Tag Archives: Class War

Another Casualty in the Class War

They are killing us off one by one. And the reason they are able to do so is because they’ve got us fooled that the Class War is not being fought. Once we realize that “they” are at war against us, the safer we will be. Then if we unite and organize, we’ll have a chance of winning!

Amy Goodman

Amaia Engana didn’t wait to be evicted from her
home. On Nov. 9, in the town of Barakaldo, a
suburb of Bilbao in Spain’s Basque Country,
officials from the local judiciary were on their way to
serve her eviction papers. Amaia stood on a chair
and threw herself out of her fifth-floor apartment
window, dying instantly on impact on the sidewalk
below. She was the second person in two weeks in
Spain to commit suicide as a result of an impending
foreclosure action. Her suicide has added gravity to
this week’s general strike radiating from the streets
of Madrid across all of Europe. As resistance to so-
called austerity in Europe becomes increasingly
transnational and coordinated, President Barack
Obama and the House Republicans begin their
debate to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The fight is over fair
tax rates, budget priorities and whether we as a
society will sustain the social safety net built during
the past 80 years.

The general strike that swept across Europe Nov. 14
had its genesis in the deepening crisis in Spain,
Portugal and Greece. As a result of the global
economic collapse in 2008, Spain is in a deep
financial crisis. Unemployment has surpassed 25
percent, and among young people is estimated at 50
percent. Large banks have enjoyed bailouts while
they enforce mortgages that an increasing number of
Spaniards are unable to meet, provoking increasing
numbers of foreclosures and attempted evictions.
“Attempted” because, in response to the epidemic of
evictions in Spain, a direct-action movement has
grown to prevent them. In city after city, individuals
and groups have networked, creating rapid-response
teams that flood the street outside a threatened
apartment. When officials arrive to deliver the
eviction notice, they can’t reach the building’s main
door, let alone the apartment in question.

The general strike across Europe ranged from mass
rallies in Madrid, with participation from members
of Parliament, to protests in London, to outside the
European Commission headquarters in Brussels, to
high atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, where
protesters flew anti-austerity flags and banners. In
calling for the first pan-national general strike in
Europe in generations, the European Trade Union
Confederation hoped to express “strong opposition
to the austerity measures that are dragging Europe
into economic stagnation, indeed recession, as well
as the continuing dismantling of the European
social model. These measures, far from re-
establishing confidence, only serve to worsen
imbalances and foster injustice.”

Back in the U.S., a group from Occupy Wall Street,
which itself was inspired in part by the Spanish
M-15 movement against austerity that began on May
15, 2011, has taken a creative approach to the
blight of debt that is afflicting millions. Calling itself
“Rolling Jubilee,” after the ancient practice of
forgiving all debts every 50 years, the group is
buying debt from lenders, for pennies on the dollar,
and canceling it. This discounted debt market exists
primarily because collection agencies and “vulture
capitalists” acquire bad loans that people have
stopped paying for 2 to 3 cents on a dollar, and still
make a profit by hounding people to pay back some
or all of that debt. Rolling Jubilee, according to its
website, “believes people should not go into debt for
basic necessities like education, healthcare and
housing. Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt,
keeping it out of the hands of collectors, and then
abolishing it … to help each other out and highlight
how the predatory debt system affects our families
and communities. Think of it as a bailout of the 99
percent by the 99 percent.” To date, Rolling Jubilee
has raised $175,000, which it says will be used to
abolish $3.5 million in debt.

The amount may be symbolic, but an important
message to President Obama and House
Republicans as they wrangle over the future of the
U.S. tax rates, deficit reduction and how to fund so-
called entitlements. Sarah Anderson of the Institute
for Policy Studies prefers to call Social Security and
Medicare “earned benefit programs, because these
are programs that American workers are paying into
over their lives, and they have a right to that money,
to have these basic social programs that have made
us a much stronger society with a stronger middle
class.” Anderson told me, “The approach to the debt
should be to look at the ways that we could raise
revenues through … taxing financial transactions …
cutting fossil-fuel subsidies and using carbon taxes,
and cutting military spending. That kind of
combination could raise trillions of dollars over the
next decade.”

As the movement for that strong social safety net
grows around the world, and locally here at home,
the mandate is clear: Austerity is not the answer.

SOURCE:

http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2012/11/15/the_growing_global_movement_against_austerity

Advertisements

The Class War Is On But We’re Just Not Fighting Back

Robert Borosage

In 2012, class warfare broke out in American politics.
And from the president to key Senate races, the middle
class won.

When the 2012 campaign began, the lousy economy made
President Obama vulnerable. Republicans were favored to
take back the Senate, given retirements in conservative
states. Republican billionaires – the Koch brothers,
Adelson and others – put up big money in the effort to
have it all. Instead the president swept to victory, and
Democrats gained seats in the Senate and the House.

Many factors contributed. Republicans learned once more
the shortcomings of a stale, male, pale, Southern-based
party in a nation of diversity. The GOP “legitimate
rape” caucus helped give away two Senate seats. But too
little attention has been paid to the new emerging
reality. This was the first class warfare election of
the new Gilded Age – and the middle class won big.

The Republican nominee Mitt Romney was inescapably the
candidate of, by and for the 1 percent. He came from the
world of finance and carried their agenda. He won the
primaries, as Newt Gingrich complained, because he had
more billionaires than anyone else. And the rich right
were on a wilding, not only funding the Romney campaign,
but also filling the coffers of superPACs and their
offspring with hundreds of millions of dollars.

The class war, ironically, broke out in the Republican
primaries. After Romney’s victory in New Hampshire, Newt
Gingrich and Rick Perry savaged Romney as a “vulture
capitalist,” the “man from Bain” who profited from
breaking up companies, shipping jobs abroad, and leaving
a broken carcass behind. Romney’s negatives soared,
reaching the highest on record.

And of course Romney reinforced the impression with
revealing moments that exposed his yacht club
cluelessness: “Corporations are people, my friends”; “I
like firing people”; elevators for his cars; the $10,000
bet; $375,000 in speaking fees “isn’t a lot of money”;
trying to appeal to Bubba because he knows a lot of
NASCAR owners. He secreted his past income tax
statements, while the one he revealed exposed a 14
percent tax rate on over $20 million in income, with, in
the imitable phrase of former Ohio Governor Ted
Strickland, his money “wintering in the Cayman Islands
and summering in the Swiss Alps.”

Needless to say, Obama is neither by temperament nor
predilection a populist class warrior. But faced with
potential defeat, he turned to what works. The depths of
the Obama presidency came in the summer of 2011 after
the debt ceiling debacle, in which the president was
roughed up by Tea Party zealots, and emerged looking
weak and ineffective.

Obama came back by deciding to stop seeking back-room
compromises with people intent on destroying him and to
start making his case. In the fall, he put out the
American Jobs Act and stumped across the country
demanding that Republicans vote on it. His standing in
the polls began to rise. Then Occupy Wall Street
exploded, driving America’s extreme inequality and
rigged system into the debate. In December, the
president embraced the frame: He traveled to Osawatomie,
Kansas, revisiting a campaign stop Teddy Roosevelt had
made in the first Gilded Age. He indicted the “you’re on
your own” economics of Republicans while arguing that
“this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class,
and for all those who are fighting to get into the
middle class.”

In the run-up to the election, the president’s campaign
employed two basic strategies. First, the president
consolidated his own coalition. He defended
contraception and pay equity while his campaign attacked
the Republican “war on women.” He reached out to
Hispanics by ending the threat of deportation for the
Dream kids. He not only ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,”
but also moved to embrace gay marriage. Widely described
as socially liberal measures, these were also profoundly
bread-and-butter concerns. Could women choose when to
have children? Could Hispanic children be free to pursue
the American dream? Could gay people gain the economic
benefits of marriage?

At the same time, the president’s campaign made a risky
but remarkably successful decision. Their opinion
research showed that painting Romney as a flip-flopper
had little traction, but the attacks on vulture
capitalism hit home. They decided to spend big money
early in such key states as Ohio on a negative ad
barrage defining Romney as the heartless vulture
capitalist from Bain. Both campaigns believe that Romney
never recovered.

But rhetoric and attack ads alone would not have
sufficed. In critical Ohio and the Midwest the president
was buoyed by one of his most activist – and
controversial – interventions: the rescue of the auto
industry. Unpopular at the time, opposed by many of his
advisors, the auto rescue was risky, painful and messy.
But it became the president’s closing argument, for
workers knew that he had their backs when they were in
trouble.

And when Romney put Rep. Paul Ryan on his ticket,
Medicare became central to the debate. Republicans
labored to portray themselves as the defenders of
Medicare, attacking the president for cutting “$716
billion out of Medicare to pay for a health care plan no
one wanted.” But in the Democracy Corps/CAF election
night poll, the president had a greater margin on who
would do better on Medicare than on any other issue.

And of course, perhaps the most telling bit of class
attack was self-inflicted: Romney’s infamous scorn for
the “47 percent” of Americans who are “victims” who
“don’t take responsibility for their lives.” Many
Americans took the comments, uttered in a private
setting before deep pocket donors, as revealing Romney’s
true feelings. The Obama campaign took full advantage
and opened up the largest lead of the campaign going
into the first debate.

The president’s listlessness in that debate showed how
vulnerable he was.Voters wanted change. They
overwhelmingly think the country is on the wrong track.
The president’s campaign – from its slogan “forward!” to
its closing argument – perversely refused to offer
anything than more of the same. As Bill Clinton pled at
the Democratic Convention, his policies just need more
time.

That left Romney an open field to be the candidate of
change. But the Bain attacks countered his central
argument, “I’m a businessman; I can fix this.” His
agenda – a warmed over stew of conservative staples –
let Obama argue that we can’t go back to what got us in
this mess. The Republican convention, with its
disingenuous “we built this” thematic, gave Romney no
boost. In the end, voters gave Romney a small edge on
who would do better on the economy, but they gave Obama
a big edge on who better understands “people like me,”
or who will do better restoring the middle class.

Most important, “God, guns and gays” didn’t work this
time. The socially divisive tricks that political
operatives Lee Atwater and Karl Rove perfected to divide
working people and counter populist appeals backfired.
The Republican effort to suppress the vote aroused
insulted African American and young voters. The harsh
anti-immigrant posturing of the Republican primaries
drove Hispanics and Asians into Democratic arms.

Class warfare also benefited Democrats in Senate races.
Elizabeth Warren, the scourge of Wall Street, used a
powerful economic populist message to beat Massachusetts
Sen. Scott Brown, a popular incumbent and Tea Party
poster boy, running a smart campaign that sought to
label her an elitist “professor” who manipulated
affirmative action to get ahead.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown faced over $30 million in
outside negative ads, as Karl Rove made him his leading
target. He won as a consistent champion of working
people, for the auto rescue, against corporate trade
accords, for taking on the big banks. Tammy Baldwin, the
only openly gay woman in the Congress, took down the
favored former governor of Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson,
largely by painting him as a lobbyist for special
interests divorced from the concerns of working people.
And Heidi Heitkamp produced the biggest upset of all in
North Dakota, running an old-time plains populist
campaign, for Medicare and Social Security, against
corporate trade deals, while savaging her opponent for
mistreating tenants in his housing projects.

America’s growing diversity and its increasingly
socially liberal attitudes played a big role in this
election. But looking back, we are likely to see this as
the first of the class warfare elections of our new
Gilded Age of extreme inequality. A besieged middle
class is increasingly aware that the rules are rigged
against them. They are increasingly skeptical of
politicians and parties, and believe – not incorrectly –
that Washington is largely bought and sold. But they are
looking for champions.

For years, conservatives in both parties have warned
against class warfare. Americans, we’re told, don’t like
that divisiveness. They see it as the politics of envy.
Inequality should, as Mitt Romney said, only be talked
about in back rooms.

Nonsense.

More and more of our elections going forward will
feature class warfare – only this time with the middle
class fighting back. And candidates are going to have to
be clear about which side they are on. Politicians in
both parties are now hearing CEOs telling them that it
is time for a deal that cuts Medicare and Social
Security benefits in exchange for tax reform that lowers
rates and closes loopholes. Before they take that
advice, they might just want to look over their
shoulders at what will be coming at them.

From http://wageclasswar.org/

 

The War Is On (Class War, that is)

Richard Wolff    THE GUARDIAN (December 13, 2012)

Conservatives and Republicans used to keep quiet and private about their views on classes and class war in the United States. They ceded those terms to leftists and then denounced their use. The US was, they insisted, a mostly “classless” society, civilization’s pinnacle achievement. We were a vast majority of wondrously comfortable and secure consumers.

Workers or capitalists, like classes, were antiquated, disloyal, and
irrelevant concepts. True, a few fabulously rich people were visible
(likely, film or sports celebrities or “entrepreneurial innovators”):
their antics and luxuries were fun to mimic, admire, or deplore. An
annoying and assuredly small underclass of the poor also existed:
likely, persons “destroyed” by drugs or alcohol.

However, over recent decades, that approach has given way to a harsher view of US society, and the world beyond. At first, in their homes, country clubs, and unguarded moments with friends, conservatives and
Republicans redefined their prime political enemy as the “moochers”. Those people – Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called them “the 47%” always voting Democrat – depend on government handouts, and vote accordingly to secure those handouts.

Moochers include welfare recipients, the poor receiving Medicaid,
students getting subsidized college loans, illegal immigrants, and,
sometimes, also those “entitled” to get social security and Medicare
benefits. They are all society’s real “exploiters”, using government
to tax the other 53% of the people for the funds doled out to the 47%.

Conservatives and Republicans are thus classifying the population into two key subgroups. Gone are images of the US as one big happy middle class. Instead, one class, self-defined as the upper 53%, comprises self-reliant, hardworking taxpayers: true social givers. The other class comprises the lower 47%: takers who give little as long as dependence saps their creativity, responsibility, etc.

Romney’s campaign showed that conservatives and Republicans
increasingly use this class analysis to understand society and
construct their political programs. Romney’s campaign also proved the increasing determination of conservatives and Republicans to pursue class war explicitly in these terms. Romney later confirmed publicly what had been exposed in his private appeal to wealthy funders.

A chief Romney adviser, Stuart Stevens, offered this widely-circulated post election analysis in the Washington Post:
“On 6 November, Romney carried the majority of every economic group except those with less than $50,000 a year in household income. That means he carried the majority of middle-class voters.”

Warren Buffett, the multibillionaire, says that because “his class” is
winning, economic inequality is becoming dangerous. He thus wants rich Americans to be taxed more. He presumes – like most Democrats – that class and class conflict are terms that will repel Americans and persuade them to support Buffett’s tax reform proposals.

That presumption is flawed. The political terrain has shifted.

Conservatives and Republicans see advantages in becoming open class warriors. They invite the voting population to join them in fighting the class war. Their program: to liberate the hardworking,
self-reliant class (those earning over $50,000) from ruinous taxation.

To that end, they will reduce and eventually eliminate handouts to the dependent clients of an overspending state controlled by those
clients’ votes.

Republicans promise to end “abusive” taxation and other government programs redistributing wealth and income from the upper 53% to the lower 47%.

This class war aims to eradicate its enemy. The dependents will lose the government handouts that destroyed their self-reliance, creativity and responsibility. Forced to become independent, like the 53%, they will abandon the Democrats, and secure Republican victory. This politics – designed to eradicate the enemy – replicates the strategy deployed earlier against another Democratic voter base, organized labor, after it returned Franklin Roosevelt to office four times.

After this class war succeeds, government will return to its “original
purposes” of military defense, law enforcement, and little more. The lower 47% will be freed from debilitating dependence to resume the happy middle-class existence that is the social optimum.

That this class narrative is not evidence-based or factual is beside
the point. Of course, vast tax reductions go to corporations and the richest citizens, just as vast subsidies do, and likewise, laws
enabling monopoly pricing, tax evasion, and so on. Corporate profits and individual wealth depend on government, too. The class warfare narrative of the US right proceeds anyway, because it plausibly promises tax cuts as relief for Americans in worsening economic difficulties.

To the extent this class war from above succeeds, Democrats will
weaken, and government assistance for the poor and working class will atrophy. Such austerity will deepen resignation, bitterness, and
depoliticization for many.

However, austerity also generates another kind of class war, in which classes are defined differently. These new class analyses, discourses and struggles are initiatives emerging in and around the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US – and analogous anticapitalist movements elsewhere. They borrow, but also depart from, earlier socialist traditions.

The exploited class (workers) produces the surplus value appropriated by the class of exploiters (capitalists). The capitalists then use that surplus to control politics and thereby sustain a social system that serves them primarily. Champions of the exploited class aim to change the system by ending the division between worker and capitalist inside the enterprises.

Unlike what happened in the USSR and the old socialist world, the
focus is now less on changes in property ownership and in the relation of markets to planning. Instead, the emphasis falls more on changing the organization of production, replacing the top-down, undemocratic dictatorship inside capitalist enterprises with the horizontal, workers’ self-direction of cooperatives. The model is less the soviet than the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation. The democratization of enterprises would enable reduced income and wealth inequality and all the political and cultural inequalities that flow therefrom.

How political struggles have changed! Conservatives and Republicans pursue one kind of class war to destroy Democrats and the welfare state with austerity programs. The Democrats weakly resist and mostly “compromise” to survive in that class war. Meanwhile, capitalism’s ongoing crisis and austerity programs provoke another, different class struggle.

Pompous predictions that class struggle was a passé concept have been proved wrong. Quite the contrary, right and left place multiple, contested class analyses and struggles at the center of politics today.

___________________________________________

Richard Wolff is an American economist writing in a British newspaper. American economists are not likely to find American newspapers in which to write about “class” or “class warfare”. Incidentally, “The Guardian” was one of the few places in which one could learn the truth about the Bush War on Iraq in 2003 when the American press had turn themselves into conduits for White House & Pentagon press releases. Wolff is also author of Capitalism Hits the Fan (2010) and Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism (2012)

 

Inequality SUCKS

ANDREW HACKER
New York Review of Books
(February 23, 2012)

Imagine a giant vacuum cleaner looming over America’s
economy, drawing dollars from its bottom to its upper
tiers. Using US Census reports, I estimate that since
1985, the lower 60 percent of households have lost $4
trillion, most of which has ascended to the top 5 percent,
including a growing tier now taking in $1 million or more
each year.1 Some of our founders foresaw this happening.
“Society naturally divides itself,” Alexander Hamilton
wrote in The Federalist, “into the very few and the many.”
His coauthor, James Madison, identified the cause.
“Unequal faculties of acquiring property,” he said, inhere
in every human grouping. If affluence results from inner
aptitudes, it might seem futile to try reining in the
rich.

All four of the books under review reject Hamilton and
Madison’s premises. All are informative, original, and
offer unusual insights. None accepts that social divisions
are inevitable or natural, and all make coherent arguments
in favor of less inequality, supported by persuasive
statistics.

Thus begins Andrew Hacker’s review of books challenging the
standard myth of American equality. The books reviewed are:

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies
Stronger
by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
Bloomsbury, 331 pp., $28.00; $18.00 (paper)

The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common
Good
by Robert H. Frank
Princeton University Press, 240 pp., $26.95

The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American
Politics
by Thomas Byrne Edsall
Doubleday, 272 pp., $24.95

Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others
by James Gilligan
Polity, 229 pp., $19.95

Check out the article at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/feb/23/were-more-unequal-you-think/

The 1% Has Been Stealing from the 99% for 30 Years

EXCERPT from COMMONDREAMS.org (November 10,2001) —

— Paul Buchheit
College teacher and founder of social justice website UsAgainstGreed.org

Redistribution of income has been taking place since 1980, when the top 1% already had a large piece of the pie (7%).

Then they took a second piece (7% more).

Then they took a third piece (7% more).

That’s over a trillion dollars a year of after-tax income that would be going to the other 99% if it weren’t for 30 years of tax cuts and deregulation.

If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000.

How do wealthy Americans respond to this? They argue that the top earners pay most of the income tax. But federal income tax is only a small part of the burden on the middle class. Based on data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the total of all state and local taxes, social security taxes, and excise taxes (gasoline, alcohol, tobacco) consumes 21% of the annual incomes of the poorest half of America. For the richest 1% of Americans, the same taxes consume 7% of their incomes. Furthermore, the richest people pay most of the federal income taxes because they’ve made ALMOST ALL the new income over the past 30 years. As productivity has risen 80%, average overall wages have remained flat.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/11/10-2

The Billionaires’ Coup d’Etat

George Monbiot, columnist with the Guardian in the United Kingdom, explains just what has happened in Great Britain and the United States. What had been our Democracy has been overturned by a Coup by the agents of the Super-Rich. You will not understand anything about what is going on in the world until you fully appreciate the magnitude of this finding. Keep in mind that this is not metaphorical but a literal explanation of reality.

A Billionaires’ Coup in the US

The debt deal will hurt the poorest Americans, convinced by
Fox and the Tea Party to act against their own welfare

By George Monbiot
The Guardian/UK
September 23, 2011

There are two ways of cutting a deficit: raising taxes or
reducing spending. Raising taxes means taking money from the
rich. Cutting spending means taking money from the poor. Not
in all cases of course: some taxation is regressive; some
state spending takes money from ordinary citizens and gives
it to banks, arms companies, oil barons and farmers. But in
most cases the state transfers wealth from rich to poor,
while tax cuts shift it from poor to rich.

So the rich, in a nominal democracy, have a struggle on their
hands. Somehow they must persuade the other 99% to vote
against their own interests: to shrink the state, supporting
spending cuts rather than tax rises. In the US they appear to
be succeeding.

Partly as a result of the Bush tax cuts of 2001, 2003 and
2005 (shamefully extended by Barack Obama), taxation of the
wealthy, in Obama’s words, “is at its lowest level in half a
century”. The consequence of such regressive policies is a
level of inequality unknown in other developed nations. As
the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz points out, in the past 10
years the income of the top 1% has risen by 18%, while that
of blue-collar male workers has fallen by 12%.

The deal being thrashed out in Congress as this article goes
to press seeks only to cut state spending. As the former
Republican senator Alan Simpson says: “The little guy is
going to be cremated.” That means more economic decline,
which means a bigger deficit. It’s insane. But how did it
happen?

The immediate reason is that Republican members of Congress
supported by the Tea Party movement won’t budge. But this
explains nothing. The Tea Party movement mostly consists of
people who have been harmed by tax cuts for the rich and
spending cuts for the poor and middle. Why would they
mobilise against their own welfare? You can understand what
is happening in Washington only if you remember what everyone
seems to have forgotten: how this movement began.

[Excerpts from THE GUARDIAN, for the complete article check http://www.guardian.co.uk]

What’s taking place in Congress right now is a kind of
political coup. A handful of billionaires have shoved a
spanner into the legislative process. Through the candidates
they have bought and the movement that supports them, they
are now breaking and reshaping the system to serve their
interests. We knew this once, but now we’ve forgotten. What
hope do we have of resisting a force we won’t even see?

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited

[George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The
Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive
State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly
column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at
http://www.monbiot.com]

Excerpts provided with attribution as a protected fair use of copyrighted materials

The Never-ending War at Home

American jobs and industries are being shipped to China, India and Indonesia facilitated by taxpayer subsidies.

Higher education becomes the exclusive preserve of the rich.

Our young men are sent around the world to bleed for Halliburton, Bechtel and Exxon among others. And when they return home maimed are given a flag and space on the stoop to sleep.

Unemployment rises and wages sink.

The aged have their Social Security pensions cut and their future lives threatened by the ‘Einsatzgruppen’ that are the Congressional Republicans and their collaborators in the White House.

The dittohead dupes cheer for the killing of those who lack health insurance.

And we’re admonished, “Don’t dare speak of a Class War”!

If it’s not a Class War then it must surely be a Class Holocaust. Their declared goals include poverty, unemployment, uninsured illness, homelessness and hunger. They are doing everything except, thus far, the use of gas and crematoria. Can that be far ahead?