Class War in Congress

“This apparent contradiction makes sense only if you understand what has become so manifestly obvious that writing it out makes me bored and angry: conservatives do not care about deficits or the national debt. Nothing they have done over the past several decades—from the record deficits of the Reagan and Bush/DeLay years to their party-line opposition to nearly every legislative measure (public option healthcare reform, cap and trade) that would reduce the deficit—suggests otherwise. The great spokesman for the so-called fiscal hawks in the GOP caucus, Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, not only voted against the largely conservative recommendations of the president’s deficit commission but in 2003 cast the deciding vote for Medicare Part D, a corporate giveaway and entitlement expansion that was unfunded and will, according to the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, add “$400 billion to the deficit in the first 10 years, and trillions more in the decades after that.”

What Republicans do care about is defending the incomes of the country’s wealthiest, distributing income upward and cutting taxes in order to make progressive governance impossible. Obama was right to say in his press conference that tax cuts for the rich are the Republicans’ Holy Grail.”

So this was Chris Hayes’s post on the tax cut “Compromise” that essentially puts the lie to any and all wankery about “deficits.” And he’s spot on, and the only thing I wish he’d added to it was to call it what it is: class warfare. As Sherrod Brown said the other day on John King: “I work in a place that too often sings with an upper-class accent…I’m not engaging in class warfare, I’m just pointing out what happened.”

See, when people cry “class warfare” in this country, it inevitably means “they’re coming for my money!”  It’s the rich whining about it, and the idea is that people don’t want class warfare because they might someday be part of the class with the cash. But let’s be real, here: if I ever get to a point where I make $250,000 a year, I will gladly pay more in taxes, especially if I’m making that kind of money in an economy where 10% unemployment is becoming normal.

Let’s put some other key votes that happened today into context as well, shall we?  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was the focus for a lot of people, but Claire McCaskill tweeted about the bill and brought up what else it contained: “Rs just blocked modest pay raises 4 military cuz we haven’t yet given them tax cuts for multi millionaires.”

And if that isn’t disgusting enough, how about this, from the New York Times? “Republican senators blocked Democratic legislation on Thursday that sought to provide medical care to rescue workers and residents of New York City who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke from ground zero.”

This is the same party that has used 9/11 as a political football for the last nine years, insisting that we get felt up at airports and invade two countries, that we couldn’t have a community center near the site of the attacks that might have a place for Muslims to pray inside it, but they just voted AGAINST pay raises for the troops they claim to support, AGAINST health care for the rescue workers who rushed in to help the victims that day.

Let’s stop pretending this is anything other than a blatant attack on the working class in the name of further enriching those who are already rich. Let’s call it what it is, already: it’s class warfare.


Getting Your Class War On: The 99ers

Edrie Irvine: I think the first thing, I don’t know whether it’s unique to the media, but in general, is that there are real people being affected by this. The unemployed have tended to be this sort of silent group of people off to the side, occasionally you see pictures and they’re standing in some long line or applying to jobs, but they’re not thought of as–they’re not thought of, is really what it gets down to. In terms of Congress, idea that they are linking tax cuts for people making millions of dollars a year, which will only deplete the economy, and linking that with emergency benefits for people who are jobless through no fault of their own, and spending the money to give those people these benefits will actually help the economy, is just crazy-making, I think. Congress doesn’t seem to realize that the rich can afford not to have their tax cuts and it won’t change anything for them. It won’t affect their lives. We don’t have that choice.

So here in the good old U.S. of A., we have this new term floating around. We call people “99ers” when they’ve reached 99 weeks of unemployment, and somewhere in our genius, we have decided to CUT OFF benefits for these people. Because they’re just not trying hard enough, right? RIGHT? All those jobs out there…

Sarcasm aside, Congress is too busy blathering on about all sorts of useless crap to vote to extend benefits for the 9.8% of America still unemployed (oh, you know, about 15 MILLION people). Republicans are demanding spending cuts when they’re not also demanding tax cuts and for some reason the only street protests gaining traction in this country are FOR “austerity” as defined as taking it out on poorer, darker-skinned people than those in the protests…

OK, clearly this all makes me pretty angry.

You’d be angry too if you’d spent your workday watching these two lovely women, who’ve worked hard all their bloody lives, discussing calmly and coolly their unemployment benefits running out.

See, the unemployed are getting ORGANIZED. For now it’s not become a “movement” on the scale of the “Tea Party,” probably because the Koch brothers and the Murdoch media don’t actually give a fuck about them. But if you watch these two women talk, maybe you’ll want to get involved…

Connie Kaplan: They’re just in denial, they’re blinded by their greed, they know the reality of their situation. There are 55 people in Congress, I’m not going to name them now, who are millionaires, so there’s sort of a conflict of interest here. They’re fighting for things that affect them personally. They’re not concerned with people like us. I spent–when I used to get unemployment–every single penny was toward paying rent or food. Bills were a luxury. I have to have the internet–can’t get a job without the internet or a cell phone, one of the two.

Laura Flanders: How do you feel being used as a hostage in the party political fighting that’s happening in Washington–we saw a delay in benefits this summer and they eventually came through, people say these will eventually come through, but in the meantime, what happens to somebody whose benefits are in the balance?

Connie Kaplan: To me what happened yesterday with that letter that the Republicans delivered on the floor…

Laura: That they will not even consider it till the tax cuts have been extended…

Connie Kaplan: they’re not going to do anything, they don’t even care about other things, like the START treaty, which is critical for our national safety. These people are using a form of blackmail and I’m a victim.

You can watch the full interview here.

Some links:

Student Protests

I was reading Mark Fisher‘s piece on “Kettle Logic” last night, and thinking:

there is surely an unavoidable generational dimension to the current situaiton. Witness Paxman’s patronising treatment of young protesters on Newsnight last week. Transformed from attack dog rentasneer into the kindly, avuncular advocate of capitalist realism, Paxman “explained” to the teenagers that, yes, it’s unfair that he received an education completely gratis and that they will have to pay thirty grand, but sadly, that’s just how things are – there’s no money left. Generational affiliation here is a matter of political decision. I effectively belong to Paxman’s generation in that I too received higher education completely free of charge. But the issue is question is whether one finds it conscionable to stand by while the young systematically denuded of the “privileges” that we took for granted. It’s true that higher education has been massively expanded over the past thirty years, but that isn’t the fault of the young. They are the victims of an ill-thought and poorly planned out experiment in the expansion of the sector which successive governments have pursued on the grounds that the UK would need more graduates in order to be internationally “competitive”. It’s not even as if the young have the alternatives to higher education that once existed. So here they are: the ConDemned, and it’s down to us whether we stand with them or watch them get further sold out and abandoned.

Because student protests seem to have a different tone to them than other forms of “identity”-affiliated protests. As Emily pointed out in chat, people with privilege often construct their identity against the Other in ways that make true solidarity and empathy difficult.

But students? Well, most of us can relate to the young even when we are no longer young. We’ve been kids, idealistic and angry, even when we haven’t been kids in a while. It’s a more porous barrier than race, gender, hell, even class.

So even aside from the visuals like these:

British schoolgirls holding hands around a police van, covered in graffiti. There is resonance to the image of the young people in the streets that transcends the usual lines drawn between the protesters and the rest of us, shrugging “Suck it up” as we walk by. And there’s something about cuts to education–education that used to be free to all, rich or poor–that transcends so many of those lines. It’s a rallying cry. It’s spectacular, and very real.

Midterm Elections

At some point, I may have something deep and meaningful to say about the midterm election clusterf*ck that we just saw other than whimpering about Russ Feingold.

Right now, though, I think this pretty much says it all: Graph of the election results by income levels.

That’s right–58% of people whose income was less than $30,000 a year voted Democrat, 36% of people whose income was over $200,000 a year voted Democrat. And each income bracket as you go up was less and less Democratic.

Ladies and gentlemen, your class war.

(From the Wall Street Journal, which predictably titles the page “Democratic Coalition Crumbles.” Also they wrote an entire op-ed cheering Feingold’s presumed defeat the day before the election, so I hate giving them the clicks–but the age graph is worth looking at as well.)

“Status Socialism”

It occurs to me that there’s an obvious link here with the idea that the contemporary populist right is heavily driven by ressentiment—and that a lot of our current politics has less to do with actual policy disagreements than with resolving status anxieties. You can think of patriotism as a kind of status socialism—a collectivization of the means of self-esteem production. You don’t have to graduate from an Ivy or make a lot of money to feel proud or special about being an American; you don’t have to do a damn thing but be born here. Cultural valorization of “American-ness” relative to other status markers, then, is a kind of redistribution of psychological capital to those who lack other sources of it.

-Julian Sanchez

I think this is worth noting for several reasons and not just because it uses the word “Socialism.” Because as Thomas Frank explains so well, the U.S. working class has been sold SOMETHING in place of wage increases, and obsessive patriotism is part of it.

Patriotism these days too often seems like the acceptable name for “White Pride.” But that’s another story entirely, isn’t it? (And is, obviously, not always the case.)

Man Dies, Wall Street Cheers!

There is nothing that demonstrates the fundamental immorality of capitalism better than this:

“The death of Argentina’s ex-President Nestor Kirchner has sparked a flood of….bullish investment notes!”

From the Wall Street Journal, natch.

Class war: Sneaky or just stupid?

It’s true, however, that they are very, very touchy about the idea that the rubes don’t appreciate being told to eat cake. When I wrote metaphorically that I was going to “sharpen my pitchfork” you could hear the frightened calls for smelling salts all over the blogosphere. So maybe they are really afraid the people are going to storm the barricades.

Whatever their excuses, it comes down to the same thing we’ve been seeing in all areas of our society the last few years. They wealthy simply don’t believe they should be required to be held liable for anything they do and certainly not by the common folk. So they are banding together to rig the game in secret.

No one does class war like Digby does class war.