Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bob Herbert on the class war being fought in America

Many of us have been focused on the recent elections, elections whose media coverage has been saturated with descriptions of the antics of the Tea Party candidates, the surprising(at least to the media writers) public decline in President Barack Obama's popularity and the larger picture which is the disaster of the overall economy. As far as the media has been concerned all of that was a wave which seemed to culminate in the victory of the Republican Party as it took control of the House of Representatives.

But Friday Bob Herbert in the New York Times dared to lift the lid on the real set of problems at the core of modern American life.
The class war that no one wants to talk about continues unabated.

Even as millions of out-of-work and otherwise struggling Americans are tightening their belts for the holidays, the nation’s elite are lacing up their dancing shoes and partying like royalty as the millions and billions keep rolling in.

Recessions are for the little people, not for the corporate chiefs and the titans of Wall Street who are at the heart of the American aristocracy. They have waged economic warfare against everybody else and are winning big time.
The November election which has dominated much of America's "serious" media is over and the media is now explaining what happened before it moves on to the next American political marker - the elections in November 2012. Why not? The people in the positions of power have been set for the next two years. What else matters? It's time to listen to their pronouncements. They have won, after all. Here is an example:
A stark example of the potential for real conflict is being played out in New York City, where the multibillionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has selected a glittering example of the American aristocracy to be the city’s schools chancellor. Cathleen Black, chairwoman of Hearst Magazines, has a reputation as a crackerjack corporate executive but absolutely no background in education.

Ms. Black travels in the rarefied environs of the very rich. Her own children went to private boarding schools. She owns a penthouse on Park Avenue and a $4 million home in Southampton. She was able to loan a $47,600 Bulgari bracelet to a museum for an exhibit showing off the baubles of the city’s most successful women.

Ms. Black will be peering across an almost unbridgeable gap between her and the largely poor and working-class parents and students she will be expected to serve. Worse, Mr. Bloomberg, heralding Ms. Black as a “superstar manager,” has made it clear that because of budget shortfalls she will be focused on managing cutbacks to the school system.

So here we have the billionaire and the millionaire telling the poor and the struggling — the little people — that they will just have to make do with less. You can almost feel the bitterness rising.

Extreme inequality is already contributing mightily to political and other forms of polarization in the U.S. And it is a major force undermining the idea that as citizens we should try to face the nation’s problems, economic and otherwise, in a reasonably united fashion. When so many people are tumbling toward the bottom, the tendency is to fight among each other for increasingly scarce resources.

What’s really needed is for working Americans to form alliances and try, in a spirit of good will, to work out equitable solutions to the myriad problems facing so many ordinary individuals and families. Strong leaders are needed to develop such alliances and fight back against the forces that nearly destroyed the economy and have left working Americans in the lurch.

Aristocrats were supposed to be anathema to Americans. Now, while much of the rest of the nation is suffering, they are the only ones who can afford to smile.
And smile they are. The aristocrats see the recent election as the take-down of Barack Obama and the Democrats. Byron York already predicts that the results of this November election means Obama is a one-term President. At best York's view is premature. It has no real basis in fact and amounts to little more than premature crowing by one of the conservative media spokesmen of the American aristocrats. Going back to the Bob Herbert piece:
The ranks of the poor may be swelling and families forced out of their foreclosed homes may be enduring a nightmarish holiday season, but American companies have just experienced their most profitable quarter ever. As The Times reported this week, U.S. firms earned profits at an annual rate of $1.659 trillion in the third quarter — the highest total since the government began keeping track more than six decades ago.

The corporate fat cats are becoming alarmingly rotund. Their profits have surged over the past seven quarters at a pace that is among the fastest ever seen, and they can barely contain their glee. On the same day that The Times ran its article about the third-quarter surge in profits, it ran a piece on the front page that carried the headline: “With a Swagger, Wallets Out, Wall Street Dares to Celebrate.”
November's election is over, and it caused some changes in America's political power structure. But the situation on which the antics of politicians and the bloviations of political reporters rest have not changed. If anything, they are getting worse. America's on-going class war is not finished just because the aristocrats are growing fatter and crowing and because the Democrats and the scary Black Democratic President has taken an electoral black eye. Nor will it go away because the media ignores it.

There is a lull in the battles of America's class war right now. That's all. America's wealthy aristocrats think they have finally defeated FDR and the New Deal. But the fact is that the America's middle class and working class have been too busy trying to keep a job and either avoid or deal with foreclosure to fool with the silly games the aristocrats have been playing. Those problems are not going away. If anything, they are getting worse, and the Wall Street Bonuses (estimated at almost $90 billion this year) and the stock market reports of unprecedented earnings this year are going to show them the source of America's problems.

The class war in America has already begun. It will not disappear just because the media is afraid to write or speak of it. Somehow I don't think that Bush's tax cuts for the very wealthy and the elimination of the inheritance tax are likely to last much longer.

Addendum 11:45 AM

Think America is a Democracy? Here from Frank Rich are the results of this recent election demonstrating how money from the aristocracy controls Congress:
Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, complained this month that he “couldn’t even get a vote” for his proposal for a one-time windfall profits tax on Wall Street bonuses. Republicans “obviously weren’t going to vote for it,” he told Real Clear Politics, but Democrats also demurred, “saying that any vote like that was going to screw up fund-raising.”


G.E.’s political action committees gave a total of $1.6 million to politicians in both parties in 2010, and one of its former high-powered lobbyists, Dan Coats, is the newly elected Republican senator from Indiana and a probable member of the Senate Finance Committee.
The Tea Party activists may resent the way Congress is bought by big money, but Senator Jon Kyl has already reneged on his pledge against political earmarks.

Democracy in America has been bought off by the wealthy aristocrats. The voters are not served by the government. Big money and America's wealthy aristocrats are getting the service they have paid for.

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