Thomas Paine's Corner
Part I: Class Conflict
BY SUSAN ROSENTHAL
Dateline: September 17, 2007 CROSSPOSTED AT AUTHOR’S BLOGSITE: SUSAN’S BLOG
AMERICA IS DEEPLY DIVIDED. For one thing, most Americans want an end to the war against Iraq and some form of universal health care, while the ruling class is committed to the war and to sacrificing social services to pay for it.
This conflict between the rulers and the ruled reflects a deeper, structural rift. In a series of three articles (Z Magazine, February, April, May, 2007), Jack Rasmus documents how,
“From the early 1980s on, income inequality widened, deepened, and accelerated until today well over $1 trillion in income is being transferred every year from the roughly 90 million working class families in the U.S. to corporations and the wealthiest non-working class households.”
Thirty-five years of pro-business social policies have hurtled class inequality back to the level of the 1920s. One percent of Americans now owns half the nation’s wealth. In 2005, the total wealth of all U.S. millionaires was $30 trillion, more than the annual wealth produced in China, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the European Union combined!
The extent of inequality has angered the working class and alarmed sections of the establishment. Inequality in “the land of opportunity” is usually blamed on the victim for lacking the skills and determination to succeed. Now that the majority has been left behind, this excuse has lost credibility. Consider this editorial comment from the New York Times (August 29, 2007),
“The median household income last year was still about $1,000 less than in 2000, before the onset of the last recession… [W]hen household incomes rose, it was because more members of the household went to work, not because anybody got a bigger paycheck…The earnings of men and women working full time actually fell more than 1 percent last year…[T]he spoils of the nation’s economic growth have flowed almost exclusively to the wealthy and the extremely wealthy, leaving little for everybody else.”
Americans are seething with discontent over falling living standards, the environmental crisis, the war and the abysmal state of the medical system. In the spring of 2006, this anger exploded in the largest demonstrations in the nation’s history. Protesting anti-immigrant policies and chanting “We are America,” the working class rose up and punched the capitalist class in the face. That fall, the Republican majority was swept from office by voters who were sick of government lies, incompetence and corruption.
Reform or revolution
The powers-that-be are concerned that popular discontent could coalesce into a generalized rebellion against the system. This happened after World War I, during the 1930s, and in the 1960s.
There are only two solutions to such crises: reform from above to restore confidence in the system or revolution from below to replace it. Let’s examine the first option.
Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are committed to victory in Iraq. To counter widespread anti-war sentiment, Washington has repackaged the war as military support for the Iraqi government, with Iraqi incompetence being blamed for “delaying” troop withdrawal. Regular announcements of “signs of progress” imply that the war is winding down when it is actually escalating. This stalling tactic seems to be working, for now.