Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Class Warfare. Again.

Republicans have their kickers in knots because noted Socialist Warren Buffet has advocated raising taxes on the super-rich. “Class warfare!” is the rallying cry from Fox News and its ilk. (Is there any way for “ilk” to sound complimentary? Certainly not when used in conjunction with “Fox News” or “Tea Party” or “child molester.” Not saying Fox news and the Tea Party are child molesters. I just tried to think of the worst thing I could call someone, since “Fascist” lost all meaning when Obama was declared one by Lyndon Larouche’s acolytes.)

Apparently the Right believes class warfare can only happen by pitting one class against the rich. This is not true, though that is traditionally how it has been done, primarily because the poor do not have anything anyone else wants. Ah, but this is the Twenty-First Century, where Brave New World is as passé as “See Dick run” and Ayn Rand has replaced Thomas Jefferson as the paragon of rational political thought. Conservatives have found one thing the poor have that’s worth taking.


Taking money from people who don’t have any is not just hard to do, it’s hard to advocate. We’re not quite ready for the Al Swearengen approach of “hit them over the head, take their money, and throw their bodies in the creek,” though we’re headed down that slippery slope. No, for this we have to resort to a tried and true conservative meme: these people are screwing you, and we’re your only friend.

Conservatives have a revered tradition with this approach. For years blacks were the enemy, taking white jobs, sleeping with white women, and looking better with shaved heads than any white man. Immigrants had their day, but vilifying them has lost its sheen since the economy became so bad even Mexicans don’t want to come here anymore. Now it’s the poor’s turn, except no one can say “let’s take money from the poor” without invoking Dickensian images even from those who think a Dickensian is someone whose work pants aren’t Levis or Wranglers.

“How can we take money from the poor and get the middle class to think it’s a good idea?” Oh, how this must have tortured many a conservative soul late into many sleepless nights. Then some 60-watt bulb noticed that almost half of all Americans don’t pay income tax, and boom! Inspiration.

All real Americans hate freeloaders, and in tough times everyone (except the rich) are expected to contribute. Never mind that most of those non-taxpaying goldbricks are seniors living on Social Security who don’t draw enough benefits to pay tax. Most of the others either make so little money the standard deductions wipe out their Gross Adjusted Income, or programs like the Earned Income Credit or Child Tax Credit bring them under the line. (Note: Republicans repeatedly vote for these programs, and have expressed no interest in undoing them.)

While the poor don’t always pay income tax, they do pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. (If they’re lucky enough to have jobs.) These are regressive taxes, especially Social Security, thanks to the cap, which means there are poor people in this country who pay no income tax, yet still pay a higher percentage of their wages in overall taxes than do the rich.

Conservatives have no sense of irony. They fail to realize a flaw that is implicit in their argument: we now live in a country where almost half the people don’t make enough money to pay income tax.

Does that bother anyone but me? Of course, I’m one of those who still thinks the banks and financial institutions were responsible for the current mess, and refuses to blame the public workers and unions because it was their unreasonable salary demands and lack of work ethic that caused mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps to lose their (perceived) value and become exposed for the Ponzi schemes they always were, thus precipitating the Great Recession of 2008. Silly me.

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