Class war: They started it

The Republican presidential hopefuls are traveling through primary and caucus states with sundry campaign themes. But one of them is decrying Democrats – and unions – for engaging in “class war.”

They’re right that unions are engaged in it. But the Republicans quite conveniently forget that they started the class war – and they’ve been winning it for years.

Study after study, from both U.S. and international sources, point to the ever-widening gap between the rich and the rest of us. More importantly, that gap has grown since the early 1970s, approximately the time of the first Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies oil embargo, which in itself was a massive transfer of wealth away from the middle class.

Now the top one percent of the country controls more than 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. Virtually all of the nation’s gross domestic product gains since 1980 have disappeared into the pockets of the top one percent, or even the top 0.1 percent. Median family incomes were flat from 1973-2000 and have been declining since then.

And the policies put into place since 1973 have served to enrich the rich:

  • Tax rate cuts that reduced the top marginal rate from 91 percent in the Eisenhower era to 39.6 percent today, and 15 percent for capital gains, where the rich get their cash.
  • Actual tax cuts that funneled the huge majority of their benefits to the top one percent.
  • Outrageous and unlimited pay and perks for the financial finaglers who drove the economy into the ditch – pay and perks made possible by the 1999 Wall Street securities deregulation law, topped by a drastic decline in enforcement since then.
  • Systematic destruction of systems, notably labor law protections, that helped workers – the other 99 percent-defend themselves against the depredations of the wealthy.
  • Policies that encouraged investment in pieces of financial paper. Firms such as Bain Capital shuffled steel companies, airlines, newspapers, and even bakeries around like so much Monopoly money, just to gorge themselves on profits and cash. And then the financiers discarded, via bankruptcy, the actual companies that made things, leaving shells of firms, ghost towns, and millions of workers out of jobs.
  • Manipulation and purchase, via campaign contributions and, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaign ads of politicians to do their bidding. That applies to both parties.

If all this isn’t class war, declared by them – the rich – on us – the rest – then what is it?

And they’re winning.

So what can we do?

We can start with taxing the rich at higher rates, as President Obama and organized labor propose. We can demand repeal of laws that let the rich get away with anything, starting by outlawing the fiction that corporations are persons and enjoy the same rights as persons. And we can put teeth into labor law. And then we can rise up and demand an economy that works for us and not for them.

We’ll leave the other details of how to do that to drafters from unions and allies. But the point is the rich started the class war on us. It’s time for us to dedicate ourselves to winning it – and destroying them and their power.

Photo: Occupy Wall Street, November 11, 2011. May S. Young CC by 2.0 




Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.