Last August President Obama became less conciliatory and started directly attacking the Republicans for protecting the Bush Tax cuts which overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest members of our society. Immediately, the right-wing politicians and pundits began to accuse the President of using “class warfare” to divide rather than to unite the nation. The expression became a fixture of Republican “talking points” and remains that way today.
Instead of deflecting criticism from those using this seemingly divisive term, I wish the President had embraced it and adopted it as a tool in the coming election battle. The following speech is one that I wish Obama had delivered back in September, and that I still hope he will give sometime during this election year. He is welcome to use this essay as a basis for such a speech.
President Barack Obama’s Speech to the Nation (undetermined date):
My fellow Americans, I have been accused of inciting “class warfare” for my criticism of Republicans for their uncompromising support of the Bush Tax cuts. Is this class warfare? OF COURSE THIS IS CLASS WARFARE! I suggest that, in fact, almost all of politics is class warfare. Certainly in a representative democracy with a free market economic system, politics is about class warfare. That is the whole point. That is how it is supposed to be. Instead of fighting real wars and killing each other in a state of anarchy, we elect representatives to argue out our disagreements and formulate laws to keep the system running in a peaceful manner. Politics is our peaceful means of conducting class warfare so that we don’t actually have to fight real violent wars over economic disparity.
Economic disparity, by the way, has and always will exist. This too, is as it should be. It is a natural element of a free market economy. It is endemic to the system of capitalism which has made this country great. I am a free market capitalist and I fully believe in this system, even with the economic disparities it inevitably produces. And, I am profoundly proud that we use our democratic political system to manage affairs in our market economy and continue to keep our country strong and functioning well.
So with regards to the Bush Tax cuts, let’s call them what they are. They are single battle in the perpetual class war that is part of the social fabric of this nation and of our economic and political systems. This particular battle has been won by the rich. In fact, the rich have been winning almost ALL of the battles for the last three to four decades! Since the 1970′s, the wealthiest in our society have continued to control a larger and larger proportion of the total wealth of this county, while the middle class and the poor control much less.
When Ronald Reagan endorsed Supply Side or Trickle Down economics he believed that a rising tide would lift all boats. This phrase has been used repeatedly since that time. It sounds nice. It even sounds logical. But to date, it simply has not happened. The policies put in place to support this philosophy have so far increased only the size of the yachts for the very richest among us. The middle class has been left to get by in ever smaller and fragile dinghys. Recently, the unequal size of these metaphorical boats created a tsunami that literally swamped the tiny boats of the middle and lower classes. Many people are drowning or barely staying afloat. It would seem a rising tide does not in fact, lift all boats, at least not equally!
This same economic philosophy tells us that the wealthy are the job creators. The Bush Tax cuts were supposed to create more economic activity that would result in the creation of thousands and thousands of new jobs. This too simply did not happen. During the years after the Bush Tax cuts and before the beginning of the Great Recession, our economy effectively added no new jobs. The number of jobs did in fact increase during this period, but that was primarily due to increased government hiring as the nation added to the ranks of security, intelligence, and defense employees from the federal level down to the local level. If you remove government hiring from the numbers, the economy did not produce a significant amount of new jobs as a result of the Bush Tax cuts.
So how long are you willing to wait? It has been thirty years since we began this “supply side” experiment. It has been more than a decade since we tried the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy. The promised results have simply not come to pass, at least not yet. Once again, how long are you willing to wait?
In fact, the opposite has happened. The wealthiest among us have continued to get richer and richer. So of course it is class warfare, and guess what? If you are not part of the tiny wealthy class, then you are losing the war, and you have been for decades.
I believe that our economy is more healthy, and the country is stronger when more of us posses and control a greater proportion of the huge wealth that the country is capable of producing. The rich will always be there, and the rich will always be rich. That’s OK. But I believe it is time to turn the tide of the “war” and win a battle for the rest of us. The first step is to repeal the Bush Tax cuts!