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Of Course It’s Class Warfare. And the Rich Are Winning in a Rout.

| October 2, 2011

A scene from last week's Wall Street protest. (New York Native)

By Donald Kaul

Republicans are accusing President Obama of waging class warfare, which is a little like the Japanese complaining about the time Pearl Harbor attacked them in 1941.

Still, that’s the Republican Party’s role in life. It’s the defender of the rich and powerful and a friend to those who can afford them. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it, and George Will can’t be everywhere at once.

The Republican outburst on “class warfare” was prompted by Obama’s new, improved economic plan in which he proposed cutting government spending, trimming entitlement programs, and…if you’re a conservative with a weak heart you might want to stop reading right now…collecting more taxes from rich people.

The president went so far as to suggest a minimum tax on the incomes of those who make a million dollars a year or more. “It is wrong that in the United States of America a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million,” he said. “It’s hard to argue against that.”

Donald Kaul

The Live Commentary

Unless you’re a Republican politician, of course. Speaker of the House John Boehner had no trouble saying: “Tax increases destroy jobs.” (That is the political equivalent of a parrot saying “Polly want a cracker.”)

The Republican attack on class-war mongering was particularly ill-timed. Just days later the Census Bureau reported that there are now 46.2 million Americans living in poverty, the most recorded in the 52 years that it’s been collecting poverty information. That amounts to about 15 percent of the population. If you just count kids, the percentage swells to 22.

It gets worse. Nearly half of the poor have fallen into “deep poverty,” a condition described as living on half of what qualifies as poverty, such as an income of about $11,000 for a family of four.

Moreover, an incomprehensible 16 million American children live in “food insecure” families, meaning many nights they go to bed hungry.

And the Republican answer for this is to cut social services so that the filthy rich can keep throwing big parties?

We’re fighting a class war all right, and the rich guys are winning — in a rout. Republican politicians as well as too many Democrats serve as their foot soldiers, with a majority of the Supreme Court their consigliore.

The rich that the Republicans worry so much about are doing very well, thank you very much. The top 1 percent of income earners (average income: $1.3 million a year) make over 20 percent of the total income of the nation. Their haul is greater than the combined paychecks of the bottom 40 percent of wage earners.

That 20 percent figure was for 2007, which was the biggest share of the economy the top 1 percent had claimed since 1928. Perhaps you remember what happened in 1929? Pretty much the same thing that happened in 2008.

It was not always thus. In the mid-1970s the richest 1 percent had to make do with only 9 percent of the nation’s income. The last 30 years have been a relentless attack by the rich on that kind of income balance.

A few people earning most of the money isn’t a good thing for a nation or an economy.

Nor is there is evidence that cutting taxes on the rich produces jobs or better times. Some of our most prosperous times have coincided with high, progressive tax rates. The Bush-era tax cuts, on the other hand, failed to produce the robust job growth promised, fueled our deficit problems, and set the table for the Great Recession.

Some say Obama’s jobs program is politically motivated. I say, so what? The Republicans’ every move is politically motivated. They’re openly seeking to sabotage the economy in order to make him, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says, “a one-term president.”

If they succeed and we give them the keys to the family sedan, we’ll spend 10 years climbing out of the ensuing crash.

But the top 1-percenters will be just fine. They always are.

Donald Kaul worked some 30 years as a syndicated Washington columnist for the Des Moines Register before retiring at the dawn of the new century. He is a columnist for Other Words. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Reach him by email.

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32 Responses for “Of Course It’s Class Warfare. And the Rich Are Winning in a Rout.”

  1. mara says:

    For ten years now we’ve had these insanely low tax rates. WHERE ARE THE JOBS?

    For thirty years, we were duped by the lies of “supply-side economics”. WHERE ARE THE JOBS?

    People supporting this “tea party” nonsense of “smaller government” need to take a trip to Haiti sometime, to see what a country with “no government” looks like. I pay my taxes, and *gladly*. It helps to pay for civilization.

    Gee, just think, if we started in our own backyard, what could we accomplish? Ferinstance, if everyone paid their fair share around here, maybe Seminole Woods Parkway wouldn’t be pitch-black when the sun goes down.

  2. Ralph says:

    Mara: I don’t know which planet you live on, but I do not pay insanely low tax rates. In fact, with a comment like that I am wondering if you pay taxes?

    What we are doing now is paying people not to work, And you insist on blaming all this on the Republicans. I don’t believe the Republicans offered Jeff Imelt, CEO of GE and close Obama confidant the title of Jobs Czar. Imelt made a $5 Billion profit last year and paid ZERO taxes. I don’t believe the Republicans are in bed with Warren Buffet, either. Any of these people are most welcome to donate major portions of their wealth to the federal coffers at any time.

    The tax system in this country is antiquated. EVERYONE should pay taxes. I’m tired of people telling me I’m not paying enough taxes. I am being taxed to death. It was not my party who bailed out the banks and Wallstreet. It is not my party which took over business.

    I am a PROUD member of the Tea Party. There is a big difference between NO government and SMALLER government.

    We have a President in office who just ran up the deficit an addition $14 Trillion in the last 3 years and now he wants us to pay for that. Sorry, but I am tapped out.

    If you want to pay more, well then by all means, pay more. I’d appreciate that.

  3. mara says:

    What’s your tax rate, Ralph?

  4. Riley says:


    Please check your facts on that $14 trillion dollars. Obama’s portion of that is $2.3 trillion. Every thing else was created by Republicans. A typical Republican response since they take no responsibilty for the national debt, or the Bush bailout of the banks and Wall street or the worst econmy since the great depression. Do some research rather than listening to Rush dumbass.

  5. mara says:

    Since Ralph introduced his own tax rate to the discussion, I think he should disclose it.

    I pay roughly 15% on average. It helps pay for our society and its “civilization”. We certainly pay a lot less than we used to, all of us, toward maintaining it than we all did during the Eisenhower administration.

    Take a look around you. It shows! Yet people like Ralph would have you believe that there should be even less–as if municipal needs for our cities and towns will simply take care of themselves, thanks to Capitalism. In that world, there’s no such thing as a monopoly of services, and all “businessmen” will be honest.

    . And notice, won’t you, that there was never any answer to the questions I posed, only regurgitated talking points from the infamous “liberal” media….

  6. Larry Powell says:

    While we all, Democrats and Republicans and Nero set around fiddling, Rome is burning. It takes us all pulling in the same direction to make change. The majority of politicians are so concerned about getting reelected to to the good life they don’t have time to be concerned with our mundane problems, of which they don’t have any understanding, because they have never had to survive on 20K a year.

  7. Bob E. says:

    You have been listening to MSNBC too much. When you repeat their figures, be sure they are right. They short changed you on $1.7 Trillion.
    On Jan 21, 2009 the day after Pres. Obama inauguration the debt was $10,625,053,544,309.79. As of today it is $14,695,102,108,238.02. If you want to figure it for a future day it gives you that option.
    That is more the $4 Trillion in debt for this, President. Here is the link to the U. S. Treasury, Office of Public debt’s website so you can prove your Dem friends wrong when they claim this in the future.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Agree with Mara and Riley here. We had 8 years of Bush charging the engines of this out of control (train) unfair economy feed by deregulation, tax benefits, breaks and exceptions for the wealthy and …corporations and where are the jobs? I own a “real small business” that pay taxes and does not want any more of the above. What my small business needs is that the wealthy and corporations pay the same rate in taxes that my “real small business” pay, so we can repair our national dangerously decaying infrastructure and create the millions of jobs that Americans need, so then they can afford to come to my small business and buy more from us.
    My small business needs that our government start taxing imports so we recover the 42,400 factories that went overseas to profit from slave wages and conditions to satisfy their never ending GREED. Tax imports now. In that I agree with Donald Trump.
    We need to stop these wars that benefit the war suppliers and the oil barons and save instead our men and women’s lives in the battle front and save those dollars for us also to create jobs at home. Now the heads of Al-Queda are out. Then which new excuses for these wars that we can’t afford?
    And I hope this movement in Wall Street spreads to the whole nation (I will gladly attend the rallies too) so these golf playing Republi(k)ans get a taste of what “We the People” need, once and for all. If wouldn’t be for the gougin at the pump, I would have been in Manhattan this last weekend too supporting our courageous citizens. Shame on the NYPD and where is Mayor Bloomberg fairness?

  9. Yogi says:

    I am not in either party. This article defines how many people are poor, but fails to answer why they are poor and whether they are being prevented from getting out of poverty. This appears to be another article designed to insight Americans to fight each other to the detriment of the country. All politicians are guilty of the problems we have as a nation today. Anyone who promotes any other premise is just feeding the fire for their own hatred of others.

  10. Ralph says:

    Mara, I paid 38% last year. Go and pick on somebody else.

    I don’t care which damn President is in the White House. As long as YOU PEOPLE buy into the political crap it takes to turn people against each other to win elections, this country is doomed. We don’t have an honest politician in Washington.

    I grew up in an era where you worked hard and believe me, I worked. Republicans AND DEMOCRATS are killing this country. And until we all understand that, nothing is going to improve. We have generations in this country who have never worked a day in their lives and don’t intend to. Why should they? They are paid not to.

  11. Yogi says:

    The following is from a rich black man.

    BET founder Robert Johnson “Well, I think the president has to recalibrate his message. You don’t get people to like you by attacking them or demeaning their success. You know, I grew up in a family of 10 kids, first one to go to college, and I’ve earned my success. I’ve earned my right to fly private if I choose to do so.

    “And by attacking me it is not going to convince me that I should take a bigger hit because I happen to be wealthy. You know, it is the old — I think Ted and Fred and I we both sort of take the old Ethel Merman approach to life. I’ve tried poor and I tried rich and I like rich better. It doesn’t mean that I am a bad guy.

    “I didn’t go in to business to create a public policy success for either party, Republican or Democrat. I went in business to create jobs and opportunity, create opportunity, create value for myself and my investors. And that’s what the president should be praising, not demagoguing us simply because Warren Buffet says he pays more than his secretary. He should pay the secretary more and she will pay more.”

  12. JUST WONDERING says:


  13. Bob E. says:

    palmcoaster I like the fact that the unruly NY protestors have your support, and yet if the Tea Party protests then you and all the other liberals want to condemn them. Tell me what the difference is, if you know? Are your sure you want the “rich and corporations” pay the same rate you do. Are you in the
    If taxable income (line 30, Form 1120) on page 1 such),
    $0 to $50,000 15%
    $50,000 to 75,000 $ 7,500 + 25% of excess over 50,000
    $75,000 to 100,000 $13,750 + 34% of excess over $75,000
    $100,000 to $335,000 $22,250 + 39% of excess over100,000
    $335,000 to $10,000,000 $113,900 + 34% of excess over $335,000
    $10,000,000 to $15,000,000 $3,400,000 + 35% of excess over $10,000,000
    $15,000,000 to $18,333,333 $5,150,000 + 38% of excess over $15,000,000
    $18,333,333 – – – – – 35% + excess over $0
    Now, are you in the upper reaches of this? Do you have over $335,000 but less than $10,000,000 per year in income. Then you all pay the same rate. Now if you pay more in actual taxes than they do, which is what I think you may mean but did not say, then you either need to change accountants, research the tax code better, or like I will agree with you on this one, change the tax code. I think it incomprehensible that a company that takes a part of its business production to China, sits on the POTUS’s job council as a trusted adviser and is CEO of a company that pays $0 in taxes and gets rewarded by the POTUS for doing so, yes Jeff Imelt of GE.

  14. Jack says:

    @Bob E. Whatever, Bush’s cabinet was full of former corporate executives or large stakeholders, Imelt is nothing. One giant fact is cronyism has been present in past and present administrations, the incestuous relationship between the Bush administration and corporate interests was never a secret.

    Commerce Secretary Donald Evans holds 940,000 options in Tom Brown, a Denver-based oil company that he headed before his cabinet appointment.

    Mitch Daniels, Bush’s director of the Office of Budget and Management, was a top executive at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.

    Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser, served on the board of directors of Chevron Oil from 1991 to 1993.

    Anthony Principi, secretary of veteran’s affairs, a former executive at the military contractor Lockheed Martin

    White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who headed the American Automobile Manufacturers Association before becoming a vice president of General Motors.

    Joseph Hagin, deputy chief of staff for operations, a former executive at Chiquita Brands and Federated Department Stores.

    Colin Powell, Bush’s secretary of state, was a former board member of America Online. His stock portfolio is worth between $18 million and $65 million. He has agreed to sell his stock in 31 companies, including holdings in General Dynamics and Brocade Communications Systems worth more than $1 million each. He is also divesting holdings in Cisco, JDS, Uniphase and EMC worth between $500,000 and $1 million. Powell’s son, Michael, head of the Federal Communications Commission, voted to approve the merger between AOL and Time Warner.

    Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who was chief executive at the pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle and later headed General Signal Corp., has financial holdings in stocks and other investments that are worth between $50 million and $210 million, according to his financial disclosure statement.

  15. Lykurgos says:

    Thou shalt give “all” thy wealth. And all the wealth will be divided between the people. Hold on to your money real tight now. Because the thieves of goverment are on their way.
    No more middle class….No more upper class…No more lower class….NO MORE CLASSES ! Welcome to the New America.

  16. Ralph says:

    Lykurgos: And now you know why I joined the Tea Party.

  17. Bob E. says:

    Jack, I decided not to wait on your response.
    OBAMA’S “CZARS”– Read who they are and realize what they want to do.

    These are the people who are helping President Obama in the RUNNING of our country and the White House.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Bob E., notice that I’ve replaced your list with a link to one of the endless places where it can be (and was) cribbed from. You’re welcome to post the occasional link to something to support your points, when suspenders won’t do, particularly when they reflect as fantastic a sense of humor as your list here does. But there is a limit to cutting and pasting, and as you well know, hilarity is not quite a defense against outright fabrications, at least not at this site. I especially like the one about Dennis Ross. Like I said: gut-busting funny.

  18. Ralph says:

    None of this is funny……not even close.

  19. mara says:

    You folks who claim you’re paying 38% better either get a clue, check your math again, or set up an appointment to bitchslap your tax accountant. The top federal tax rate right in the US now is 35–yes, that’s THIRTY FIVE–percent. So stop your name calling and your BS and your whining and your finger-pointing and get it through your duped heads that if you are in fact even paying 35%, then YOU ARE PAYING MORE IN TAX THAN THE AVERAGE CORPORATION IN AMERICA.

    And that is not MY fault and that is not YOUR fault and that is not the fault of ANY POLITICAL PARTY or ONE PERSON IN A VAST GOVERNMENT.

    The fault lies squarely with those who would pit us against one another while they continue looting the treasury.

    Good GOD, what is it going to take for some of you to stop your damned finger-pointing and FOX- and MSNBC- divisive bullshit spouting and take a look in the mirror? Turn off your televisions NOW and quit letting yourselves be led around like sheep. And wake UP.

  20. some guy says:

    The ones protesting on Wall are the same “use full Idiots” that gave us Nazi Germany and the soviet union just different times and places.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      That’s right some guy, protesting inequality and greed and unshared sacrifice is exactly the same thing as gassing Jews and carpeting Siberia with Gulags and mass-murdering those who so much as sneezed the wrong way about their regime. Absolutely, some guy. Not to mention the protesters’ astounding power. My god, they’re remaking America in neo-bolshevism’s image as we speak.

      Some idiocy speaks for itself, though this particular sort has nothing useful about it save showing us the black hole of our collective intellect. (Speaking of which, I imagine you missed your own irony of quoting Lenin to make your, to put it kindly, point.)

  21. palmcoaster says:

    @some guy…what an ignoramus statement yours! The brave one’s rightfully protesting in Wall Street all these weeks and until they reach their goal and “that I support and applaud” are the like the same ones that gave us our country in 1776. Just in case you never read about it, as I can infer as per your malice expressed above see next link: see next link:

  22. patty says:

    Since we are playing the blame game, does anybody remember who started the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? Taxpayer money albeit not included in the budget.

    Secondly, have you overlooked Mitch Maconnell’s (Senate Republican Leader) advice to all Republicans, i.e that their top priority should be to make Obama a one term prez. So why would they cooperate with him on any plan, however weak, to create jobs? 10 months in office and any efforts to create jobs? Our cities today look like ghettos in comparison to some in the Far East and our infrastructure might as well be a century or more behind theirs. What a shame. No matter bad all this is, how much our people suffer, college grads cant even find jobs waiting tables, and the middle class has all but disappeared, the top priority of the Republicans is to see Obama fail.

    Lastly, my impression of the Wall Street protests is that a vast majority of these people started out protesting against both Republicans and Democrats being in the pockets of big banks and corporations who have pillaged the country with a nod and a wink from congress.

  23. palmcoaster says:

    Patty you are correct!

  24. mara says:

    Thank you, Patty, well-stated. The Wall Street protesters have it right–they’re not there “hating on Obama” or “hating on Boehner”,, they’re putting the blame right where it belongs–on the greedy, out-of-control corporate hegemony which owns both sides of the Congressional aisle, along with the White House.

    And not for nothin’, but the only useful idiots in this country are the ones who refuse to try and wrap their brain around the idea that virtually anything spewing from a cable channel (or a broadcast one, for that matter) which insists on calling itself “NEWS” is a bunch of damned lies and psychologically-crafted to pit us all against one another. You are screwing yourself every time you point your finger and blame “The Left” or “The Right”.

    Put the blame where it belongs. Just because you heard it on teevee doesn’t make it true. Those corporate-owned “news organizations” are LIARS, I don’t care if it’s FOX or MSNBC, it’s full of crap. Turn. It. Off. NOW.

  25. Bob E. says:

    palmcoaster here you go again making bad statements. Your link says this “The page “United States Declaration of Independenceabove” does not exist.” Now are you sure you meant the Declaration of Independenceabove, Declaration of Independence or did you mean the Bill of Rights and the 1st amendment, Right of free speech?

  26. Riley says:

    Check this out, type Bush crime family in your search engine and get a real education.

  27. palmcoaster says:

    @Bob E.
    Sorry my error, as I am also human.
    What I meant (while comparing our Wall Street protesters to our patriots of 1776), for you, was to read the next link.

  28. palmcoaster says:

    @Bob E. read the sad facts next:
    No need to copy me on those tax forms as I know them well while filing my 38% contribution more or less depending my yearly income. And yes I want the wealthy and corporations to pay at least the same tax rate we middle class and small businesses pay, as THEY DON”T!
    The brave one’s in Wall Street rally ARE NOT UNRULY, the cops use brutality against their rights!
    The Tea Party can demonstrate all they want as is their right. Too bad that a lot of prejudice against minorities and disrespect for our elected President are shown in some of their rallies and YES I do have a problem with that! You can google Tea Party racist rally and “unfortunatly” will find out some of those in some areas.

  29. Bob E. says:

    palmcoaster you have been deceiving saying you have a small business. If you are in the 38% bracket, after paying more than $5 Million, then you are not a small company but a large one on the basis of IRS jargon. I have no issue with the protestors on Wall Street so long as their protests are ruly and legally held, they have the right and can stay there and not bathe for as long as they wish, I just don’t want to get near them. I have no issue with the Tea Party either, and you are going to have to give me sites with what your are referring to as Tea Party prejudices. I couldn’t find any in google.

  30. Mark T. says:

    I submit that EVERYONE should take their money out of the banks, and stop paying their insurance premiums – all of them. Taxes? I continue to refuse to pay taxes and I do it within the IRS rules. You can do this too, with a little effort and research.

    If even 2o% of the population stopped paying their insurance premiums, I bet there would be a congressional inquiry in less than four months. Reagan (asshole) deregulated the two largest consumer rip-off industries in the US. Insurance companies and banks need to be regulated, otherwise they put YOUR money at extraordinary risk and then charge you more money when it doesn’t pay off.

    STOP GIVING MONEY TO INSURANCE COMPANIES AND BANKS! They are ruining this country, and if you haven’t figured it out – the banking and insurance industries own the Republicans.

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