Does it still count as “class warfare” if the poor insistently fight for the rich and against themselves?
America doesn’t want to know anything about a “working class.” We have no such thing, really. We have “jobs creators” who generally create jobs in other countries and for immigrants; we have some gifted and highly-educated professional and technical types who work desk-jobs; we have the craftspeople that we deny we really need (because you don’t want your kid to be a plumber, do you?), and we have many millions of poor hourly shlubs who hate themselves for being poor — often to the point of denouncing the government benefits that allow them to survive at all.
About 30 years ago — whenever Bonfire of the Vanities came out — Tom Wolfe predicted that our culture would one day be overwhelmed by what he called “plutography,” which is like pornography, but instead titilates us by showing the lives of the rich. He was right, of course. Where’s the reality TV series about the struggling WalMart cashier living in the efficiency apartment?
Nowadays, national politics in the US is basically entertainment. Neither party really is in charge. No matter who’s in office and what the elected do, the same core group of rich get the benefits. But at one time there was a certain level of democracy here.
However, while the GOP was able to successfully frame politics as a drama, the Dems only wanted to talk about détente with the Soviets, bike paths, and malaise. In 1980 we had a choice between Carter telling us to turn down our thermostats in winter and Reagan beaming “I still believe in AMERICA!” We chose the guy who made us feel nice at the time — as could be expected. Most of us are still rooting for Reagan’s “shining city on a hill,” which is presumably full of the rich people we think we are only a few double-shifts from joining.
However, Reagan’s (and most of his successors’) policies really did succeed in doing one thing: Making a whole class of millionaires in this country. They are still a scant minority of the overall population, but there are enough of them to constitute a voting (and more importantly, a funding) block. This is important. Reliably, this class is going to vote against new taxes and regulations on business. They’re going to deny where they came from, as most have been preened and deluded into thinking of themselves as self-made and self-determining. And they’re going to continue to serve to convince the downtrodden that they are the real Americans whose interests must be protected, even at the cost of young lives. This is because although they’re richer than most of us will ever be, they aren’t so rich as to seem unattainable. If only we could pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, we, too, could all own small yachts and Cadillac Escalades to tow them.
The only way I know of fixing that situation is to tax the millionaire class out of existence. Only then perhaps we’ll see a resurgence in the values necessary to maintain a working class.