“Why do left wingers constantly promote class warfare?”

25 Oct 2009 04:09 pm
Posted by: Donna

That was a question put to me by a commenter who disagreed with me about the faux-populism of conservative “heroes” like Glenn Beck and Joe Arpaio.

Last night Mark and I finally got around to seeing Capitalism: A Love Story. It was good but I have to admit that, for me, it didn’t have the visceral emotional impact of Sicko. That was probably because there was nothing in it that came as a big surprise to me.

I wasn’t surprised by the movie’s revelation of a leaked 2005 Citibank global strategy report. Not only was the word “plutonomy” used unabashedly, but the authors of the report matter-of-factly discuss how since the wealthy control most of the money and do most of the spending, we peasants don’t really matter anymore. Unless we remember that we still have the right to vote and do most of the work, that is.

RISKS — WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Our whole plutonomy thesis is based on the idea that the rich will keep getting richer. This thesis is not without its risks. For example, a policy error leading to asset deflation, would likely damage plutonomy. Furthermore, the rising wealth gap between the rich and poor will probably at some point lead to a political backlash. Whilst the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfrachisement remains as was — one person, one vote (in the plutonomies). At some point it is likely that labor will fight back against the rising profit share of the rich and there will be a political backlash against the rising wealth of the rich. This could be felt through higher taxation on the rich (or indirectly though higher corporate taxes/regulation) or through trying to protect indigenous [home-grown] laborers, in a push-back on globalization — either anti-mmigration, or protectionism. We don’t see this happening yet, though there are signs of rising political tensions. However we are keeping a close eye on developments.

This is where the faux populists like Beck and Limbaugh come in, to make sure that the political tensions are channeled such that a good portion of the rabble are protesting for the plutocrats. And I submit that Arpaio is a lot more useful to the ruling class than they’ll let on. Sure, the phony think tank Goldwater Institute and Chamber of Commerce types put up token protests but the angry brand of nativism Arpaio foments divides the working class so that they aren’t banding together to demand higher wages and more rights for everyone.

As for the supposed class warfare being promoted by the left, where the hell is it? President Obama (who got more contributions from the financial industry than any other) has appointed Wall Street insiders to the top economic positions in his administration. They are dumping taxpayer money on big banks and still funding useless, and expensive, wars. We’re going to get health care “reform” that mandates everyone buy insurance policies and preserves the profits of the insurance industry. Ooooh…that’ll show those billionaires!

Too many liberals and progressives I know are loath to utter anything that sounds remotely populist, or heaven forbid, protectionist. I had a conversation with a young Democrat recently where he told me that high unemployment rates were good because they prevent what he called “wage inflation”. I blinked at him in astonishment. He must have learned that from one of those radical leftist economics professors they are chock-a-block with at ASU.

Needless to say, I don’t think we’re shocking and aweing them, fellow class warriors. Michael Moore has some good ideas about what we could be doing.

8 Comments

  1. Comment by todd on October 25, 2009 7:54 pm

    It’s always is something to see conservatives and their neoliberal enablers (e.g. Obama’s economic team) go on about class warfare when an essential aspect of modern conservatism is that those in poverty are poor because they are too stupid or lazy and that the rich are wealthy because of their hardwork and intelligence. Of course anyone who actually studied poverty knows that the stereotype is totally wrong just as anyone who has had to spend time around the rich can attest to the fact that neither laziness nor stupidity is a barrier to wealth.

    However, this entire trope that the poor get what they deserve is one of the worst elements of the true class warfare that goes on but because the wealthy can fund ‘think-tanks’ and professorships to supposedly study the issue, the causes of poverty are endlessly argued while the causes of wealth are not usually examined.

    The new type of class warfare we see now is directly related to the illegal immigrant issue. The right has now been able to demonize illegal immigrants to such a degree they have convinced many middle and low income Americans that the actual root of stagnant wages and seemingly high tax burden is due to even lower wage workers who are routinely exploited and the worst way. Nevermind that since the 1970s wages have been stagnant because corporate American has chosen to funnel profits to investors instead of workers, have rigged the system to incentivize taking good jobs overseas, and has sunk potential wage increases in an underperforming and ridiculously expensive health care benefits all because we might get a socialized health care system. Corporate America and the wealthy have also waged class war on the middle and lower class through driving their tax share to record low levels where many pay no tax at all, and yet we here conservatives whine about low-income people who don’t pay federal income tax as some kind of freeloading parasites.

  2. Comment by Donna on October 25, 2009 9:43 pm

    However, this entire trope that the poor get what they deserve is one of the worst elements of the true class warfare that goes on but because the wealthy can fund ‘think-tanks’ and professorships to supposedly study the issue, the causes of poverty are endlessly argued while the causes of wealth are not usually examined.

    And when the causes of wealth are examined, it’s in a disingenuous way that emphasizes the “bootstraps” element, while downplaying the “got a major break” aspect. A couple years ago, when I was working at a big financial services company, they circulated a rah-rah memo to employees about a survey that supposedly demonstrated how most milliionaires in the U.S. made their money on their own. From the outset, I could see the flaw in the study in that they were relying on self-reporting. Beyond that, it was clear that most of the wealthy respondents attributed their success to “good investments” – not inventions, innovations, or entrepreneurship. Very telling. And when you think about income that is derived from investment, how likely is it that someone who inherited $1 million and parlayed it into $10 million 20 years later is going to say, “I inherited money and that led to my wealth” rather than, “I made $10 million due to my smart investments”? Bill Gates, Donald Trump, and our very own local PR impressario Jason Rose all came from wealthy, connected families. But all three will tell you that their success came from their own intelligence and the sweat of their brows. Are they hard working and smart guys? Absolutely. (Though I’ll leave it to you to judge their ethics.) Would any of them have risen to the level they are at today without the seed money, educational resources, connections, or social capital they got from their families? Doubtful.

  3. Comment by Timmys Cat on October 26, 2009 9:37 am

    Mmmm mmm mm, more and more it’s as if we are living in a Charles Dickens tale. “Better to reduce the surplus population.” Apparently for some, Christian charity only extends so far. If they don’t agree with your gender, sexuality, economic situation, skin color, or legal status, then you are on your own. “I got mine.”

  4. Comment by Eli_Blake on October 27, 2009 2:35 pm

    It’s not just that ‘nativists’ are useful.

    It’s a strategy. They blame the powerless in any society, and that has gone on at least since Pharoah blamed the Israelites for all his problems. Historically, Jews, immigrants, people of color, so-called ‘heretics,’ homosexuals– all have been blamed and persecuted and murdered or driven out of various societies as scapegoats for the sins of the masters.

    It doesn’t actually make sense that these kinds of big economic problems could be caused by a small minority with few or no political rights but all they need is some spurious logic and a megaphone, and there they’ve got their diversion.

  5. Comment by Alan Scott on November 1, 2009 3:05 pm

    todd,

    You said, ” when an essential aspect of modern conservatism is that those in poverty are poor because they are too stupid or lazy and that the rich are wealthy because of their hardwork and intelligence.”

    The straw man conservative who said the poor are too lazy and stupid to rise from poverty, exists in your head.

    You through your straw man say a lot, but as my favorite straw man from the Wizard of Oz noted, ” Some people with out brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?”

    Conservatives believe that capitalism is the best way for those in poverty to rise out of it. American history is full of examples of people rising from the most crushing poverty to the middle and upper classes. I will cite them if you dispute what I say.

    The welfare state traps people for generations in the lower classes. It destroys wealth. A convenient example would be Great Britain from the 1950s on. Marguerite Thatcher, one of the great female leaders of the 20th century could only make a dent in it with her reforms.

    As Thatcher said “…and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They [socialists] always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them.”

    I say Obama is a socialist. Care to correct me?

  6. Comment by Donna on November 1, 2009 3:57 pm

    Yeah, Obama is such a socialist that he appoints people like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers to important positions in his administration.

    It was your hero Bush (and don’t even front like you weren’t a fan of his until it was unpopular to be one) who presided over TARP.

    What you describe as capitalism is what the wealthy elite feed to the rubes. The people at the top use every means available to them to ensure that they DON’T have to compete and a free and open market and are quick to stick their hands out for a taxpayer bail out when they screw up. They’re “too big to fail” you know. It’s socialism all right, but it’s socialism for the wealthy.

  7. Comment by Jeff on November 5, 2009 12:33 am

    You have the right to get off your lazy ass, and make something of yourself. What that something is, is completely up to you! So quit crying, and get busy.

  8. Comment by Alan Scott on November 6, 2009 7:09 pm

    Donna,

    “and don’t even front like you weren’t a fan of his until it was unpopular to be one)”

    I never was ashamed of being a hardcore Bush supporter. Most of my problems with him were when he caved to you people. Like letting big fat drunken Ted Kennedy write the education bill. OR not sealing the borders.

    I was not happy with TARP philosophically, but looked on it as a necessary evil.

    As far as Geithner and Summers, which one was it that did not pay his taxes and blamed it on turbo tax? Typical liberal, spend other people’s money, but don’t pay your share.

    How many people in this administration had legal or ethical troubles and had to resign? How many people in this administration had legal or ethical troubles and did not have to resign?

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