Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Class Warfare

Progressives and regressives have been accusing each other of engaging in class warfare. It is not clear whether they are talking about the same thing. Apparently, some progressives think that by promoting tax policies which favor rich people and corporations over people with more average incomes, regressives are trying to establish and maintain domination and control by the rich over those who have less wealth. And some regressives seem to think that by advocating that rich people and corporations pay a larger share of taxes, the progressives are trying to dethrone the rich from their positions of power and privilege. If this is how the two sides perceive each other, I think they are both right.

But I don't think it is class warfare, because there is no war. War denotes violence, and to date, there is no violence in the so-called class war in America. There is, however, a question about what the division in this country is. Some say it is between classes. Some say it is between people in different economic situations. Some think there is a racial component. From what I see, the division is one of outlook.

There are wealthy people, such as Warren Buffett, who, surprising many, line up on the side of higher taxes on the wealthy. And there are a lot of people who are of much more modest means who would like to see their taxes reduced, but who are, again surprisingly, willing to be taxed more if the money will be spent for the good of the country. So, the division is not clearly demarcated by how much money one has or makes.

The division is similarly not clearly drawn between whether people work or are retired, whether they are black or white, whether they are professionals or non-professional workers, or whether they made their money or inherited it. The division seems to be most clearly drawn on the basis of one's personal philosophy. Right now, people who are concerned about other people are more likely to be willing to share the burden of funding an organized society than people who are concerned only or mostly with themselves.

This isn't to suggest that the people who are against taxes are inherently selfish. In better times, many of them would probably be more generous and socially responsible. But in these difficult economic times, they have let themselves be frightened into turning away from others. So, some doctors, for example, who might otherwise be showing compassion and acting charitably towards their patients, are grumbling that uninsured people are costing them money and protesting that they should not have to compensate people who are injured by incompetent doctors. And some parents, who would normally be praising their kids' teachers, are shouting that teachers' pay and benefits should be cut.

But these tough times are not evoking the same response from everyone. There are still some doctors who put their patients' interests first, some parents who support their schools, some rich people who are willing to pay their taxes, and some heirs who are willing to let go of a few of their pennies.

The struggle we are experiencing isn't between classes. It isn't between the haves and have nots. It is between the people who see themselves as part of society, and people who see only themselves.

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