved.
“Class warfare,” we’ve been made to believe, is something we should leave to Communist Russia, along with such bugaboos as “social engineering” and the “redistribution of wealth.” Rather than penalizing unfair corporate labor practices and opposing the recent extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, we should trust that the rich will use their god-and-government-given wealth to, well, share it. We have capitalism on our side, and should just let the Free Market do its job; anyone truly deserving will grab onto those bootstraps I’ve heard so much about and join the party.
The fact is, however, nothing smacks more of class warfare than the extension of outmoded “trickle-down” techniques, long since proven ineffective either in job-creation or promoting the health and well-being of the middle and lower classes. War is indeed being waged, make no mistake about it—but it’s being fought on behalf of the wealthy, and exploits the poor.What else can one call institutionalizing systems rigged to benefit those already in possession of financial power?
John McCain himself went on the record multiple times in the early 2000s to speak about the dangers of tax cuts for the wealthy, and even broke Republican ranks to vote against the original passage of the Bush tax cuts. On Meet the Press in 2000, he offered a redefinition of the talking point while making his case against George W.’s so-called “tax relief package”:
“I always thought that class warfare was to take away from the rich. I always believed that that was what class warfare was all about.”
He went on to support the idea of tax cuts, but only if they benefited those without incomes in the top ten percent, particularly the working class. Today, naturally, he’s changed his tune. During the process of extending the tax cuts, McCain suggested anyone who opposed the extension was engaging in (wait for it) “class warfare,” and that the extensions should be the first priority before focusing on low-income families and small businesses. Huh.
In a perfect world, of course, our country would be just as much of a pure meritocracy as it likes to think it is. We’d boost competition and remove barriers to upward mobility, rewarding those truly able and assisting those most in need. It isn’t about attacking the rich, even if I’m not sure how they’ve managed to position themselves as such an endangered minority. It’s about leveling the playing field for those who were never invited to the game.
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