I am sooooooo sick of the media quoting Republican candidates and other spoutoffians bloviating about how raising the tax rates on the upper 1% of American taxpayers is “class warfare.” Do they really think the American public is that dumb? Or are they wishing for the good old days of the Communist Boogeyman? We already have different income tax rates for different income brackets. Adjusting those to require billionaires to contribute more of their surplus to their country is not “class warfare.” It is asking those who have profited most from America to be proportionally PATRIOTIC and pay their fair share. It is a rational adjustment of the tax code, like all of the many past adjustments in our history.
The upper 1% does not constitute a “class” in anyone’s definition of the term. The Marxist idea of “class warfare” was that the workers should rise up and demand control of the means of production from their bourgeois employers and that the Serfs and other service workers in a society be considered citizens, not slaves. Leninism was about overthrowing the Tsar and his corrupt and cruel aristocracy. America is a progressive country. It changes itself as the world and human ideas change. In fact, we often lead the way where the world needs to change. Witness the Woman’s Movement and the worldwide struggle for equal civil rights for women. Indeed we were also world leaders in the rights of workers to make a wage in proportion to the contribution they make to their company. That is, workers of any pay grade. Indeed witness our own Revolution.
The “Class System” that Marx and other 19th-century thinkers were rebelling against was a social structure in which people were defined by birth, education, and privilede according to clear-cut social classes. Kings, Nobles, Aristocrats, the Gentry, Burgesses, and the Commons. The Commons included a range of occupations and some commoners could, through owning factories and investing their money become member of the Burger class — essentially affluent men of business and their families. The poor at the bottom were not really counted as any sort of “class.” When the United States rebelled against the British Monarchy and their status as mere “colonies,” they challenged the whole idea of Class Society. Our constitution did away with titles of nobility and proclaimed everyone to be equally citizens.
Or, at any rate, the white men of property. There were still slaves, indentured servants, apprentices, and workers who comprised a kind of American “Commons” but they were not defined as a “class.” Over time, men without land, people of color, and women achieved full citizen’s rights and priviledges. But no “class” of persons was privileged by law because of their birth or family. The wealth that has accumulated over the last 233 years in the United States has made certain families very very rich, but they are not by law accorded any special priviledges. They may be able to live high on the hog and wield political influence by contributing to the campaigns of those politicians who they believe will protect their private property. They may even be able to find sharp ways to evade their taxes or make money in unethical and immoral ways. But in America there are no classes — not “Rich vs. Poor” or “Management vs. Labor.” Those are structural aspects of our society and economic system, which ought not have any special sanction by anyone. The rhetoric of the stump seems to want us to believe that Democrats are all Maxists, a claim that can only demonstrate the ignorance of whoever makes it.
The fact that there are owners of corporations and that they hire workers who sell their labor, is a systemic fact of free market capitalism. Nobody gets assigned to work for someone else by a Central Politburo or by a social system of classes such as existed in the United Kingdom and Ancién Régime Europe. Each individual searches for a job in a free-for-all market of jobs. America accords its citizens the freedom to do so.
We might talk about “affluent people” as some sort of vague group, but really, in America “affluent people” can be anything from corporate CEO’s to schoolteachers and factory workers. The problem is that we go through periods when the markets contract, including the jobs market. When that happens, as at present, loads of unemployed people are at risk of falling below the poverty line. In America in the 21st Century, it is embarrassing to me that we even still have a “poverty line.” If the Republican Party really was a Grand Old Party of Patriots, they might take more pride in their country and take steps to eliminate that poverty line altogether. Surely American Ingenuity could make it so. We have no shortage of resources. Nor do we have a shortage of social institutions through which such a change could be effected. But the GOP seems to be so stuck in its own gloopy rhetoric of “No New Taxes,” “Fiscal Conservatism,” “Anti-Socialism,” and “Culture War,” that it has become nothing but a drag on our country. They do not behave as if we are all equal, as if we are a “Christian Nation,” nor do they seem to even think we are One Nation Under God. If they do, I am at a loss to explain what god they are worshipping.
The United States of America was created, and exists as a continuous creation, moving always towards the improvement of the quality of life and the scope of freedom its people want. Nobody is supposed to be privileged. Everyone has the same rights and privileges unless they violate the law, and then they lose their freedom and many other rights. It may be true that by criminalizing so many human failings we have created a “criminal class” but it still isn’t an intentional part of our social organization. It is just a stupid muddle. We have, through our ideas of law and justice, created such a vast number of incarcerated criminals that they could almost start their own political party. Indeed, if one were to count all those persons on parole or otherwise under “correctional supervision” they constitute what must be the lowest 3% of our citizens. (take a look at the graph in the linked article and see if you don’t find it disturbing).
Beyond even our poor brothers and sisters, who constitute now around 15% of the U.S. population, the incarcerated “class” (if it were a class) is three times as big as the “class” of citizens that the President suggests should pay a higher tax rate. Now, of course, some of the residents of our prisons are not technically poor because they got in by making money in illegal ways. So, even losing their ill-gotten gains, they may still have full bank accounts waiting for them on the outside.
If I were to make a modest proposal, I might suggest that we eliminate poverty and bring home the realities of the seven million adults in prisons by closing the prisons entirely, along with the homeless shelters and have all those millions of Americans move in with the top 1% in their mansions. If these top tier Americans, the people we all look up to and admire (for their wealth if not for their creativity or business acumen), came home every day to have destitute, unemployed Americans in their guest rooms, and some others of their fellow citizens who failed to make it in the market without resorting to illegal means, then they would really be stepping up and doing their job as this country’s leaders. They would be exemplifying the teachings of Jesus and all of the other great men of the past, all of whom advocated for those whose lives are a product of misfortune.
If I have my figures correct, this means that the 1% who control nearly half of America’s wealth number some 3 million citizens, while the bottom 15% below the “poverty line” constitute around 47 million citizens. That would mean that the Ultras (if I may call them that without intending to imply they constitute a “class”) would each take 15 of their fellow Americans into their homes. As most of them presumably have more than one house, this does not seem an unreasonable burden. Each would additinally take in three of their fellow citizens under “correctional supervision” and do their best to correct them.
I suppose that every on of the 3 million Ultras could assign members of their staff to give these 18 or so of their fellow Americans room and board and help them find a job. Heavens, each of the Ultras could probably hire 18 people into their own offices and factories. But by housing these unfortunate people, each one could also get to know them, care about them as individuals, and take responsibility for helping them. It would be of immeasurable benefit to the Ultras themselves, extending their moral scope and feeling the good feelings of helping one’s fellow citizens.
The GOP seems to believe that all of the 3 million Ultras in America are Christians. So, taking that as a given, they would be practicing their religious faith in a beautiful way. Of course, the government is not going to do it for them. Each Ultra has to go out and find his or her 18 citizens in need — 15 in poverty, and 3 in need of “correction.” There is no better form of “correction” than extending love and goodwill to a person. And not a relative or friend. No indeed. A person who was hitherto a stranger. Therein lies the joy in the heart of the Good Samaritan.
I think it is a good idea. It would be nice if one of the GOP presidential candidates took it up as a New Deal. Instead of Big Government offering handouts, the 3 million Ultras could voluntarily show the rest of us just where the moral center is in the United States. Then they might be not merely Ultra-Rich, but also Ultra-Popular. An what fun they could have competing with each other to see who could raise up more of their fellow Americans. Then we could all stand proud before the world and before God — proud that we had no more prisons and no such thing as a poverty line. We CAN do it. That’s why we call ourselve’s Americans and not American’ts.
Solstice blessings to the 1%. May they find the goodwill and courage to live up to their position of leadership, and become truly admirable, to reach out directly to those who need a hand, and take them into their own homes, and give them the benefit of the knowledge and skill that got them where they are — at the top. Then, they might even volunteer to pay a higher tax rate or at least chip in to buy the Pentagon a new aircraft carrier.