Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Is It Class Warfare or Is It a Cry for Justice?

Over the past three decades this country has experienced rapid growth in income inequality.  While the incomes of those in the top 5% have increased exponentially, especially during the past decade, the inflation-adjusted income of production and non-supervisory workers has actually decreased.  The 2010 census found the number of Americans living in poverty to be higher than at any time in the past 51 years that records have been kept; the poverty rate … 1 in 7 Americans … was higher than it’s been since 1994.  The rich have indeed gotten richer and the poor have gotten poorer.  The middle class has been eviscerated.

Yet in Congress the Republicans, who say they speak on behalf of the average American, instead fight any efforts to regulate the financial industry excesses that brought about the recent/current recession, resist any tax increases on wealthy Americans (although current tax rates are lower than at any time since before the Depression), and in general continue to support government subsidization of industry while seeking savage budget cuts in programs that support middle income Americans and the poor.  All in the name of reigning in the deficit.

This is the context in which Mitt Romney and other Republicans are crying “class warfare” at the protests taking place against the financial industry and at Obama’s call for the rich to pay a minimum tax at least equal to the taxes paid by middle income Americans.

Call it mendacity; call it hypocritical.  But beyond deceit, as Rick Perry so aptly stated when criticizing his fellow Republicans for their stand on immigration, these people have no heart.  Not only have they no heart, they have forgotten the American social contract which has benefited them greatly and under which they have an obligation to support the government’s efforts to help those less fortunate.

It is not class warfare to ask that the rich pay their fair share to support the government.  It is not class warfare to ask that industry be regulated so that the public good is protected.  These demands are a cry for social justice.  They are consistent with the balance that our nation has historically struck between private right, the public good, and government. 

The Republicans seek to fundamentally alter that balance.  They are making war on the American social contract and on the middle class, the poor, and the environment.