Fighting back against right-wing class warfare

There is a blatant attack on poor people in this country's set of political narratives. The narrative became most salient at three distinct points in this summer's political discourse: the debate surrounding the debt ceiling, the publication of an op-ed by Warren Buffet in The New York Times and a highly publicized report by the Heritage Foundation.

During the debt ceiling debate, both parties did not want to give ground on certain fundamental issues. For the Republicans, this meant not even considering the option of raising taxes, even on the wealthiest Americans. To suggest doing so was to engage in "class warfare," as Fox News anchors suggested (or asserted) in response to Buffet's New York Times piece.

In his op-ed, Buffet argued that he and his fellow "super-rich" ought to be demanded to pay more in income taxes by the government during this particular historical moment. There were those asking if he was a "socialist" and accusing him of "class warfare" for his attack on the rich.

In reality, Buffet's column was not an attack, but a counter-maneuver in the battle being waged against America's poor by big business conservatives who see poor constituents as people with no sense of self-responsibility or discipline.

A highly publicized report published by The Heritage Foundation in July questioned, "What is poverty in the United States today?" There was outrage - not intrigue, not surprise, but outrage - among more conservative talking heads that Americans legally living in poverty were likely to have a microwave, refrigerator, television and answering machine in their house. How dare they not "live within their means!"

But nobody did a report on what kinds of unnecessary self-indulgent possessions are in the households of Buffet and his friends.

The Heritage Foundation's report was just one organization's voice. There is another narrative strand which really demands that American citizens of all income levels push back against the right's class warfare against America's poor. Prominent Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Speaker John Boehner and presidential candidates Rep. Michelle Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman have repeated ad nauseam the argument that not enough people pay taxes and that we ought to "broaden the tax base" by forcing more lower-income Americans to pay. This coming from the party that wouldn't even consider raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires.

Now here's some math courtesy of comedian Jon Stewart: the federal government could raise $700 billion in revenue over 10 years by adopting Buffet's (and President Barack Obama's, by the way) suggestion to tax the rich. But apparently that's not worth it, even though we should cut National Public Radio and save $1 million. Cutting tiny fractions of our expenses is OK, but raising "insignificant" taxe revenues from the richest Americans isn't, even though we would have to take literally half the total wealth of the bottom 50 percent of Americans in order to raise that same $700 billion.    

 So yes, class warfare pervades American society. But not surprisingly, considering who has power within capitalist economies which grant power based on wealth, it is the rich and their political allies waging war. It's time to fight back, hard.

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