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Real Class War Is Working to Keep Those Below You Down


VIP Member
Jan 17, 2010
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New Jersey
Contrary to popular belief, the United States is not a meritocracy, and amid cries of class warfare, Americans are getting the worst of both worlds.

That conservatives are greeting the deficit reduction package Barack Obama presented on Monday – one that includes a new minimum tax on millionaires – with howls of 'class warfare' is as predictable as the sun rising in the east. It's a poll-tested talking point, after all.

But it obscures a far more pernicious form of “class warfare” being waged from above – a war of attrition against the upward economic mobility of ordinary working people. We live in a country where most people believe their opportunities are limited only by their innate talents and appetite for hard work, but over the last four decades, while decrying a wholly imaginary class war from below, conservative policies have undermined many of the ladders by which working people once achieved a middle-class lifestyle. Taking pot-shots at another class isn't war, nor is imposing a modest tax increase on those who have been showered with tax cuts for the last decade. Genuine class warfare is those at the very top working to keep everyone else far beneath them.

That's a story that doesn't fit neatly onto a bumpersticker. The standard reply to right-wing bloviating about “class warfare” is essentially an appeal to the authority of billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who famously said, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

It's an undeniably true statement: in 1979, those in the top 10th of 1 percent of the American economic ladder took in 1.11 percent of the nation's income, but by 2008, they were grabbing 5 percent. Those extremely wealthy few didn't become five times smarter and aren't working five times harder than they were in the late '70s, and the seismic shift in our economic structures wasn't an accident: the upward redistribution of wealth in this country has been a direct result of policies for which those at the top have lobbied hard – labor policies, trade deals, cuts to the social services that lifted some of those at the bottom out of poverty and a tax structure that shifted a big chunk of the burden from corporations and the wealthiest to ordinary working families.

Yet that retort only scratches the surface. Conservatives wage a far more damaging form of warfare when they attack the means by which people were once able to move up the economic ladder. They've done so with gusto, and as a result, the upward mobility that once defined America's great economic experiment is now little more than a fond memory, undermined by the Right's knee-jerk anti-governmentalism and an almost fascistic hostility to organized labor.

Most people aren't even aware of that reality. The belief that we live in a perfect meritocracy remains widespread. Around 3 percent of Americans are actually millionaires (or were before the crash of 2008), but in 2003, almost one in three told Gallup that they expected to be millionaires at some point in their lives. A 2006 poll found that more than half of those surveyed believed “Almost anyone can get rich if they put their mind to it.”

read more Real Class War Is Working to Keep Those Below You Down | Truthout
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Diamond Member
Gold Supporting Member
Feb 22, 2004
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My friend. Classes exist only as a political construct to divide us. There can be no warfare without classes.


liberal / progressive
Jun 4, 2007
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Philly, PA
While I agree that the middle and lower classes are falling further behind in America, I find the term 'warfare' misused and inappropriate. Roughly from FDR till Reagan most people felt they could make it in America with hard work and a little luck. Today there is a wide divide between those who are in the upper classes and those in middle to lower. The idea that 1% have most of the wealth may be true, but it is the top ten percent who manage the economy, and vote in sufficient numbers to maintain their position. I may even include the top 20 or 30 percent as these people have grown up with privilege, and the idea that they share has fallen out of use. After the great depression there was a sense we were in it together, that notion is gone. Tony Judt and John Kenneth Galbraith before him outline the changes brilliantly.

"Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them." Tony Judt 'Ill Fares the Land'

"'Practical' politics, it is held, calls for policies that appeal to the fortunate. The poor do not vote; the alert politician bids for the comfortable and the rich. This would be politically foolish for the Democratic Party; those whose primary concern is to protect their income, their capital and their business interest will always vote for the party that most strongly affirms its service to their pecuniary well-being. This is and has always been the republicans. The Democrats have no future as a low grade substitute.." John Kenneth Galbraith 'The Good Society'

Another key aspect of America today is noted below.

"The United States in the 1980s devoted 5.2-6.5 percent of its gross national product to military uses; Germany devoted less than half that, Japan less than 1 percent...The American resources so used were at cost to civilian investment and consumption; those so saved in Japan and Germany were available for civilian use and specifically for improving civilian industry. The matter of the use of trained manpower was particularly important. By some calculations, from a quarter to a third of all American scientific engineering talent in recent years was employed in relatively sterile weapons research and development. This talent the Japanese and the Germans devoted to the improvement of their civilian production. Japan, defeated in war by American industrial power, has now in peacetime extensively replaced its erstwhile enemy in productive service to the American consumer." John Kenneth Galbraith 'The Culture of Contentment'

- [ame=http://www.amazon.com/Ill-Fares-Land-Tony-Judt/dp/1594202761/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8]Amazon.com: Ill Fares the Land (9781594202766): Tony Judt: Books[/ame]

[ame=http://www.amazon.com/Culture-Contentment-Penguin-economics-Galbraith/dp/0140173668/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2]Amazon.com: Culture of Contentment, the (Penguin economics) (9780140173666): Books[/ame]
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