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Michael Winship: Oh, What a Lovely Class War!

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

Oh, What a Lovely Class War!
By Michael Winship

My goodness, how they howl when the proverbial shoe is on the proverbial other foot. You’d think the Red Army had just left Moscow and was preparing a frontal assault on the Federal Reserve.

So what are conservatives, Wall Street and financial television commentators shouting? Socialists! That's right. Spread the word: Socialists are swarming over our nation's capitol, and making off with the means of production, otherwise known as campaign contributions and the Federal budget. You got trouble, my friends.

The hysteria started during the campaign, retreated a bit but was back full throttle by the day after the inauguration. President Obama’s left hand was barely off Abraham Lincoln’s Bible as South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint told the January 21st edition of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, “What I'm looking to do as a conservative leader in the Senate is to identify those Republicans, and even some Democrats, and put together a consensus of people who can help stop this slide toward socialism.”

Newt Gingrich, resurrected yet again, proclaims his Contract on America has been cancelled and replaced by Barack Obama's “European socialism.” Josh Bolin, founder of the conservative website Reagan.org, is quoted in THE NEW YORK TIMES, saying, “Socialism is something new for us to hit Obama over the head with,” and a panel at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference was titled, “Bailing Out Big Business: Are We All Socialists Now?”

And what do all these pesky socialists coming out from the woodwork want? Why, class war, of course. Arise, ye workers from your slumbers, at least in time to watch early morning TV. On THE TODAY SHOW last week, CNBC’s Jim Cramer alleged that President Obama was perpetrating ‘an agenda in this country now that I would regard as being a radical agenda,” adding, “This is the most, greatest wealth destruction I've seen by a president.”

Joan Walsh of Salon.com noted several hundred references to Obama and “class warfare” when she searched the words on Google News at the beginning of March and wondered “why are mainstream reporters pushing this storyline?”

The truth is, there’s nothing new about any of this. A famous New Deal-era cartoon in THE NEW YORKER shows Manhattan swells in black tie urging neighbors to, “Come along. We’re going to the Trans-Lux to hiss Roosevelt.” And as financial historian Charles Geisst told the TIMES, “To hear [FDR] referred to as Comrade Roosevelt during that period was not unusual.”

But although Obama embraces FDR analogies, in some respects he’s a piker by comparison. THE COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW linked to a chart from the National Taxpayers Union and noted, “The top marginal rate of 39.6 percent that Obama is proposing is actually low by historical standards—he may be adopting FDR-style rhetoric, but his tax plan isn’t in the same ballpark. And it wasn’t only Roosevelt. Throughout the Eisenhower administration, top tax rates exceeded 90 percent. Under Nixon, they never dropped below 70 percent. Even for most of Ronald Reagan’s term, they were at 50 percent. Those presidents aren’t often thought of as ‘class warriors.’”

Nor did Democrats or progressives fire the first shots in any so-called class war. As the recently poorer multibillionaire Warren Buffet said a couple of years ago, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

America wasn’t founded as a nation where winner takes all but over the last couple of decades, that’s the way it has turned out. The central vision of “We, the people” has been distorted and manipulated by the powerful and privileged doing their damnedest as they wage class war to sustain their way of life at the expense of everybody else, even in this current crisis.

“Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America,” a report released last week by the non-profit citizen’s group Essential Information and the Consumer Education Foundation finds that “from 1998-2008, Wall Street investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies and insurance conglomerates made $1.7 billion in political contributions and spent another $3.4 billion on lobbyists, a financial juggernaut aimed at undercutting federal regulation.”

According to Harvey Rosenfield, president of the Consumer Education Foundation, “Depression-era programs that would have prevented the financial meltdown that began last year were dismantled, and the warnings of those who foresaw disaster were drowned in an ocean of political money. Americans were betrayed, and we are paying a high price – trillions of dollars – for that betrayal.”

The truth of the matter may be that, as Nate Silver wrote at FiveThirtyEight.com, “The stock market is engaged in something of a pity party – the prevailing emotions being fear and loathing. It is concerned about policies which might be burdensome to equity holders in large corporations while perhaps nevertheless being boons to economic recovery.”

Add to that a heavy dose of petulance, arrogance and malice stirred further by any attempt at curtailing their rice pudding days. While the dives in the stock markets are real enough, the screams and rending of bespoke garments carry more than the hint of self-inflicted wounds, in the manner of spoiled kids saying “I meant to do that,” when they break a toy, even though this administration is seeking solutions by joining hands with the very financial institutions that got us into the jam in the first place – including private equity firms and hedge funds.

Cries of Socialism! – with their insinuations of sedition and Bolsheviks under the bedstead – ring hollow, especially with the threat of global Communism 20 years past and many in the financial world opting for expediency over ideology. The basic truth is that there are no easy answers, no quick fixes, no kiss to the body politic that will make it all better.

Nonetheless, they lash out, flailing madly, saddling up straw horses and conjuring memories of McCarthy-like witch hunts, desperate to point the finger at anyone but themselves.

Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


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Comments

The Republicans sold out the people.

And Now

The Democrats will sell out the Country.

What a wonderful bipartisan Life the American People live in. I guess we need these guys in OUR OWN Party to tell us what's best for us, since we're not smart enough to do it ourselves.

Forget about standing for wholesome principles and morals, Do whatever feels good for the moment.

The wealthy in this country have been reaping the rewards of "outsourcing" and so-called free trade for decades, while the middle class disappears, and the ranks of the poor swell. Since about 1980, the top 1% of wage earners have seen their share of income taxes rise 176% (they pay almost twice as much of the total income tax revenue now as they did then). This is especially galling when you consider that the top tax bracket was (after Reagan gave them a break from 70% to 50% in 1981) to 33% (at the time of the statistics I read). So, they pay a larger piece of the income tax pay...as the top bracket got smaller. The wealthy have seen their share explode. The bottom 20% of wage earners only saw their income tax go up by 6% in that same time frame. We need to restore a progressive income tax, raise capital gains taxes, and ensure that "free trade" is freely pursued between nations with wage parity. This means changes need to be made. And we all know that change hurts those who are benefitting from the status quo. I guess this is why those at the top are crying "class warfare". Eight years of Bush and Greenspan (though it really started in the 80s) have shown that "trickle down" does not work.

One way to fight the class war is to help your neighbor. The best way is to buy products that are Made in the USA. That will employ people here, rather than in a foreign country. The job you save may be your own! The government cannot impose Made in the USA restrictions on any rescue package due to trade rules and inevitable retaliation by others. It is also not good policy to do so. However, you as a consumer can make a conscious decision to help your neighbors. If a store does not have products that have been Made in the USA, ask the manager why not. Do not always go for the lowest price. Remember, if you always buy lowest ignoring US products, eventually you will pay more in taxes to support the unemployed worker. Eventually you may find yourself unemployed as well.

One way to fight the class war is to help your neighbor. The best way is to buy products that are Made in the USA. That will employ people here, rather than in a foreign country. The job you save may be your own! The government cannot impose Made in the USA restrictions on any rescue package due to trade rules and inevitable retaliation by others. It is also not good policy to do so. However, you as a consumer can make a conscious decision to help your neighbors. If a store does not have products that have been Made in the USA, ask the manager why not. Do not always go for the lowest price. Remember, if you always buy lowest ignoring US products, eventually you will pay more in taxes to support the unemployed worker. Eventually you may find yourself unemployed as well.

Here comes the hyperinflation train and the middle-class car is trapped on the crossing. What are you doing to prepare for the time when the dollar buys a penny? Are you assessing the barter possibilities in your community? Have you established a time dollar bank with your neighbors? "Socialism" (everybody getting basic needs met) looks pretty good beside the capitalist crap shoot in a crisis. We can always restore competition and rewards later but we need to eat and sleep today. You do own your labor, but it is the powerful who render it unmarketable and worthless. On the deathbed most are believers; and in the Deluge most are Socialists, excepting the sadists.

Hmmm... Elitist Always Cry Socialism!

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class,
that’s making war, and we’re winning.” - Warren Buffet

1) Upper Class... Empowered!

Deregulation
Global Economy
Tax Advantages

2) Middle Class... Distracted!

Terrorism
War
Abortion Rights
Gay Marriage
School Prayer
Immigration
Scandal

3) Lower Class... Controlled!

Minimum Wage
Law Enforcement
Prisons
Government Assistance

"America wasn’t founded as a nation where winner takes all but over
the last couple of decades, that’s the way it has turned out. The
central vision of “We, the people” has been distorted and manipulated
by the powerful and privileged doing their damnedest as they wage
class war to sustain their way of life at the expense of everybody
else, even in this current crisis." - Michael Winship

Excellent article, thank you.

Could this all be going according to plan? When you hear the rhetoric coming from the GOP about the AIG bonuses, it kind of sounds like they are trying to get the middle class up in arms and out in the streets. First they threaten martial law if TARP wasn't past, now they cry about the abuses they made sure would be allowed to take place.

They have already built the detention centers. They have also gone on record as to keeping a "Shadow Government" going even though Obama was elected. Could mass civil unrest be the next "Pearl Harbor" for the Neo Cons.

The Republicans have so much gall, using "European socialism" to mindlessly "hurt" the new administration.

As if unfettered capitalism and government sycophancy have done really great things for working-class Americans during the past 30 years...

Here's the big story: With universal health coverage, mass transit that really works, and rational taxation of our (universally whiney) comrades of the upper class, Europeans are doing something right.

This is a response to Karen Armstrong: Imagine being a woman in 14th century Europe and being accused of and tried for witchcraft. First tortured and then burned at a stake. This is how women feel in your so-called Moslem world. Women are first flocked and then buried waist down in the ground then stoned to death and the charge is not even known or may be adultery! You tell me which one is more humane.
This is what women are feeling in the Islamic world. You are either a liar or you do not know the history. The Great first Shah of Iran and Great Attaturk of modern Turkey, they did not kill people because they refused to take off their veil, but they tried to cleanse the society from those Islamic leeches who have been sucking the human wealth of the society for fifteen hundred years. Why do you not mention the religious police in Iran and Saudi Arabia that they use bayonet to slash the throat of young women who refuse to wear veil or worse they do not have proper veil or they are trying to cut the hand of a 12-year old boy who wrote a word out of being a child in the wall of a mosque in Pakistan.
Believe me, if Muhammad had been living in the 21st century, he would have either had the faith of Ben Laden hiding in some caves for the fear of retribution or in a prison charged and convicted for murder, robberies, rape, and pedophilia, or at best dead somewhere.
Take it from me an ex-Moslem woman who lived in an Islamic society and is ashamed of being even associated with this religion at some time in my life.

Mitra L.

I chuckled all the way through this. Starting with the "shoe is on the other foot" - my mother used to say that - and ending with the temper tantrums of spoiled, self-centered babies. My mother's response to temper tantrums was of the Depression-era variety - a swift swat on the backside and "go to your room until you can behave properly".

My eyes travelled on from the last line of the column to the first line of the weasel words; "Please note that the views and opinions expressed etc. etc. . . ". I would here and now like to say that: These views and opinions exactly accord with my own on this subject.

Perhaps a little more of mothers' discipline would have yielded adults (I can't call them grown-ups) who could be ashamed of behaving like 3-year-olds. I despair of any cure at this late stage. The only thing to do is send them to their rooms.

Question:

Are neo-conservative Republicans and Democrats happy with the current state of things in the U.S.? Have events worked out perfectly as planned, or have they gone awry? If the goal was to bankrupt the economy so that the growing ethnic diversity in this country would be set back 50 years in changing the structures of power, they have succeeded marvelously.

Congress is bipolar not bipartisan. There are many smart, competant, well intentioned, newly elected members to both houses & parties that are beaten into Washington form by the ole seniority system before they are even heard from.

Change the seniority system in Congress, or repeat, repeat, repeat, crisis, after crisis, after crisis. Ex. Savings & Loan, current financial melt down, ear marks, wasted tax dollars not anticipated by the roll-over for their campaign money treats Congressmen!

Change the Structure of Congress!

It is sort of like the Republicans & Democrats are 1st cousins, had a baby named Congress! The gene pool needs to be expanded by 3rd, maybe 4th parties--won't be any more grid-lock than the last 50 yrs.

Frustrat-it-le,
Billy Bob, Florida

“The Republicans have already cleaned out the federal Treasury!”
“We will probably get an award for the nation with the most debt!”
Oh, Yes, we have been getting the award right along, by consistently
devaluating the currency by printing press confiscation, where
1 (one) once of gold is selling now for $1000.00. The “party of money” have been
covering the ramped corruption by "We've been around for 75 years and
nobody's ever lost a penny of insured deposits?" Devaluation of the currency
by thousands of percents amounts to worthless currency!"
The indoctrination by devaluation succeeded to convince citizens, “It's the same
products, it's the same services, it's the same people, taking care of the same customers!"
“The class warfare, ... the rich class, that’s making war, ...” goes on!

There are solutions to our current problems. And they are easy to understand. Unfortunately, they will never be discussed on this program.

1. Abolish the Federal Reserve. This private bank's total control of our economic system has brought us to disaster.

2. End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, close all foreign military bases and withdraw all US troops. All of them. Now.

3. Start a new, fully independent investigation of 9/11. People need to know the full corruption of our government.

4. Expose Obama for the fraud he is. Obama is a servant of Wall Street.

The Obama Deception

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7886780711843120756&ei=PLe6SeyrDJ3eqAPiz920AQ&q=obama+deception&hl=en

"The problem with corporate capitalism is that eventually you run out of the taxpayers' money."

-- REALITY

People go to the Federal Reserve web site and find out just who the FEDS are, it has nothing to do with any government branch. We have to pay them to print our money. JFK tried to change that in 1963, check exec order 11110. He had the sense to put a stop to the FEDS, and that would have kept us out of the mess we're in now. good luck to all.

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." -Margaret Thatcher

I doubt very much that there is a chance that the Red Army would bother to assault the Federal Reserve. The Republicans have already cleaned out the federal Treasury. We will probably get an award for the nation with the most debt.
We learned nothing from the Vietnam war and we learned nothing from the thirties depression.
We need to provide more buying power to support the demand side of economics so that the demand side of economics can support the supply side of economics.
Economics is a dynamic system not a static system and needs a constant and sufficient flow of finances to support a quality nation.

to chris: if only they would 'decide their destiny'. up until now it has been my experience that most citizens accept anything as long as they could live peacefully in their nuclear family. now that that world has been exploded,and people feel like a 'sack of potatoes' turned upside down,and dumped on the ground that they are taking a hard look at "washington". thank the gods for Obama and his fearless approach to all things which try to force him into cowtowing to the old ways whichy have put so many peoples very lives in severe jeopardy.hurray for the middle class.hooray for change in our perspective.we the "people" cannot put up withe these scoundrels anymore.

Well of course we have socialism! This is the system whereby taxpayer dollars are used to fund things that real Americans do not want -- like schools, police and fire departments, roads, hospitals, libraries and parks, and all those other crazy liberal "common good" programs.

Great article, THANK YOU.

I'm so tired of Republican "tactics." Michael Winship did a good job of providing background for those who really should read his piece. I wonder if any of them will. He probably should have included an actual definition, for those who are spoonfed on Fox.

Speaking of Amending the Constitution (as Chris, above, did), I'd like to speak up in favor of an amendment that makes it clear that "personhood" is reserved for living breathing individuals, NOT for corporations. I first heard about that effort in an interview with Ricki Ott, author of Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. I'd also like to see an end to the legal concept that MONEY equals protected speech.

I dyed myself pink and walked up and down Wall Street: Then I wrote a book called "Socialist Like Me." (I am employed at MS and was formerly at the Goldman's Sack.)Oh Michael Winship you'll never know how "we" socialists are abused by progressives like yourself. Sometimes we feel like the Whos on their tiny planet of dust heard only by an allegic elephant. How will you ever understand that we are completely correct in everything we propose. We pink ones are not content to save ourselves, but must also include our most violent enemies. You haven't caught the socialist bug yet, nor sneezed an honest egalitarian sneeze, Michael Winship.

You have stated the facts very well.
“Depression-era programs that would have prevented the financial meltdown that began last year were dismantled, and the warnings of those who foresaw disaster were drowned in an ocean of political money. Americans were betrayed, and we are paying a high price – trillions of dollars – for that betrayal.”
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
“The basic truth is that there are no easy answers, no quick fixes, no kiss to the body politic that will make it all better.”
The only solution to end “CLASS WARFARE” is:
“AMMEND THE CONSTITUTION”
Empower the people to express their “WILL on ALL ISSUES.”
It should be a RIGHT and PRIVILEGE for ALL the citizens to decide their destiny!

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