Links Worth Noting: Stealth (Class) Warfare

by Linda Beale

Links Worth Noting: Stealth (Class) Warfare
(Op-ed)

Paul Krugman, Class Wars of 2012, New York Times (Nov. 30, 2012).

When Mitt Romney disparaged ordinary Americans, it was visible, obvious, and clearly an indication of the lack of esteem he held for ordinary Americans. The same arrogance is at work in the class warfare that the radical right is waging against the social programs that have been partof the great stabilization of the middle class and a singular pathway to a more sustainable lifestyle for those who are underprivileged in America–Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The drumbeat for “fiscal cliff” worries continues to build in the media. The right wants us to think that they are worried about future generations facing mountains of debt. They aren’t. The right wants us to think that they are worried that the only way to combat skyrocketing health care costs is by cutting back on benefits for ordinary Americans. They aren’t, and it isn’t. The right wants us to think that the wealthy have sacrificed already and are truly noble if they bear even minimal tax increases from the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. They haven’t and they aren’t. The right wants the progressives to roll over and play dead, so they can insist that they have the good of the country at heart when they demand cuts to infrastructure spending and cuts to “entitlements” as a condition for petty little increases in the taxes of the ultra rich who have greedily sucked up all the juice in the economy for forty years. We won’t.

Readers may think this blog has become a broken record of arguments for higher taxes–at least on the wealthy, at least through the removal of the preferential capital gains rate–and holding firm on protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. Maybe so. But we must continue to speak out until those we elected to lead the country act like they heard the prevailing sentiment of the election: we want more taxes on the upper class; we want an economy that is stimulated by government spending when private spending won’t do it; we want a sustainable economy that distributes resources more equitably and not a winner-take-all economy that allows those with monetary power to dictate the lifestyles of the rest of us.

Krugman is, as usual, correct. What they can’t get by buying an election the rich will try to get by lobbying and pretending to worry about the fiscal cliff. Let them try. Progressives in Congress should start talking, on any available outlet, about “going over the cliff” because it really isn’t so bad. It will free us once and for all of the ridiculous Bush tax cuts and allow us to undertake thinking about the tax code without that “status quo” hanging over our head like the sword of Damocles. And we can pass some really decent tax cuts for the lower income quintiles at the first of the year, without having to deal yet again with the “extenders” on the table. We can reform corporate tax–getting rid of loopholes; getting rid of the transfer pricing games–without lowering rates. And we can deal with the sequester in reasonable ways. What should we spend on and why. Let the rest go. We would finally begin the process of lowering the expectations of the military-industrial complex.

The following are excerpts from Krugman’s piece.

The important thing to understand now is that while the election is over, the class war isn’t. The same people who bet big on Mr. Romney, and lost, are now trying to win by stealth — in the name of fiscal responsibility — the ground they failed to gain in an open election.
***
Consider, as a prime example, the push to raise the retirement age, the age of eligibility for Medicare, or both. This is only reasonable, we’re told — after all, life expectancy has risen, so shouldn’t we all retire later? In reality, however, it would be a hugely regressive policy change, imposing severe burdens on lower- and middle-income Americans while barely affecting the wealthy. Why? First of all, the increase in life expectancy is concentrated among the affluent; why should janitors have to retire later because lawyers are living longer? Second, both Social Security and Medicare are much more important, relative to income, to less-affluent Americans, so delaying their availability would be a far more severe hit to ordinary families than to the top 1 percent.
***
[A]ny proposal to avoid a rate increase is, whatever its proponents may say, a proposal that we let the 1 percent off the hook and shift the burden, one way or another, to the middle class or the poor.
***
The point is that the class war is still on, this time with an added dose of deception. And this, in turn, means that you need to look very closely at any proposals coming from the usual suspects, even — or rather especially — if the proposal is being represented as a bipartisan, common-sense solution. In particular, whenever some deficit-scold group talks about “shared sacrifice,” you need to ask, sacrifice relative to what?
***
America’s top-down class warriors lost big in the election, but now they’re trying to use the pretense of concern about the deficit to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Let’s not let them pull it off.

cross posted with ataxingmatter   11/30/12

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