A view from the class-war trenches

It’s time for the masses to fight back against the elites who fired the first shots

My brother is a Rush Limbaugh fan. His annual income has never reached $20,000 a year, but he’s a Rush Limbaugh fan. He loves golf, but the only time he ever set foot on a private golf course was when he was caddying.

Clearly, he’s not among the elites. That fact notwithstanding, like lots of Limbaugh fans, my brother chooses to identify himself with the people he caddied for. To do otherwise, Rush tells them all, would be to engage in class warfare, something only Democrats and liberals do.

But from my vantage point, if there is any class warfare going on in 21st-century America, it’s the people on top who launched the aggressions. And it’s probably time we fought back.

Rush is originally from Missouri, but he got his start as Minister of Propaganda for the rich and powerful right here in Sacramento, where I live now. The words “Democrat” and “liberal” slide off his lips like possum grease. In Rush’s mouth, “child molester” sounds more savory than “liberal” or “Democrat,” which to him are synonyms.

Limbaugh spawned thousands of clones, filling the airwaves from sea to shining sea, information officers in the class war, all mouthing the same propaganda. Their main messages are that the media is under liberal control, any attempt by the government to make health care more available to the poor is “socialized medicine,” Bill Clinton is still worth flogging, the “American dream” is still possible for working class Americans, government is evil except when subsidizing big business (which in turn sponsors the political system), and that any call for social justice, tax equity, or campaign reform is an appeal to class warfare.

The best-selling book in the country these days, Slander, by Ann Coulter, spreads that same propaganda in the same old tired whine: The liberal media shuts out conservatives. That’s why we see Ann Coulter on TV almost every day, telling us what monsters the liberals are, how impossible it is to hear a conservative opinion, and how bad it is when the Democrats try to encourage class warfare.

Yet “class warfare” is a term that only seems to get used by the ruling class, from information ministers like Limbaugh and Coulter to generals in Congress like Trent Lott, Phil Gramm and Tom DeLay—all perpetuators of the most aggressive and insidious class war in the history of the nation.

If wars are about casualty counts, they’re clearly winning this one. According to the latest statistics, the wealthiest 1 percent of the American population owns half of everything we have. So, fewer than 2.8 million people in a population of some 278 million control half of our resources, our productivity, and our collective bounty.

To dice those numbers yet another way, 275 million of us are allowed to squabble over that half of the riches of our land that those 2.8 million blue bloods, robber barons, and other assorted thieves managed to let slip through their fingers. Reagan-era class warriors called it “trickle-down economics,” and astonishingly, a whole lot of the people those warriors were making war upon thought that was a pretty good idea. Apparently, the only people who shouldn’t engage in class warfare are the people under attack.

To look at this outrageous inequity from yet another perspective, imagine a country—our country—in which the people of Orange County alone own half of everything, and the other half is divided up among all the rest of the nation’s peoples: from Sacramento to Syracuse and Juneau to Key West.

Now suppose that those Orange County folks—the ones who had benefited the most from the country’s bounty and laws, the guys most likely to get insider trading tips and taxpayer subsidies for their businesses—also wanted to be largely exempt from paying their share of the taxes that made their whole moneymaking machinery run smoothly.

If you could wrap your imagination around a scenario like that, you would have imagined yourself right into a foxhole in the class war, which is pretty much where you were anyway, if you happen to be enlisted in that lower 99 percent. And you’d better duck, soldier, because incoming fire is raining down on you daily.

Even though your side outnumbers the enemy 99 to 1, they’ve got you surrounded and outgunned. They have money, God, and the entire political system on their side. But on our side, we have numbers, time and the fact that their side now seems to be overplaying their hand.

Cold class wars can be heated up by actual shooting wars, which is what that 1 percent seems to want with Iraq. To protect their interests in power and oil, they’re willing the risk the lives of those in the 99 percent, those lower-class young men and women whose fathers and mothers were too dimwitted to earn the money to buy the favors that would keep their children out of harm’s way.

While we count bodies, they’ll continue counting profits from an enormous tax break spread over the next decade that swells the federal budget deficit and patches whatever trickle-down holes that remain in their moneybags.

Not satisfied with that, they want to maintain the freedom to hide assets and earnings in offshore tax havens in Bermuda and elsewhere, so they don’t even have to pay their fair share of this war they want others to fight for them.

And they want, of course, a continuation of the laws and lapses of regulation that have made their most nefarious activities perfectly legal, those legal maneuvers that keep the disgraced billionaire CEOs who have funded the class-war machine exempt from prosecution.

A few might get sacrificed just to prevent a revolt of the masses. But most of these corporate thieves will remain free while criminals in the lower 99 percent will serve lengthy jail terms for heists a million times less greedy. Those laws and lapses of regulations were, of course, put in place by the politicians of both parties who have been so handsomely rewarded by an Orange County army intent on looting and plundering as much as they possibly can before the war ends.

Even beyond the dead we might suffer in a real shooting war in Iraq, those of us in the bottom 99 percent are taking class-war casualties every day. Incoming fire rains down on us in the form of budget cuts in health care, environmental protection, highway maintenance, rapid transit programs, welfare programs, education programs, and assaults on dozens of other fronts. It’s a class-war blitzkrieg, with people dying just so the 1 percent can indulge themselves in ever bigger yachts, ever larger homes, and ever more of both.

And where, pray tell, are our lines of defense, our logistics and support, and our generals? Deserters, I’m afraid. The silent Demo-crats and the muffled labor unions, the broad swath of beleaguered middle class voters, have largely left the field of battle.

Broadcast media distracts us with round after round of stories about child abductions while flanking maneuvers are going on left and right. And, like my brother, whose job has evaporated as more and more dollars flow to the other side, far too many people who should be in the trenches opposing the assault have fled the field, or thrown support to the enemy, an enemy gracious enough to let them carry their golf clubs and fight their shooting wars.