by Aaron Miller
n. conflict between social or economic classes.
Historically used by Marxists referring to the conflict between the working proletariat and the wealthy bourgeoisie over wages, working hours, and other aspects of social inequality, the term class warfare has more recently been turned on its head and used to imply some fictitious assault on the filthy rich.
In case you haven’t been watching the news recently, many Republicans have branded any attempt to raise taxes on rich people as “class warfare” (and attempts to cut billions in spending on unemployment benefits, public education, and welfare—somehow—are not).
Let me give you some facts about these poor, victimized rich people who, while beset by working-class hedonists, are busy creating jobs and trickling their wealth down upon the ungrateful middle class. For one, the top five percent of Americans own an astounding 62% of the wealth (and I’m using figures from 2007; since the recession began and millions of productive citizens lost their jobs, income inequality has only increased).
Here’s another: these people, characterized by the political elite as “job creators” have made an astonishing 0.5% dent in unemployment over the past year! And they didn’t even do all of it themselves!
With such great victories under their belts, it’s surprising us little people don’t worship the rich. So successful are they at achieving an economic recovery that I sometimes wonder, when could have they ever done better?
Actually, quite often. In 1953, the average unemployment rate was a mere 2.5%, and rich people paid a top marginal tax rate of 92%, nearly three times higher than today’s. There were rich people then, and America was ruled by a conservative government. But rich people understood that they had to actually contribute to society, rather than simply resting their bloated behinds on piles of cash and making vague pledges about job creation and free enterprise.
But, times have changed, and now is not the era of building interstates and public universities. No, now is the era of handing over ever-increasing percentages of our hard-earned cash to their soft, gloved hands, while our highways fill with potholes, our schools rot around us, and tuition in UCs rises at 8% per year into the foreseeable future.
I say, enough is enough. We have for too long worshipped the rich, hoping someday to become like them. We have made them too comfortable in their power over us, so that they can throw tantrums when we need to raise their taxes a bit, and win.
We need to take their money and give it to the productive members of our society, the people for whom a job means more than sitting behind a desk counting money; in other words, the poor and middle class. We need to foreclose their houses, repossess their cars, put them behind bars, and show them what class warfare really is, because recently, they have not been the ones on the receiving end of economic injustice.