In the history of this country, the rich have never willingly given up income or power. The creation of the middle class was done over the weeping and gnashing of bright, white teeth. In 1928, the top 1% of Americans controlled 24% of all wealth in America. With the onset of the Depression, Roosevelt's election, World War II and the rise of unions and worker friendly legislation, the top 1% controlled only 9% of the nations wealth in 1976. In 1980, war was declared with the election of Ronald Reagan, and today the richest 1% are almost back to their high water mark as they control 23.5% of the nation's wealth. Warren Buffet is quoted as saying, "...there is a class war going on in this country and my class is winning."
According to former labor secretary Robert Reich, from 1947-1979 all lower income classes did better than the richest 20%. Since 1980, this trend has been reversed. Middle and lower class Americans continued increase their productivity, but wages did not keep pace. They continued to spend and drive the economy only because more women entered the workforce and, when that added income couldn't fill the gap, they borrowed themselves into serious debt. The end result is since 1980, no class of Americans has done better than the top 20%. Do you think this is an accident or coincidence?
President Obama has proposed a plan to create jobs and reduce the nation's debt. It relies on large cuts to government programs and on tax increases for the wealthiest of taxpayers. America's rich currently enjoy tax rates that haven't been this low since the fifties. Taxes from the wealthy and corporations are generating the same amount of revenue to the treasury as they did in 1950. If the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, the top income bracket will see their tax rates return to the levels the paid under Bill Clinton. If the "Buffet" tax increase is implemented, the richest Americans will still be paying taxes 55% lower then they were in 1960. While Warren Buffet and his ilk pay about 16%-19% of their income in taxes, middle class Americans, due to fewer deductions...higher payroll taxes and increasing sales taxes, pay a real tax rate closer to 26%. Face it. They have won the war.
More and more wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. The people with the greatest economic power make the rules on how the economy works. With the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court, the rich can give unlimited sums to political campaigns and continue to run a rigged game. Since the Depression of '08, they have been paying millions of dollars into Washington to beat back efforts or re-regulate Wall Street and reduce the risks they take. Just this week a report will be issued on how Washington will implement the so-called Volker rule, which was intended to prevent banks from making risky investments, the type which caused the global economic meltdown, with your deposits. The Wall Street Journal reports the rule has been watered down so much; banks will still be able to do anything they wish and take the very same kind of risks that caused so much harm. In the face of corruption, fraud, theft, profligacy and unprecedented greed, the attempts to rein in a financial industry out of control have failed and they will once again be free to start the roller coaster moving.
Before the ink was dry on Obama's proposals, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, pronounced the President's ideas as class warfare intended to hurt those who create the jobs in this country. What's wrong with class warfare? It's been waged in earnest since 1980, what's wrong with fighting back?
What do regressives say when we point out to them we have been trying it their way since 1980? In 1981 and again in 2001, Presidents Bush and Reagan cut taxes on the richest Americans. (the job creators) What happened? For Reagan it was the depression of 1982. In the first four years of the Bush administration not a single net job was created. The eight years of Bush produced the worst job numbers in 30 years. President Clinton raised taxes on the rich in 1992 (without a single Republican vote). Over 9 million jobs were created in the next eight years and he turned over a budget surplus to President Bush. As my grandmother used to say, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting.
Raise taxes on the rich, get out of two immoral wars, force corporations to actually pay any taxes and reduce government spending and you have the recipe for recovery. Make it easier for Americans workers to organize. Make health care available to everyone (taking away a huge cudgel employers use to force workers to choose between higher wages or higher health care costs). Make college free and improve public education by attracting better teachers with better wages. Rebuild our infrastructure. Re-invent the electrical grid. Spend money on basic research and green research and take back the manufacturing of everything from wind turbines to high-speed rail. All of this and more could be done but won’t be as long as the rich and powerful control the political process.
When someone declares war on you, you can either surrender or fight back. Why won't working Americans fight back? How is it so much anger is directed at government spending but not at government policies that give more and more wealth to the rich? American workers continue to increase their productivity and get no benefit in return. Corporate profits are through the roof, yet the median American household income has dropped back to what it was in 1996. An entire decade of progress lost while, at the same time, the richest 1% have seen their income skyrocket. How is it the Koch brothers and Joe Coors and Richard Melon Scaife and so many other of the uber-rich can pour money into the tea party movement and regressive think tanks and there is no pushback from working Americans? The billionaire Koch brothers have created an organization, Alec, which is designed to write legislation for state legislatures across the country. It will enable regressive politicians to bust public employee unions, ransack pension funds, pass right to work laws all aimed at preventing Americans from organizing and acquiring any political power to check this march to economic inequality. Where are the groups and organizations that represent average working Americans?
We need class warfare in this country. We need to take back the government currently in the pocket of Wall Street, bankers and the ultra rich. Will you fight so your children can have a future where they can see their economic boats rise, provide for their families, compete in the global economy, have hope for a better life or will you roll over and play dead? The rich Brahmans of this nation do not have your best interests at heart. They want to increase their wealth at you and your family's expense. They oppose anything that will lessen the widening gap between them and you. (Unions, social security, Medicare, minimum wage, 8-hour day, 40-hour week, OSHA are just some of the ideas they tried to destroy in the last 75 years) If you don't believe me, look at the most recent crisis in Washington. Regressives don't want to fund FEMA, (Federal Emergency Management Agency), unless Democrats agree to cut the budget for a program designed to research energy efficient cars. They are willing to let FEMA's coffers run dry even as this nation experiences an unprecedented year of natural disasters.
Huzzah to President Obama for firing the first shot in an overdo reply to the war started in 1980. We have been at war for over 30 years. One thing history has taught us is if the gap between the rich and the rest of us continues to grow, there will come a day when those on the bottom have nothing to lose if they simply tear the whole system down. We became the great nation we are because we spread prosperity to all segments of society. We fall when only a few continue to benefit at everyone else's expense.