Saturday, September 24, 2011


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.


  1. Thanks for the incisive commentary, Bernie. As a fan of your former radio program, it is nice to be able to read your well-reasoned analyses of current affairs.

    I just read your Wikipedia entry. It is discouraging that you won't regain some measure of freedom until the winter solstice of 2014, by which time you will have reached 63 years of age.

    Your circumstances obviously make it difficult for you to comment about your experiences with the justice system. I look forward to the possibility of some day being able to read a book containing your account of all that has happened to you. I am sure that such a book would be profoundly enlightening.

  2. Thanks, Lion, for the incisive way you deal with the phrase ‘class warfare’.
    It is about time we took a good look at terms that have been spun into some sort of derisive or foolish connotation … as if it were stupid to recognize that there IS such a thing as class warfare, AND THAT THIS WARFARE HAS BEEN DECLARED BY THE RICH –- who are perfectly at home with a Health Care plan, for example, which for folks on modest means can be summarized simply:

    Meanwhile it is just fine to keep everyone in fear of the terrorist lurking around the corner because he hates your freedom.
    He hates your greed- and ideology- driven corporations; he hates your Little Mermaid with her brazen costume and that she clearly knows more and is far wiser than her dolt of a father, the King Neptune;
    I am not trying to make a joke here – these are egregious attacks on a culture, a way of life that, yes, people are willing to die for.
    They are right to INSURGE against the oppressor from the West with the drones that strike at night, wiping out entire families.
    What would You do?
    Enough for one comment?
    If you have any doubt about what is really going on, please start at this website and click on everything:
    Seriously, this is one great website if you care about the news behind the news at all.

  3. Let's look at what is really fair between those who are rich, usually by way of business enterprise, and the People.

    The thought experiment is this. Take each side of this "coin" in turn and pretend one side suddenly disappears.

    Case 1: The people disappear. Result: There are no Businesses or Rich. Period.

    Case 2: The Rich & Business disappear. Result: Yes, there would be chaos and very hard times, perhaps for a very long time, but eventually business would come back and some people would become rich.

    So it becomes objectively clear which is most important and most fundamental. Without people there are no Rich. Without Rich, there comes another day and life goes on.

    It also becomes clear form this little experiment that all wealth comes out of the existence of the People...regardless of your philosophy, Left or Right, Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, Rich or Poor....

    So with this in mind, I think that this is a perspective that we all need to understand, regardless of our origins or attitudes.

    The Rich and the Business all owe their existence to the People, and as such, for them to take control and have the upper hand is to take the control and manipulate those who gave them their very existence.

    This describes the nature of the "right" solution in at least in one specification. When Businesses and the Rich have disregard for the People, they have disregard for those who brought them into being. We all need to recognize this, consider it in all our decisions and take whatever appropriate actions to correct the situation by whatever appropriate methods that are possible.

    We certainly should not put up with the creators of all the problems we are seeing, from egregious profits to the buying of our politicians, to hollow bottomed containers on store shelves or products that pretend to be better than they really are, to tactics in the name of the Democratic Process which have nothing to do with the goals of Democracy, to all the other multitude of abuses we all see every day. The Businesses and the Rich overstep the line when they do these things to the People who give them their very existence.

    The Businesses need to recognize that they are completely made up of People, and the Rich need to recognize they themselves are People and act accordingly, or be driven out of existence by the appropriate actions of that give them their existence. If they can't act in such ways that there is a net overall benefit in what they do in regard to the People, the they should not have the right to exist.

  4. Thank you, Bernie, for telling it like it is. When a class of people get stomped on, it shouldn't be surprisingly astonishing if they bite back. What is surprising is that the wealthy and the politicians who run this country are in complete and utter denial about that. They are in denial about one other thing as well: that when people can't get education, jobs, food, shelter and adequate medical care, they are not going to roll over and die so the über-rich can continue to flourish at their expense. When our middle and lower classes are unable to obtain those necessities through the means available to them now, they will get those necessities in some other way. And I guarantee that is a way the wealthy are not going to like.