Classless Warfare

When a President proposes a sweeping, highly progressive new tax plan to a deeply divided conservative Congress smack in the middle of a presidential campaign season, it is pretty clear that he doesn’t actually think he can get it passed. It is a converstaion starter. Or an opening shot for further negotiations. Or, more directly, it is a campaign issue. It’s politics.

Fair enough. Red meat to the progressive base has been few and far between lately, and we finally have something to get excited about it. And let’s face it – the “Buffet plan”, or whatever this proposal will eventually be called- is great. We love it. Any proposal at this level that actually acknowledges the gross inequality in the current federal tax structure is, in our opinion, moving the converstaion in a positive direction.

The President explicitly stated “This is not class warfare — it’s math. The money has to come from some place,” he said. “If we’re not willing to ask those who’ve done extraordinarily well to help America close the deficit… the math says everybody else has to do a whole lot more, we’ve got to put the entire burden on the middle class and the poor.”

So, why the outcry from conservatives that this proposal is “class warfare” against the rich? It seems incredibly irresponsible to be crowing about “class warfare” when we are actively engaged in two real wars. You know, the ones where people die?  The ones the conservatives pushed so hard, and are, in no small part, a significant cause of our current fiscal position? Remember them?

But we use these ridiculous terms all the time and we scarcely think about them: the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty, the War on Terror, or the War on Litter (ok, so I made that one up – kinda.) None of these “wars” have been terribly effective, so one might wonder why we continue to fight them, or why we continue to evoke the imagery of war in our peacetime pursuits.

If critics of the the President’s tax proposal were serious, they would have to acknowledge that the past twenty years have been a war on the low- and middle- class. For most of us, real household income stagnated (or actually decreased), tax rates increased, and living standards decreased, while the rich enjoyed unparalleled increases in wealth, reduced tax burdens, and the largest gap between rich and poor since before the Great Depression.

So, if the talking heads invoking the moniker of war were being truthful, they might be a bit more careful with their choice of fighting words, less we understand what they’re actually saying. Just some friendly advice guys – we’re starting to do the math and we don’t like what we’re finding.

The case for class warfare is beginning to look as flimsy as the case for war in Iraq. Have you noticed the common denominator between the two? The same people that called for our war in Iraq are crying class warfare now. Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice…