Don’t Surrender in the Class War

Wall Street Sign. Author: Ramy Majouji

The battleground in the Class War

Liberals are not fighters by nature.  We generally believe in discourse and compromise, and that the innate goodness in people will compel them to do what is best.  This is an idealist and noble way of thinking, to be sure, but it is also very dangerous, because there is a war going on in this country, and our refusal to fight this war means that we may lose it.

The term “class war” has been tossed around quite a bit lately, but in a way that disguises what it really means.  Mostly, it has been used by Republicans (and usually the richest among them) in objection to the idea that the upper class should have to pay taxes.  They claim (quite incorrectly) that they are “job creators,” and that any attempt to increase their taxes will hinder their ability to create jobs.  They are able to exploit the fears of a country in the midst of an employment crisis to keep from addressing what is really going on.  From Truthout:

Republicans and conservatives argue that raising taxes on corporations and rich individuals punishes those who create jobs and thus will hurt efforts to reduce unemployment. Neither logic nor evidence supports their arguments. Last Friday, the US Federal Reserve reported a record quantity of cash on the books of US businesses (hoarding over $2 trillion). Despite the currently very low taxes on businesses and the rich, that cash is NOT being invested and NOT creating jobs. Nor is it being distributed to anyone else who is spending it either. Washington could tax a portion of that cash and spend it to stimulate the economy. That would be especially effective if the taxed cash were spent to hire the unemployed rather than leaving the cash idle in businesses’ hoards.

So, these tremendous amounts of money, most of it the result of incredibly low corporate tax rates, is not being spent on jobs, it is staying in the hands of the already rich.  And, if it is staying in the hands of people who aren’t spending it, it does nothing to help boost the economy.  If this money were spent on hiring people who need jobs, this money would go into circulation as those people spent it, giving a boost to other businesses, which would lead to additional job creation.  That is how you fix the unemployment crisis.  But, that is not what is happening.

The fact is, corporations believe that they are entitled to this money, when they have done nothing to earn it.  But, they have gone on the offensive, and their rhetoric is convincing, despite the fact that they are spreading lies.  They have managed to win over many of the very people who their policies are hurting, which is no small trick.  They throw out words like “socialism” or “class war,” and play the victim, when they are the ones gaming the system at the expense of the rest of us.

But, there are some on the progressive side that have decided to enter the fray, and stand up to Conservatives and their campaign misinformation.  One of the most prominent of these voices belongs to Elizabeth Warren, who has recently announced her candidacy for the Senate (hoping to win back the former seat of the late Ted Kennedy).  She has quickly become a leader in the fight against the Republican class war.  If you haven’t yet heard the speech she made last week on her “Talking Tour,” it is well worth a listen:

She says, “There is nobody in this country that got rich on his own.”  And, she’s right.  All of us have contributed to the wealth of the upper class by subsidizing their roads, their education, their police and fire services, and just by consuming their products.  It is only right that they take some of the profits that they have earned, and give them to the government so that the rest of us have access to all of these same things.

Fortunately, the fighting spirit is starting to spread among other progressives.  In a Washington Post op-ed, Sally Kohn offers her suggestions for how peace-loving liberals can fight back:

As a progressive activist who has marched against many wars, I try to avoid militant rhetoric. But only “class warfare” accurately describes a situation in which 400 people control more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans combined. If “class warfare” isn’t the richest of the rich fighting tooth and nail against unions and any tax increases while record numbers of people lose their homes, what is?

While the revolutionary spirit is brimming around the globe, progressive activists have been stymied by the seeming complacency of Americans in the face of this obvious inequality. Effective protest doesn’t mean more of the usual suspects making more of the usual noise, as with the mostly young, white anarchists who targeted Wall Street this past week. It means unexpected people doing unexpected things to disrupt the status quo and mobilize public will for change. If we’re at war, it’s time to escalate.

In a peaceful disagreement, you might write letters to bank executives or march in front of the Capitol. But what about in a war? Imagine millions of Americans withholding mortgage payments to banks that refuse to adjust underwater loans. Imagine divestment campaigns to pressure public pension funds and universities to pull their money from the private sector and put it into government bonds. Imagine students staging sit-ins to protest teacher layoffs. Imagine families who have lost their homes squatting in vacant, bank-owned properties. Imagine a nationwide call to arms, as passionately nonviolent but as violently passionate as the pro-democracy movements sweeping the Arab world. After all, according to the CIA, income inequality in the United States is greater than in Yemen.

Kohn mentions the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been going on for the past week or so.  These are further proof that people are fed up with the Conservatives calling the shots, and rigging the game against the middle and lower classes.  While the response has been upsetting (with a surprisingly strong police reaction, including more than 80 arrests), the very act of protest shows a growing sense of displeasure with the continued concessions to the rich.

But, perhaps the most honest and blunt response to the Conservative agenda comes from William Rivers Pitt.  He criticizes liberals for retreating from the attacks of the wealthy that are trying to hold us down.  Instead of retreat, he says the proper response to the rich and the corporations they represent should be:

Kiss my ass, you leech, you bloodsucker, you greedy whore, you war profiteering glutton, you disgrace, you betrayer of America.

While I love the vitriol in his reply, he backs it up with further proof that we have been losing this class war for longer than we may have even realized:

The top-earning businesses in America today, across the board, are wallowing in record profits, and yet somehow hiring is stagnated. Why is that?

Could it be that these titans are holding off on hiring in order to affect the number of jobless Americans, so as to influence public opinion as we head into an election season? God almighty, to have such astonishing reach…to be able to keep millions out of work in order to put one black guy out of a job…now that’s real power.

Class warfare, indeed.

Poverty has increased locally and nationally across the board, joblessness is reaching Great Depression-era levels, and millions have lost houses to those whose own homes resemble castles, to those who are secure in both funding and foundation. Money does not disappear. It has to go somewhere; what is lost is always found. Most all of us have spent the last several years losing money hand over fist, while Forbes tells us that the richest among us have increased their wealth by vast amounts in one year.

Try to contain your shock.

There is work available for the doing, on infrastructure and new technology fields and any number of other areas, but the GOP majority in the House of Representatives won’t have any of it, because their marching orders are to screw the American economy in as many orifices as are available to try and unseat the sitting president. Period, end of file, and if you still think that isn’t their intention, I have a big red bridge over San Francisco Bay to sell you.

Class warfare? These cretins have the unmitigated gall to accuse other people of class warfare?

It is a wonder of American politics, this absolute and astonishing lack of shame on the part of the modern GOP. They have spent the last thirty years stifling a minimum-wage increase, they blocked legislation to help 9/11 responders pay for very present health concerns, and spent the latter part of this last week trying to screw disaster relief funding for people who lose homes to tornadoes, floods, wildfires and earthquakes. They hate Social Security and Medicare down to their gold-plated bones. Now they are deliberately and intentionally stifling the very economy they themselves tore up, for no other reason than to win the next election.

How are they doing it? Money and power, power and money, and be damned to those who suffer for their desires.

But, we have suffered long enough.  The time has come for us to take up the fight.  We may lack the financial resources of the bankers and CEOs that have waged this war against us, but we far exceed them in numbers.  We have voices, and we can make our voices heard.  Because, we are at war, and we cannot deny it any longer.  And, it is a war that we cannot afford to lose.  It is time to fight back.