There are those who contend that in America we should never talk about class because it is dangerous and divisive. They say that class does not exist in America because everyone is free to determine their own class. Does anyone really believe that a child born into the lower class has the same life chances as a child born into the upper class?
Whether we like it or not, the class system exists in America. We all make judgments every day about class based on a person’s occupation, clothing, speech patterns, educational level, residential location, etc. To deny the reality of class in America is to deny reality itself.
So why does the mention of our class system make some people so nervous? I suspect it’s because the recognition of class reveals the chasm between the American ideal that all people are created equal and the reality that, in fact, all people are not created equal. We want to believe that everyone has the same chances but our class system contradicts that belief. The unpleasant fact is that the class you are born into is a major determinant of your life chances.
Rather than pretend that class does not exist in America, we need to be asking why the upper class has so dramatically increased its wealth during the past seven years while the rest of us have been struggling to make ends meet. Today the top 5% of households owns over 60% of America’s wealth—more than the bottom 95% of households combined. The 400 wealthiest people in America are all billionaires with a combined worth of $1.29 trillion which is more than the total GDP of Canada. The newest member of the billionaires club, John Paulson, made his money from the subprime mortgage fiasco. The bottom 20% of Americans basically have zero wealth. A household in the middle has wealth of about $ 62,000 but when you compare this to the top 1% of household’s average wealth of over $18 million, you can see what a huge difference there is in distribution. Income and wealth today are more unevenly distributed among Americans than at any time since the Roaring 20’s. It is only when Americans realize that the Republicans have stacked the deck in favor of the upper class that we will see some fairness return to our economic system. We have been fooled far too long by the smokescreen propagated by the upper class that it is wrong to talk about class in America. We are warned by the upper class that talk about class warfare is dangerous. The only danger is that people will wake up and realize that the upper class has been playing us for fools. While the Republicans were distracting us with phantom issues like gay marriage, the wealthy elite was busy getting bills passed that made them even wealthier. The fact is that the upper class has been waging a very successful war on the rest of us since they put President Bush into office.
It’s time to start fighting back with the most effective ammunition we have—our votes. We need to start voting to protect our own interests instead of foolishly voting to protect the interests of the class we wished we were in. Americans have been dreaming about becoming wealthy themselves and then voting on the basis of that dream. People have been fooled into believing that if they vote to protect the interests of the wealthy they will somehow become wealthy themselves. But voting for those who cut taxes on the upper class and who want to dramatically increase upper class wealth by eliminating the estate tax and the capital gains tax only means that the rich will become richer while the rest of us become poorer. It’s time for working class Americans to use the ballot box to defeat the servants of the upper class and to elect people who will work for us.