Why do right-wing commentators get to say it's class warfare to suggest that wealthy people should pay more in taxes?
I'll tell you what's class warfare.
It's class warfare to pass two sets of massive tax cuts that benefit mostly the wealthy as President Bush did during his first term. These two frontal assaults on working folks, transferred almost $100 billion to the top 1 percent, while helping to turn a $5.1 trillion 10-year federal budget surplus into a $3.7 trillion deficit. This devastating debt is already a crushing burden on future generations of average taxpayers.
It's class warfare for presidential candidate Senator John McCain to propose making the Bush tax cuts permanent - a coup de grace for struggling Americans who already saw the median household income go down from 2000 to 2007. This proposal would give raises next year of 4.4 percent in after-tax income to the top 0.1 percent and 3.4 percent for the top 1 percent. Combat pay, we assume?
It's class warfare to spend years deregulating the financial services industry as Mr. Bush and Sen. McCain have done and then be "shocked" when a speculative zeppelin-sized balloon, fueled by outlandish greed, bursts like an atomic bomb, putting the entire global economy at major risk.
It's class warfare to prop up a few irresponsible Wall Street giants with $200 billion in aid packages in the form of brand new taxpayer-supplied loans, while the American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act, designed to assist hundreds of thousands of homeowners suffering under subprime loans is blockaded.
It's class warfare to give big business executives taxpayer subsidies totaling more than $20 billion per year that in truth encourage unlimited pay packages.
It's class warfare to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act as both President Bush and Senator McCain do. This law would begin to bring a small amount of power balance back into the workplace by making it a bit easier than it is now to form a labor union. Further, it would compel mediation and arbitration if management and the union don't agree on a contract in 90 days.
It's class warfare to oppose increasing the federal minimum wage as both President Bush and Sen. McCain have, when inflation-adjusted wages for most workers have grown only 7 percent from 1979 to 2007. By 2006, when a proposed increase was last voted down, the value of the minimum wage had fallen to its lowest level in over 50 years. Even today, after increases put in place in 2007, there is no state in the nation where a family, or even an individual, can cover the basic cost of living on a full-time minimum wage.
So let's put the suggestion that wealthy people should pay more in taxes in perspective. It's a tactic to address economic inequities. It was employed after the robber baron days of the early twentieth century and served us well as a society until it was repealed bit by bit, starting in the 1970s and increasingly in recent times.
What's good about it is that it's embedded in how we pay for government - a benefit we all share. It's based on the understanding that we're all in this together, and that extreme inequity is bad for a democratic society.
Disagree with the idea if you want to, but spare us the offensive rhetoric. Average Americans are on the front lines of the real class war and have been losing long enough.
Bob Keener is communications director for United for a Fair Economy, a Boston-based independent organization raising awareness about the dangers of growing economic inequality.