Monday, July 11, 2011

This Is Class Warfare

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.  Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.  Teach a man to create an artificial shortage of fish and he will eat steak.  – Jay Leno

My fellow Americans…please look closely.  We are in the midst of genuine Class Warfare, and the rich are winning – not because they’re more powerful (per se), but because they are fully engaged in this fight in order to protect their best interests.  The middle class, working class, and poor are losing – because we are not fully engaged, we are not united, and we’re very confused about what our best interests are and who in politics (greatly imperfect though they may be) are motivated to serve those interests.

Take note.  The Republicans are not your friends – nor are they your chief enemy.  The primary enemy in America today is the Tea Party.  They can no longer be dismissed as a wacko fringe group.  No matter how ridiculous you think they are, they are also well organized, growing in numbers, passionate about their beliefs, and willing to engage in a battle to make their opinions the laws of the land at the federal, state and local levels.  With every passing day, the Tea Party is developing into a major third party in this country.  We ignore them at our peril.

Republicans used to be fiscal conservatives.  They were ideologically conservative, too, as demonstrated by their behavior/attitudes toward the civil rights and women’s movements (particularly their historical opposition to integration and legal abortion), and they have never been supporters of gay rights, either.  But it’s only since George H.W. Bush (with a quick, fairly ineffectual intermission with Bill Clinton) that Republicans have become radical conservatives, initially because of the increasing influence of Evangelical Christian political activists.

However, it is only since the election of Barack Obama – too black and too liberal (in their view) to tolerate – that all components of the Right have become mega-radicalized and have joined forces to repeal the progressive strides of the mid-20th century and ensure that Obama doesn’t succeed in further progressive efforts.  The sad irony is, they have only prevented Obama from succeeding in moderate, deeply compromised efforts.  As a result, we’re in trouble.

Our main problem isn’t the economy or unemployment or the erosion of longstanding civil rights, and it isn’t the debt, the deficit, bad health care, poor education, or decreasing environmental protection.  Our main problem is that we do not know who and what we are, we are not united, and many of us are too busy, disillusioned, or just plain unmotivated to be politically active in any way.

Let’s start with who and what we are.  For quite a few decades now, the middle class – sometimes called the lower middle class – has been unwilling to see itself as working class.  If we wear ties (men) and business suits (men and women) to work and live in at least a half-way decent home, we consider ourselves middle class.  We look down on the poor as much as the upper middle class and rich do, even if we’re currently unemployed and can’t find work, or our homes are either under water or in foreclosure.  We take pride in this middle class label, ignoring the fact that conservative power and an economy skewed to the rich have rendered this label meaningless.

It isn’t just laborers or factory workers or miners or migrants or servants who are working class.  Those who think themselves middle class are working class, too.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that if you depend on a company for a paycheck, even a substantial paycheck, you are working class.  Even if you are an entrepreneur, individual contractor or freelancer, whether you’re doing well or just managing by a very thin margin, you are working class.  If you are out and out poor, perhaps on public assistance, perhaps on Social Security retirement or disability, you are working class.  Put more simply: if you can’t afford to light your cigars with $100 bills, you’re working class.

My advice to you is wake up and smell the sweat – and the danger.  There are many politicians and others at the top of the food chain who do not care about you.  Even if you’ve worked hard all your life, even if you became a Reagan Democrat 30 years ago or, for some inexplicable reason, identify with the Republican or Tea Parties now, the upper crust does not care about you.  They have no sympathy for your unemployment, or mortgage problems, or inability to send your kids to college, or the fact that whatever money you accumulated in 401ks or IRAs or T-bills or stock investments were wiped out in the economic collapse of 2008.

Nobody with serious money cares about the working class.  Those with serious money and the rich – the distinction being, rich is something you can blow in a New York minute; wealth is something that doesn’t weaken, that flows from generation to generation, no matter what.  The rich may once have been working class; the wealthy, never.  Either way, they don’t care about you.

That’s why it’s essential that we, all of us, the larger, combined Working Class, pay attention to what’s happening in Washington DC and state houses across the land.  Look at what’s happening to unions.  Look at what’s happening to wages (stagnant for years), look at what’s happening to prices of everything (increasing daily), look at your overall circumstances (somewhere between shaky and dire?), look at your children’s future (dicey?), look ahead to your old age (scary?).  If the machinations of politicians are worrying you, if it pisses you off to hear the rich described as “job creators” when all they do is sit on their money or outsource employment opportunities to countries with cheaper labor, if you’re angry or frightened or outraged, think about who and what you are.

Then, acknowledge to yourself that, like it or not, you’re in the midst of class warfare, and not doing your bit for the war effort – whether on the frontlines or the home front – just isn’t cricket.  And, is certainly not in your best interest.

No comments: