FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The real class war
Somehow Marxist class theory has been written into American politics at the genetic level. It’s easy to understand why politicians, especially the dedicated Big Government types, want us to think this way. We never should have played along. But we did, so now Americans view themselves as a great, shapeless, saintly Middle Class, floating above a shadowy Lower Class from which we have no right to expect anything. Riding atop the system is a faceless, hated Upper Class that is morally obliged to pay for everything our noble, selfless Government wants to do.
The Upper Class is faceless – we are not supposed to think of them as individual people, except when one of them does something embarrassing and politically useful – but the Left is obsessed with its anatomy. You’ve got the One Percent, and the Ten Percent, greedy small business owners, filthy-rich doctors, fatcat CEOs… and of course the Righteous Wealthy, the cadre of millionaire entertainers and left-wing politicos who truly deserve their riches. We’re supposed to view their lavish lifestyles with admiration and good humor, rather than bitter envy.
But you can’t perceive any real anatomical structure among the much larger Middle and Lower Classes. That’s the point. When liberals want you to admire their technocratic central planning skills, they declare that everything is done in the name of the Middle Class. When they want you to admire their compassion, they talk about our compulsory government-controlled duty to the poor (which must never be confused with meaningless private charity.) The great liberal project of the past 20 years has been blurring the lines between the Middle Class and Lower Class. At first the Middle Class was encouraged to believe it was just one bad day away from tumbling into poverty – remember how this was explicitly stated, over and over again, during the great “homelessness” craze of the 90s? But now things have advanced to a new phase, in which the Middle Class is meant to see itself as poor and helpless. “Working families” can’t get through life without government subsidies and supervision. Today’s liberal politicians speak of families with $60k and more of annual income exactly the same way the architects of the welfare state talked about the desperately impoverished.
There really is a class war in America today, but it’s not between any of these Marxist bumper cars. The three real classes are the Ruling Class, the Dependency Class, and Everyone Else.
The Dependency Class is by no means filled with poor people. Far from it. And the Ruling Class is not at all limited to elected officials. Lots of people are becoming dependent upon government power and money. Many of them are extremely wealthy. The Ruling Class depends on them for its power. Everything the Ruling Class does is designed to protect its own interests, and keep its favorite dependent constituents happy. Other priorities are secondary, if they count for anything at all.
The Ruling Class, which includes much of organized media, spends a great deal of effort convincing Everyone Else to accept the situation. Our expectations have been lowered to an absolutely dizzying degree. Years of stagnant growth and high unemployment? That’s just the New Normal. Billions of dollars vanishing into black holes of fraud and abuse? No big deal. A billion-dollar program that can account for 85 percent of its funding is a smashing success.
The rule of law is a laughable travesty now. The President of the United States routinely violates his own “signature legislative achievement,” the Affordable Care Act. He has no power to rewrite it, and neither does his bureaucracy, but they do it anyway. A vital objective in the real class war was to make Everyone Else comfortable with this. The notion of holding the Ruling Class strictly accountable to any law is now considered quaint. Electoral success once every couple of years validates and authorizes everything. If you’re really steamed about it, and if you can remain steamed until the next big election, you could try voting the bums out of office, the way you’ve been told all your life that “democracy” works. But you’ll have to get past the Ruling Class during the campaign, then beat the Dependency Class on Election Day.
If that sounds like long odds, well, you’re starting to catch on. Just wait until you see how large the Dependency Class has grown, after a few years of ObamaCare’s magical combination of utter failure and massive subsidies. Did you find it annoying when the Ruling Class freaked out over those little sequester “cuts” and started shrieking about how we’d have to make do without cops, teachers, firefighters, air-traffic controllers, prisons, military protection, and White House tours? Just wait until the first dime of fiscal restraint comes from the subsidies that people who make fifty grand a year need to purchase health insurance. Many people who are unhappy with the Ruling Class are about to swallow their objections, because they have been drafted into the Dependency Class.
This isn’t all just about money, though. Money is vitally important. In a political and cultural context, those who tell you money isn’t important secretly think it’s even more important than you do. But this is also about cultural attitudes and communication. It’s about changing the way we think about ourselves. Earlier, stronger American generations would not put up with any of this nonsense. They’d end the true class war in a rout. Their strength was bled away through a long, steady process of attitude adjustment. They were taught to accept the demands of the State, without expecting results. They were taught to accept boundless mission creep, instead of requiring exit strategies from every social-issue “war” the State declares.
Crucially, our grandparents were taught to reject the notions of charity, responsibility, and independence. Dependency lost its stigma, to be replaced by talk of entitlement. Everyone the Ruling Class likes is entitled to the fruits of redistribution, but absolutely no one is entitled to ownership of their own property and labor. Entitlement is an eternal claim with no beginning and no end. Denying someone an entitlement is tantamount to theft. But you’re not allowed to ask if the process of seizing money to fund those entitlements should be viewed as theft… not even when it literally involves robbing the cradle, and dropping insane levels of debt on every newborn child.
The entitlement mentality dissolves the boundaries that should surround the Dependency Class. Even big-bucks corporate subsidies are excused with entitlement language. Those green-energy parasites are just trying to give your children the clean, sustainable world they’re entitled to, aren’t they? We couldn’t let General Motors and its wonderful Big Labor partners go out of business, could we? The Ruling Class, which gets to decide who is entitled to what, loves this game more the longer we play.
We abandoned all vital restraint against the Ruling Class long ago. We don’t believe in inalienable, universal rights any more – not even for those sacred First Amendment rights. Massive scandals involving the use of government power to suppress political speech have not filled the streets of Washington with protesters. The freedom of religion is a minor speed bump against ObamaCare. We’re comfortable with the idea of a special tax levied against people who refuse to buy a product the government thinks they should have. The nominal duties of the State are generally afterthoughts. We’re amazingly relaxed about the idea of government having various agendas that involve forcing people to do what the Ruling Class thinks is right. They draw the maze of law; we struggle through it the best we can. The ultimate political epithet is “extremism”… and you’ll notice this term is invariably and solely applied to people who resist the commands of the Ruling Class. “Extremism” always boils down to a surfeit of independence.
The Ruling Class no longer has to balance its budgets, not even close. Official Washington recently erupted into applause and hailed Barack Obama’s great leadership because the annual deficit might come down to half a trillion dollars for a little while. This allows the Ruling Class to greatly expand its power. It hires people with that money – a lot of them – and portrays them as victims of proposed “austerity” measures. It can satisfy all of its dependent constituencies, and recruit new ones, without asking anyone it supports to make do with less. There is little need to set priorities, although the Ruling Class loves to talk about them, when it wants to look smart and in control.
There’s your real class war. Each time Everyone Else allows themselves to be divided into warring camps based on income level, in a phony class struggle, they lose a bit more ground. In the state of liberty and dignity America’s founders intended for their citizens, we would pursue our interests and recognize the right of others to do the same, without allowing those interests to be balanced and measured by those who masquerade as our selfless protectors and teachers. We would not accept one-man, one-vote, one-time proposals that give the Ruling Class eternal victory after a single election. We would angrily reject the notion that “forward progress” involves marching everyone in the same direction, because that sort of march inevitably requires harnesses, blinders, and whips. We would be deeply suspicious of anyone who assigned us to “classes,” and told us which ones deserved success. And we certainly wouldn’t think of “opportunity” as a limited resource to be dispensed by the wise, rather than treasure waiting to be discovered by the brave. If only we were brave enough to call off both the real and phony class wars tomorrow… but then, that’s why the Ruling Class puts so much effort into keeping us frightened of each other.