Just Above Sunset Archives

January 18, 2004 - More on class warfare: The International Dialog Continues

Home | Odds and Ends | Music Notes | Book Notes | Sidebars | Culture Wars Lost | Culture Wars Won | Gay Marriage | Jesus Flogged Repeatedly | Photography | Quotes | Links and Recommendations | Archives | Daily Commentary (weblog)

More on class warfare: Work is for losers.  Portfolios are for winners real men. 
FDR was the worst, and most insidiously evil president in history.  No, I'm not making up this stuff.


And our correspondent in Paris sums up how the Europeans see all this:  Americans aren't so bad that they deserve Bush.  Not even North Koreans deserve such a fate.



In my recent posts here on the issue of the economy and job loss I was edging toward some sort of unified theory about capitalism and work.  Sort of. 

On my web log on Friday, 9 January 2004, at the end of The Brave New World, I said, with some bitterness, "Best to own a business - be a capitalist - and not to work for one."  [ Last week in this magazine here. ]

Well, here is someone as bitter, who draws the same conclusions. 

See Good for Investors, Bad for the Rest

Harold Meyerson, The Washington Post, Wednesday, January 14, 2004; Page A19

Meyerson opens with this:


If you work for a living in George W. Bush's America, you're a sap. 

Take a quick look, or a long one, at the tax code as Bush has altered it during his three years as president, and you're compelled to conclude that work has become a distinctly inferior kind of income acquisition in the eyes of the law.  Bush tax policy rewards investment and inheritance.  Relying on work for your income, by contrast, turns you into a second-class citizen. 

In his first round of tax cuts in 2001, Bush got Congress to phase out the estate tax by 2010.  Last year, with Republicans in control on Capitol Hill, he reduced the top tax rate on dividends from 39.6 percent to 15 percent, and brought the capital gains tax rate down from 20 percent to 15 percent as well. 

This year, his new budget proposes that families be allowed to shield as much as $30,000 yearly on their investment income, which will abolish all remaining taxes on such income.  Meanwhile, the income tax cuts to most middle-class families don't exceed a couple of hundred dollars, and payroll taxes for employees remain untouched.  In part, this devaluing of work is simply an expression of Bush family values.  As Kevin Phillips points out in his new biography of the Bush dynasty, the Bushes don't do anything so vulgar as going into professions.  Rather, the clan lives by its connections.  For George W.  and his brothers, work has meant riffling through Pappy's Rolodex.  Theirs is the cronyest form of capitalism. 

But a broader theory is at work here, too.  It says that investment, rather than labor, powers economic growth, so rewarding investment is merely the most direct way to help the economy.


Im so glad it's just not me. 

It seems the current theory, or the theory of the current administration, is that Clark and the Democrats have it all wrong.  Tax breaks for ordinary working folks who might actually spend the money and fire up the economy won't do the economy any good. 

You have to get business, particularly large corporations, and the wealthy, feeling good and optimistic.  That's where the growth begins. 
Meyerson's take on that?


A lovely theory, but if anyone thinks the Bush tax cuts have spurred economic growth, I have a low-tax investment in a bridge to Brooklyn.  To be sure, investment income and corporate profits are high.  But just 278,000 new jobs have been generated since June, which means the recovery is about 7.5 million jobs shy of the norm for post-World War II recoveries.  Bush's Council of Economic Advisers had predicted job growth of 510,000 from the 2003 tax cuts, plus another 1,335,000 new jobs, during the second half of last year.


This seems to be the worst unemployment situation since 1944-45, when WWII was running down.  The very worst by far. 

Yeah, well, but corporate profits are way up.  What about that?  Doesn't that matter?

Well, what about that?  One doesn't get warm optimistic fuzzies about that when you cannot find work.  And a lot of people cannot. 

But corporations are making tons of money. 

Ah yes, but I was writing specifically about outsourcing and jobs disappearing because of that.  How does outsourcing and tax policy fit in here?

Heres how Meyerson sees that:


Outsourcing has turned the phrase "investment-led growth" into the grimmest of oxymorons.  It means that Bush's tax policy subsidizes job growth in India and China rather than the United States.  And in failing to create more employment here at home, the tax cuts have also helped depress wages.  Real wages in the United States actually fell 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.


And he says this of the response of those who would run against Bush:


To all this, the Democratic presidential candidates have proposed a reversal of the Bush tax priorities.  John Edwards is the most explicit, calling for an increase in taxes on most forms of investment income while lowering the taxes on employment.  Wesley Clark has proposed eliminating income taxes for more than half the households in the United States, and Howard Dean is reportedly mulling over a plan to cut payroll taxes. 

All that is good in itself, but doesn't really grapple with the conundrum of job creation in a globalized economy.


So what does?

Meyerson argues for something like FDR-style public works projects.  Public investment.  Remember the WPA and NRA (not the National rifle Association - think the 1930s and dams and roads and things). 

Ah yes, but I have been on the receiving end of many a lecture from my conservative friend on how FDR was by far the worst president in American history, responsible for destroying the American character.  How?  He made people lose their self-reliance and sense of personal responsibility, turning them into infantile whiners, people who saw themselves as victims, who felt is was their right to have some "mommy government" intervene and make things all better, when they should have changed their attitudes and taken responsibility for themselves - and acted like adults, not self-righteous children.  FDR created a nation of dependent whiners. 

And it's not just my conservative friend.  Perhaps later I'll review the three or four books published in the last eighteen months that make that argument. 

Is all this class warfare?  You bet.


Of course, Joseph, my cynical friend now living in France wrote this:


Almost self-evident is the fact that the definition of "class warfare" is "when the middle classes think about fighting back."


I received the new Chomsky tome for Christmas.  Good, but nothing really new if you are familiar with his work.  Nevertheless, he does a nice job of illustrating that the American people are every bit as idealistic as our leaders keep telling us we are, so much so that we just really have no conception what scumbags some people are.  This in turn makes it completely impossible for most of us to see that we are nearly continuously bamboozled by utter scumbags who do what scumbags do, all while painting it in idealistic tones.  Perhaps those nasty Europeans ARE cynical.  And perhaps that is why they tend not to fall in such overwhelming numbers for such claptrap.


This set off my friend Rick in Atlanta:




I'm reading Frankens "Lies, etc." and just finished a part where he mentions that every time someone points out something like the fact that over 50% of the Bush tax cuts go to the top 1% of the population, the Republicans scream "Class Warfare!! Class Warfare!!"


Franken then goes on to describe a scene from a Barbara Tuchman history in which peasants in France in the middle ages rise up and storm the manor house, killing and butchering the Lord in front of his wife and kids, roasting his remains in the fireplace, then gang-raping the wife in front of the kids, then forcing her to eat her roasted husband, still in front of the kids. He concludes with the observation, "Now THAT's class warfare!  THAT's class warfare!!"


You say perhaps those nasty Europeans ARE cynical.  And perhaps that is why they tend not to fall in such overwhelming numbers for such clap-trap


With the possible exception, of course, for World Wars I and II?


The Ric in Pairs reacted:


No doubt the witness kids declined to ever engage in reverse "class warfare."


[As for WWI and WWII]


In the beautiful summer of 1914 most middle-class Europeans thought they were going to have a three-week-long little war to break the monotony of the Belle Epoque, somewhat like the short Franco-Prussian War of 1870, which was marred only by the little folks in Paris violently objecting to Versailles losing it.  They, not the Prussians, were wiped out by the French.


To get even with the "little folks," the First World War was launched innocently enough by the usual hapless boobies in power, who decided to prove once and for all how utterly stupid they could be.  In case nobody learned the lesson, Part II drove the point home.


Now, hapless and nasty Europeans are cynical, with good reason.


However Americans shouldn't worry about this too much.  Boobies still exist everywhere and if necessary, they will conscript all the bodies they need for WWIII - starting with members of the US National Guard.


"Class warfare" should begin at home and at the bottom - for a change.


Well, perhaps it is beginning at home.


Rick in Atlanta to Ric in Paris:


Everything you say up to your account of WWIII, I think, probably makes pretty good history. ... I also seriously doubt that the present gaggle of "hapless boobies" in power over here will very easily be able to get this nation behind another war anytime soon.


In fact, I'd be interested to see someone do a poll on that.


I suppose if worse came to worse, Americans might see the virtue in a war against North Korea if that country goes over the top.  Still, I do believe any talk about marching on to Syria or Iran or whatever would not garner enough enthusiasm to make it happen, given what I think is the general belief around here, even among its supporters, that the Iraq war didn't really go all that well, all things considered.


Wait, we've moved from class warfare to the war in general!


No matter.  Ric in Paris offers this:


Even Europeans acknowledge that the war in Irak - Iraq - was pretty good.


What Europeans were always worried about was the peace to follow it.


Europeans are still worried about it.


Exclusive for Just Above Sunset:


In order to gauge anti-American sentiment here, your Paris reporter talked to Farid, publisher and operator of "Thé Troc," a major outlet for anti-American propaganda in Paris - which has a metro population of nine or eleven million, depending on whether it's a ski-holiday week or a working weekday.


According to Farid - pronounced 'FAR eed' - he sells about 100 units a week - or was it month? - of subversive material.  Half of all sales are to collectors, hoping to cash in on eBay in 2024, because they were too young to collect souvenirs of May '68 in Paris.  The other half is sold to hip kids who think the drawings on the t-shirts are cool.


Today's Le Parisien devotes two-thirds of a page to stories about Americans being harassed for coming from Bushland.  The adverse quotes all cite Bush rather than Iraq, rather than Israel.


It is a mystery to me how Le Parisien 'found' these Americans.  Here I am, knowing several Americans, sounding like one myself, and running a weekly club meeting in a public place where many members are Americans, as well as being somewhat exposed by having a publicly-accessible web site.  No one, not one, of any of the people I know or have met, has mentioned one word about any kind of harassment by Parisians.


This is not to say there haven't been "discussions."  By chance I seem to know only "refugees" from America, but how can Parisians know this?  If anything, Parisians express sympathy - Americans aren't so bad that they deserve Bush.  Not even North Koreans deserve such a fate.


Meanwhile, red-commie French-German Arte-TV continued its un-American efforts last week by running a documentary about the life and death of Bobby Kennedy.


This is to be followed in the same time-slot next week with a documentary about Wehrmacht General Botho Henning Elster, who was field commander of troops in Marseille, then Biarritz.  After the Normandy invasion - 60 years ago in June - he led a rear-guard action that moved north, with 25,000 troops.   Along the way General Elster made contact with the Résistance, and then US Army Secret Intelligence agents, to arrange a surrender.  This was successfully completed in September 1944 when he surrendered his command, and intact troops, to the 822nd Military Police Company.


On second thought, Canada should attack the United States.  Losing is always more profitable than winning; except for Iraq.


Rick in Atlanta (Decatur) ended with this:


With that in mind, when they do, maybe we should surrender!


Start these discussions and you never know where they'll lead.