Another Round of Class Warfare?
For a long time now, "class warfare" has been an equal-opportunity allegation made by both major parties in blaming trouble in the national economy on a conflict between the rich and the poor and even those in the middle.
We're heading for another round of it as President Obama considers letting former President
The charge will be made that the Democrats are engaging in such warfare by targeting the richest 5 percent of Americans, especially if Obama continues cuts for the other 95 percent who make under
In a sense, the debate will be an echo of the earliest allegations of class warfare. The term goes back at least as far as the 1920s, when communism as a political and economic theory raised its controversial head in what was then the early
The poor "masses" were said to be rising up against thriving but oppressive capitalism either in revolution or in campaigns for a fairer slice of the economic pie. Here in this country, especially in the 1930s, the emergence of the organized labor movement and corporate opposition to it were cast as class warfare, pure and simple.
In that early stage, there was no doubt about it. Union busting was often bloody and brutal, carried out by goons hired by corporate giants, who resisted efforts by manual laborers to achieve higher wages and better working conditions.
In this country, the growth of a remarkable middle class, with governmental help in the FDR years and beyond, provided political muscle on the side of workers while also enhancing the numbers and prosperity of small businessmen. Generally speaking, the former were identified with the
But the time came when the term "class warfare" no longer was being used as a pejorative only by strikers and other manual laborers, the so-called working stiffs of the American economy, against their capitalist oppressors, who in turn ranted against these upstart "socialists."
As the middle class prospered, particularly in the economic boom that followed World War II, working men and women with their vastly improved means began investing in the stock market. They also reached out for a piece of the pie theretofore enjoyed mostly by the entrepreneurial class.
The class distinction between those who lived by the sweat of their brow and those who made their money from the work of others became blurred. As recently as 2000, when Democratic presidential nominee
Still, in 2010 one would think the Democrats would have a strong argument to make to America's working stiffs, that given the economic morass the country finds itself in, it makes no sense to continue giving tax cuts to the richest among us.
Returning the highest tax bracket from the 35 percent set by Bush to the previous level of 39.5 percent would certainly help reduce the budget deficit the Republicans claim to be so worried about now (despite their apparent unconcern about it when the cuts were enacted).
Some American corporations are again reporting big profits while declining to hire. They are choosing instead to squeeze higher productivity out of smaller work forces, behavior that clearly smacks of class warfare of another sort.
With the national unemployment rate now at 9.6 percent, it seems time for American business, an avowed believer in the private-enterprise engine, to start putting some of those profits into the gas tank by hiring again, in the national interest if not narrowly in their own.
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Another Round of Class Warfare?
(c) 2010 Jules Witcover