And over and over and over I heard verbal assaults on President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, individually and as the monolithic gang they called Democrats and liberals, how they were first and foremost bent on “redistributing the wealth in America.”
The keynote speaker, as everyone not now residing in one of Dick Cheney’s vacant undisclosed bunkers knows, was Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh? How much is that college dropout being paid? Now there is certainly one person who can speak for the little guy, the common American.
But that’s not my gripe. I fully expect conservatives to have all the subtle charisma and charity of a goose-stepping brownshirted German. My ire is rather to the Dems and the Progressives whose silence was a screaming bullhorn call, “We are afraid, we are very afraid . . . to say anything that might upset our friends on the Right.”
David Brooks can be seen on several Sunday morning panels. He also writes op-eds for the New York Times. Mr. Brooks is a conservative, and a Republican. And he has opined that a redistribution of the wealth of America began in earnest during the Reagan presidency. He has said that the middle-class began losing their footing somewhere around 1973, and that any gains since have been the result of women entering the workplace in large numbers.
Some may not understand. Let me illustrate. A husband in 1973 is earning $8.00 an hour, or $16,650 in 1973 dollars. The family is getting by. Due to inflation, in 1974 that same husband is effectively earning say $7.50 an hour, or $15,600; $1,050 less. But in 1974, his wife takes a job that pays $6.50 per hour, or $13,500. The family is ahead, but not as any consequence traceable to advancement of real wages!
That’s precisely the sort of negative “progress” that has been afflicting the middle class for nearly four decades. If going backward had been an economic and social phenomenon that affected every segment, that would be one thing. What has actually occurred, however, is that through that period there has occurred an extraordinary shifting of wealth, all of it to the benefit of those who were already wealthy beyond a commoner’s imagination. Furthermore, that redistribution of wealth into the financial statements of those President Bush called the “have’s and have-mores” has been via exponential increases in the American worker’s productivity, and a caterwauling down the tax-rate hill for those living at the mountaintop.
Nor is it more than more American folklore that the mega-rich reached their mountaintop posts strictly by grit and determination and sweat. Some fortunes — numerically and as a percentage, very, very few — are the product of those endeavors. But the overwhelming vast majority either began near the top rung, or were at least halfway up; good fortune in parents, better fortune in the better schools, and the greatest of great luck in who their parents knew. Most of those at the top never in their lives knew there might be a view other than that from the top. Still in all, it makes a great story: the by-his-own-bootstraps rags-to-riches tale. It sells. And the American public buys.
What a ruse they worked so well. The conservative Republicans tossed the lure, and by and large America swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. As if the ideal image Americans ought to aspire to is that Grant Wood painting, “American Gothic,” with the stern farmer standing adjacent his equally stern wife. Money isn’t the most important thing. For a “true American,” there are other matters that ought to be much more worthy of our sternest strivings; hard work, playing by the rules, being a ‘good Christian,’ stopping the baby killers from killing babies, keeping the gays from our neighborhoods and from teaching in our neighborhood schools.
Add to the discussion this: “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
Those words were written by Abraham Lincoln. And while we can ascribe no necessary unqualified scientific or economic truth to the sentiments, they certainly provide an alternate perspective to that which has dominated the Party of Lincoln from Reagan’s first inaugural address.
So, a “redistribution of wealth”? We’ve most assuredly had that. As a justice-minded and equity-minded American, I’ve had it way past ‘here.’ I dare one, I dare all, ask the next 10 Americans you see in the market, or on the street, I don’t really care where, what Ronald Reagan suggested we ask ourselves: “Are you better off today than you were 8  years ago?” Ask as well whether that American has worked hard, and has he or she played by the rules, and is he or she anxious over the future? Also inquire whether he or she feels it’s fair that an executive, a CEO can run a company so into the ditch that the American taxpayer has to come along with a bailout tow truck, to pull the company from the mire, while that executive or CEO can walk away with $100 million salaries and bonuses, while friends they know, while relatives they know are on the street, sleeping in their cars, lining up for a meal at some charity’s kitchen? Finally, ask that American about “redistribution of wealth.”
Redistribution of wealth? You’re damned right! But this time let’s make it on the side of justice and equity, in accord with Lincoln’s postulation. And for justice and equity’s sakes let’s quit being apologetic, silent over what everyone knows is nothing more than simple fairness. Let’s quit lying, and let’s quit being so timid and silent over what most clearly ought to resonate as a social outrage.
And in other news, about the “liberal media” that Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and every talking balloon on the Right excoriate, and that their equally empty balloon-head listeners believe: Mr. Jeff Ballabon, a Republican lobbyist and strategist, was hired as a SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT by CBS News, as the SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR COMMUNICATIONS.
Why the all-caps?
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Ballabon had this to say about then candidate Senator Barack Obama: “Obama is incredibly dangerous. Not because he is evil, but because he is naïve.”