Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Class Warfare"

The last few days have seen a flurry of charges and counter-charges over President Obama's proposal to include tax hikes on the wealthiest American's as a solution to our debt crises and to create enough money to implement a "jobs program." The immediate and vociferous response from the Republican's was that he was initiating "class warfare" pitting one class against another.

The sad truth is that we have had class warfare for some time and the war is basically over--the rich won. The last three decades have seen an unprecedented rise in persoanl wealth for those at the top of the food chain while those in the middle and at the bottom have stagnated. The irony of the foodfight that erupted over the President's proposals is that it came on the heels of the announcement that there had been an increase in poverty in the U.S. and it had hit modern highs. So the reality is that the rich have been getting richer and the poor poorer for a long time now. Call it the ravages of a class war that was never even or fair.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that the gain of wealth by the top five percent of income earners had increased by 81% since 1983 while the middle fifth and and lower had decreased by 7.5%. This is not just a description of the current situation where the rich have won the war, but it is a prescription for serious trouble in the future.

We hear cries that we cannot raise taxes on the "job creators" in the middle of a recession. And yet, these very "job creators" have had an unprecedented ride of prosperity that hasn't really produced jobs. We hear cries that we must fix Medicare and Social Security for so that future generations can benefit, but the solutions offered are private sector solutions--voucherize medicare which would increase the costs to each senior (who tends to be in the bottom group that the EPI study showed had already lost ground economically) by over $6000. Other ideas have been to put the program into indivicual savings accounts that could be invested in the market--at place of great peril and instability.

The proposal made by the President would be to raise taxes at the upper limit from 35% to a little over 39%. These were the rates during the boom era of the nineties which much of the wealth indicated by that upper five percent were grown. Now is it me or does the discussion just not make a lot of sense.

I have traveled extensively internationally and have seen for myself other countries outstripping us with their infrastructure and their safety nets whcih create a more stable and equitable society. I have also seen countries where the rich have accumulated the vast proportion of the wealth and must live in armed, gated enclaves to protect themselves from the poor. These are the extreme examples of where the class war has been won and settled but there is no peace. The question for America is which road will we choose?