Monday, May 19, 2014

The Right Has Started Class Warfare. It’s Time for the Left to Fight Back

Income inequality – a polite term for the rich squeezing the guts out of everyone else – is a hot-button issue that frightens the rich (who are obsessed with keeping and enlarging their wealth) and so far immobilizing the rest of us, probably because the rich are united and, uh, very well-funded, and we’re all struggling to survive and focusing on our personal pet issues.

We have income inequality that surpasses the Gilded Age of the early 20th century “robber barons” because the [largely] well-heeled Right has been waging genuine class warfare and we haven’t been fighting back. The working class and [what’s left of] the middle class have been duped into hating the poor, as if the poor are the problem (!) and not seeing that our personal pet issues, be they unemployment, racial civil rights, gay rights, women’s rights, human rights/modern slavery, animal rights, immigration, the environment, climate change/science acceptance, energy policy, education, foreign policy, the social safety net, are all connected by money and politics. And as you may have noticed, the rich are in control of money and politics and we have foolishly allowed ourselves to be fucked over by classic divide-and-conquer tactics. We have to shape up, join hands (whatever our differences may be) and fight back.

The first part of our battle must be to wrestle political power back from the Wealthy Right. We can’t afford to be politically jaded or disengaged because even if politics is corrupt bullshit, it does matter who gets elected. The Rich Right understands this. Recent, new, and more-sure-to-come voter ID laws, as well as the gerrymandering of Congressional districts, are clearly a Republican/ Conservative effort to block the voting path of the young, the old, and racial “minorities,” all of whom tend to vote for Democratic candidates. They have created the myth of voter fraud to justify these actions, but it's nothing less than a direct assault on the democratic process and a key weapon in the Right’s class war. And as the saying goes: “It isn’t true class warfare until we fight back.”

It’s also important to remember that part of this class warfare is where and how we live and how we’re treated. I live (born and raised) in New York City, once the most sophisticated city in America with a cultural heart, intellectual brain, bohemian flair and thousands of neighborhoods filled with privately-owned shops and restaurants. We had a diversified population comprised of the poor, working class, middle class, and the rich. Over the past 30 years, New York has been castrated into something resembling a mid-Western Disneyland Nowhere that has gentrified the poor out of town to God knows where (well, they’re still working on that), and combined the working and middle classes into a hostile heap hanging by its fingernails and cow towing to the rich like the little demigods they are.

As an example, you need look no further than housing in Manhattan and Brooklyn (the other three boroughs are in the midst of being similarly transformed). Besides being outrageously expensive, housing is increasingly segregated by class. The obscenely wealthy real estate developers of new rental buildings get tax credits if a portion of the property is devoted to “affordable housing.” It is – but many of these new buildings have separate entrances, lobbies, and levels of security for the “affordable” tenants and the “market rate” tenants. If there are “luxury” amenities in the building, such as gyms, spas, roof gardens, children’s play areas, even storage spaces, the “affordables” are not permitted access to them! No contact with the “trash” required.

What makes this particularly infuriating is that, according to a recent article in the New York Times, the average annual income of the “affordables” is $51,010 (we’re not talking candidates for public housing projects here) vs. $103,680 for the market-rate folks. And, on average, the “affordable” cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $1,321 a month, compared with $2,696 at the market-rate. Yes, New York is particularly expensive. But rents nationwide are high and getting higher, especially in big cities – but not exclusively. I’ve lived in my apartment for 36 years and without going into specifics, suffice it to say I’m blessed to be in a co-op building that’s part of a special pricing program that dates back to the 1960s. But this status will change in a few years and I’m likely to end up being a renter in the same apartment I currently own.

Anyone who isn’t filthy rich and sides with the Right is delusional and not thinking in his/her best interest. Economically, the Right are giants; socially they’re dinosaurs. They’re not your friends. I don’t mind that there are rich people. America needs millionaires. But multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires (and multi-multi-billionaires), especially when they make laws, conduct business and cut social services, showing no concern for anyone except others like themselves?

This we don’t need. It’s killing the rest of us, killing the country, killing democracy, killing the economy, killing opportunity. And in combating class warfare, you kill back with awareness and courage. You see the big picture, connect the dots, recognize who your enemy really is. Then you unify, organize, strategize, demonstrate, petition, fundraise, and vote. We may not win, but at least let’s go down trying.

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