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  xFriday, June 13, 2003

class warfare post of the day


There's another rhetorical tactic the miscreants in this Administration are fond of using -- preemptive strikes. Consider, for example, the furious spinning by Administration officials over the increasing obviousness that Bush never had the proof he claimed that Iraq posed a threat. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice called the notion that Bush described threats and capabilites that have manifestly failed to appear "revisionist history." It'd be funny if it weren't so outrageous: The retroactive parsing of Bush's statements -- including by Bush himself -- is revisionism of the most odious kind. Yet by his preemptive strike, at the very least Powell lays the groundwork for the compliant so-called "liberal media" to adopt a he-said, she-said storyline:
Administration critics charge that if Bush can't prove his charges against Iraq now that US forces have free run of the country, he simply couldn't have had the proof he claimed to have before the war to justify an unprovoked invasion. Administration officials, however, said any attempt to hold the Administration accountable for its earlier bogus statements amounts to "historical revisionism." This reporter, meanwhile, is either too lazy to check on what the Administration said earlier or too unprincipled to perform the essential function of performing as a vigilant check on the government, so what're you gonna do?

Of course, we should have been prepared for this tactic -- consider the inevitable charge of "class warfare" whenever one points out how Republicans favor a policy of income redistribution from the poor and middle class to the rich. Slate's Michael Kinsley points out that Bush and his cronies are practicing class warfare, and warfare that benefits a select few at the expense of national prosperity.
Democracy presumes and enshrines equality. Capitalism not only presumes but requires and produces inequality. How can you have a society based on equality and inequality at the same time? The classic answer is that democracy and capitalism should reign in their own separate "spheres" (philosopher Michael Walzer's term). As citizens, we are all equal. As players in the economy, we enjoy differing rewards depending on our efforts, talents, or luck.

But how do you prevent power in one from leeching into the other? In various ways, we try to police the border. Capitalism is protected from democracy, to some extent, by provisions of the Constitution that guard individuals against tyranny of the majority—for example, by forbidding the government to take your property without due process of law. Protecting democracy from capitalism is the noble intention, at least, of campaign finance laws that get enacted every couple of decades.

Separation of the spheres also depends on an unspoken deal, a nonaggression pact, between democracy's political majority and capitalism's affluent minority. The majority acknowledge that capitalism benefits all of us, even if some benefit a lot more than others. The majority also take comfort in the belief that everyone has at least a shot at scoring big. The affluent minority, meanwhile, acknowledge that their good fortune is at least in part the luck of the draw. They recognize that domestic tranquility, protection from foreign enemies, and other government functions are worth more to people with more at stake. And they retain a tiny yet prudent fear of what beast might be awakened if the fortunate folks get too greedy about protecting and enlarging their good fortune.

That was the deal. Under George W. Bush, though, the deal is breaking down. With Republicans in control of the White House and both Houses of Congress, the winners of the economic sphere are ratting on their side of the bargain and colonizing the sphere next door. Campaign contributions are only the crudest way power is transferred from the economic sphere to the political one. In addition, there are well-financed lobbying organizations, including some masquerading as research institutes. There is the inherent complexity and boredom of tax and regulatory issues, which repel people who don't have a major financial stake. There is the social milieu of the president and most members of Congress. They may not all come from the worlds of posh aristocracy or self-satisfied business success (Bush remarkably straddles both), but these are the worlds they are plunged into as they rise to congressional leadership. And, in the back of their minds, these are the worlds they may hope to find a place in when they lay down the weary burdens of power.

The recently enacted tax bill is such a shocking and brazen gift for the wealthy that it is hard to describe in anything short of these cartoon-Marxist terms.

In other words, Republicans attack their critics for practicing class warfare as part of a deliberate stratrgy to enable themselves to practice class warfare.

(via Blog Left)





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