Fighting Back in America's 30-Year Class War

David Brooks was upset. You can tell when this conservative and
rather-professorial columnist for The New York Times gets upset,
because his words almost sag with disappointment - you can practically
hear the tsk-tsks and the heavy sighs in each paragraph. When most
commentators on the right see things that offend them, they get
snarling mad; Brooks gets sad.

What saddened Brother Brooks this time was Barack Obama's budget. In
a recent column, he noted that the $3.6 trillion total is "gargantuan"
(we columnists are paid to make keen observations like that), but what
really upset him was that the tax burden to finance universal health
care, energy independence and other big initiatives in Obama's budget
"is predicated on a class divide."

With heavy sighs, Brooks expressed great despair that "no new
burdens will fall on 95 percent of the American people," adding with a
tsk-tsk that "all the costs will be borne by the rich and all benefits
redistributed downward."

Leaving aside the fact that such things as health-care coverage for
every American and a booming green energy economy will benefit the rich
as well as the rest of us, Brooks' column was echoing a prevalent theme
in all of the right's attacks on Obama's economic proposals: Class War!
Indeed, the Times' columnist even suggested (sadly) that Obama's budget
was fundamentally un-American: "The U.S. has never been a society riven
by class resentment," he sniffed.

Whoa, professor, get a grip! Better yet, get a good history book
(Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" would be an
eye-opening place to start). While our schools, media and politicians
rarely mention it, America's history is replete with class rebellions
against various moneyed elites who act as though they're the top dogs
and ordinary folks are just a bunch of fire hydrants.

Check out the Tenant Uprisings of 1766, Shay's Rebellion in the
1780s, the Workingmen's Movement of the 1830s ... on into the
post-Civil War populist movement that confronted the robber barons, the
bloody labor battles at Haymarket and Homestead in the late 1800s,
Coxey's Army in 1894, the Bonus March of 1932, the Penny Auctions by
farmers in the 1920s and '30s, the rise of the CIO in the Depression
years ...and
right into modern-day fights involving environmental justice, fair
trade, women's pay, workplace safety, tenant rights, janitors,
farmworkers, union-busting, bank redlining, consumer gouging, clean
elections and so forth.

If Brooks & Co. are so isolated as to imagine that our citizenry
harbors no class resentment, they should go to any Chat & Chew Cafe
across the land and listen to the locals express their innermost
feelings about today's greedheaded Wall Streeters who wrecked our
economy for their own enrichment. There is a fury in the countryside
toward these plutocratic purse-snatchers who are being allowed to keep
their exalted executive positions, draw fat paychecks and get trillions
of dollars in bailout money from common taxpayers. People don't merely
resent them, they yearn for the legalization of tar-and-feathering!

Yet, Brooks and his political brethren are now bemoaning the plight
of the plutocrats, assailing the "redistributionists" who talk of
spreading America's wealth. In his column, Brooks cried out for a
conservative vision of "a nation in which we're all in it together - in
which burdens are shared broadly, rather than simply inflicted on a
small minority."

Do we look like we have suckerwrappers around our heads? Where were
these tender-hearted champions of sharing throughout the last 30 years,
when that same "small minority" was absolutely giddy with
redistributionist fervor - redistributing upward, that is?

With the full support of their political hirelings from both
parties, this minority created tax dodges, trade scams, corporate
subsidies, deregulation fantasies, financial hustles, de-unionization
schemes, bankruptcy loopholes and other mechanisms that turned
government into a redistributionist bulldozer, shoving wealth from the
workaday majority into their own pockets.

Brooks might have missed this 30-year class war, but most folks have
been right in the thick of it and are not the least bit squeamish about
supporting a national effort to right those wrongs. After all, even a
dog knows the difference between being stumbled over - and being kicked.

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