Waging Class War in 2012

Today, class war means the rich crushing the poor.

The rich invest in inequality. They do this in many ways, over long periods of time. The declining equality we have today is the result of decades of work to dismantle democracy and funnel all the money to people who are rich. We are on the road to a plutocracy, to being ruled by a few enormously rich, with diminished opportunity, democracy, and money for everyone else. (Remember, though, that having money doesn’t automatically make one a plutocrat.)

The rich invest in inequality.

Conservatives since Reagan have tried to tell us that giving this money to the rich will make us all better off because the wealth will “trickle down” to the rest of us. This is a thoroughly discredited belief, and we have only to see a graph of the change in wealth to know it is false. But conservatives believe it in spite of the evidence, and since this plan was formalized in their minds, the wealth of the rich has skyrocketed, while income for everyone else has flatlined or diminished. This chart from Mother Jones (10/11) shows the skyrocket starting in 1980 vs. the DOA flatline for the rest of us.

The anti-democratic plan embraced by rich conservatives is comprised of persistent small steps everywhere, over many years. These steps involve deregulation of industry, one rule at a time, evisceration of environmental and safety rules, one at a time, ending union protection a la Wisconsin, weakening protection for individuals and the environment in state and federal laws and much more. They all understand the goal. What they do is done as secretly as possible, away from democratic transparency, preferably with small, innocent-sounding changes. This occasionally combines with trillion-dollar gifts, such as President Bush’s tax breaks for the wealthy. They are largely guaranteed success, because there is no corresponding exercise of power and money on behalf of democracy and equality.

Multi-millions of dollars are spent each and every day for the purpose of convincing politicians to support the plans of the rich. This is investment: it is expected to generate wealth for the investor well in excess of the cost, by cementing into law how money flows to the rich. The investment goes to high-salary banking lobbyists, to financial underwriting for our Evil Uncle ALEC, to directly supporting the election of pliable political candidates.

We have a hint of what coming campaign financing will be like from the recent Wisconsin vote. The campaign to recall the governor was outspent eight-to-one, with much of the influence money coming from very rich people who have no connection to Wisconsin.

State and congressional candidates supported with large gifts tend to be wealthy themselves, and inclined to assist with further concentration of wealth. During their congressional or state legislative service they vote strictly for the cause, and can be counted on to introduce custom-built ALEC loophole legislature as it is given to them. At the end of their term they can expect to receive a high-salary sinecure with few duties in some conservative think tank. Or they move directly from a regulating committee to the corporation they regulated, which can be counted on to reward them well for failing to regulate them properly.

Multi-millions of dollars are spent
every day to encourage politicians
to support plans for the rich.

Now they have a Supreme Court on their side, with a manipulative Chief Justice who arranges things to suit his political bent. Justice and common sense were tossed aside like last year’s fashions to reach the Court’s most ridiculous ruling ever, that a corporation is actually a person. Conservative corporate bosses are thrilled, because now they are entitled to swamp elections with as much money as they wish, regardless where that election might be. Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson promises to give nearly unlimited funds to Romney for his campaign. None of this money will support democracy, ever. All of it will be devoted to making the rich ever-so-much richer. The worst part is that the lies and deception work. In Wisconsin, 53% of voters believed the lies and voted against their own interests.

This is class war today. The coming election season will tell us whether any democracy remains or plutocracy is complete.

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