Two must-reads about why the right kind of class warfare could be good for us

If you have any interest in the running debates about economic inequality, subsidies, “fair” taxation, tax breaks, crony capitalism and many other themes raised by tea partyers and/or the Occupiers, there are two articles you really must read. I’m going to provide some excerpts below, but please click on the links and read each piece in its entirety. I think most of you will find some wisdom in them, wherever you land on the political spectrum.

The first one is by law professor M. Todd Henderson, writing on Forbes.com this week:

The ‘Occupy’ movement will never succeed against its “one percent” adversaries until it begins to understand that there is not a single one percent, but rather many. …

For example, in education policy, teachers are the one percent, while students and parents are the 99 percent. But it is generally the power of the concentrated teachers’ unions that drives decisions about education spending and policy. The fact that teachers unions support Occupy undermines its power. A true movement of the 99 percents would be on the side of students, not teachers.

Examples abound that cut across typical ideological lines. For instance, military contractors are the one percent, while soldiers and the citizens they defend are the 99 percent. It is for this reason that in the recent census, 7 out of the 10 richest counties surround Washington, D.C.

The second one comes from Steve Conover, in an article on American.com called “The Class Warfare We Need”:

In short, the class war as it stands today finds “Democrats accusing Republicans of siding with the rich, and Republicans countering that Democrats were taxing small business owners who create jobs.” Voters are faced with an apparent dilemma, a contest between the two powerful emotions of envy and fear: should we let our envy of the supposedly too-wealthy, too-powerful “rich” outweigh our fear of damaging the economy’s ability to create private sector jobs? Which side should we take in the unfolding class war: the Democrats’ message exploiting envy, or the Republicans’ message exploiting fear?

It’s a difficult dilemma—but, fortunately, it’s also a false dilemma. Why? Because, as it stands today, the class war has misidentified the enemy. Not all of the rich are the “bad guys” who deserve targets on their backs. By the same token, not all of the remainder are the “good guys” who deserve to be defended — and that includes the middle class, the poor, small businesses, and any other group we don’t usually think of as rich. … the class of people who deserve our enmity is not precisely “the rich” at the very top of the income ladder; instead, the class deserving voters’ wrath is composed of society’s predators and parasites, who span all rungs of the income ladder.

Both articles manage to wrap up very eloquently some themes we’ve touched on here from time to time. Neither one is very long. Please read both.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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113 comments Add your comment

UGA 1999

December 14th, 2011
11:55 am

Class warfare allows us to take a more broad look at society. But wedging one class against the other is wrong. I dont care if it is hate for the rich or the poor.

Logical Dude

December 14th, 2011
11:56 am

First article loses credibility when they claim ” military contractors are the one percent, while soldiers and the citizens they defend are the 99 percent. It is for this reason that in the recent census, 7 out of the 10 richest counties surround Washington”

It is ALL lobbyists that cause the 7 of 10 richest counties, not just military contractors. Although I will admit military lobbyists are a significant piece of the lobbying world.

What would happen if we cut a few hundred billion off of the military contract world? hmmm, makes ya think.

Bart Abel

December 14th, 2011
12:01 pm

M. Todd Henderson: When focused broadly on just income or wealth, the message of Occupy is too radical to represent anything close to 99 percent of Americans. The representative of Occupy in the debate identified himself as a Marxist,claimed that the American dream is dead and buried….

Notice that the Marxist, anti-American representative of Occupy is unidentified.

Henderson wrote a bunch of stuff that he should be taken to task for, but with this comment, he outed himself as a propagandist. It’s standard right-wing rhetorical tactic to associate people you identify as your political enemies with Marxism and the like. Professional propagandists know that “facts tell, but stories sell”. So when the facts don’t support your claim…tell a story (or make one up, as the case may be).

Kyle Wingfield

December 14th, 2011
12:01 pm

Logical Dude @ 11:56: I took that line to refer to all such contractors and lobbyists, not just for the military. But you’re right that the point (if I’m right that it was his point) should have been made more clearly.

BULLSEYE

December 14th, 2011
12:08 pm

let them eat Cake

Kyle Wingfield

December 14th, 2011
12:12 pm

Bart @ 12:01: It took about two seconds of Googling to identify the debate and the debater to whom Henderson referred. Would it have been better journalistic form to have given more details about the debate and named the debater to whom he was referring? Yes. But it is pretty rich of you, without any basis in fact, to accuse Henderson of making up the story out of whole cloth.

Bart Abel

December 14th, 2011
12:14 pm

Henderson again, in education policy, teachers are the one percent, while students and parents are the 99 percent. But it is generally the power of the concentrated teachers’ unions that drives decisions about education spending and policy. The fact that teachers unions support Occupy undermines its power. A true movement of the 99 percents would be on the side of students, not teachers.

In other words, if you support teaches, then you’re against parents and students. Oh my. Maybe this guy has a good point somewhere, but it’s hard to find it when it’s encapsulated in such falsehoods and stupidity.

Kyle Wingfield

December 14th, 2011
12:17 pm

Bart @ 12:14: You are really on a roll of non sequiturs today.

getalife

December 14th, 2011
12:19 pm

cantor killed making insider trading illegal for corrupt congress so until you hold cantor accountable, you lost the right to whine about anything.

I will crush your con arguments with two words.

Insider trading.

Write about that wingnut.

Kyle Wingfield

December 14th, 2011
12:30 pm

getlife @ 12:19: I don’t recall asking for requests. But since, as usual, what you really need is to getaclue, you might want to look into why Cantor moved to block the bill. Politico has a story that summarizes the legitimate concerns with rushing to pass a bill even if the premise is a good one (and, as I’ve noted before, the premise is a good one). Here’s the money quote:

“We’re not going to cover Spencer’s ass by passing a half-baked bill,” one Republican member of the panel told POLITICO. “Even Barney Frank didn’t pass it in his two terms as chairman and Dem[ocrats] are the lead sponsors. It’s all about Spencer’s bad political position, not the contents of the policy.”

Not that I expect you to acknowledge any of this.

saywhat?

December 14th, 2011
12:30 pm

Bart @12:14

That zinger about teachers unions also caught my eye. Apparently we can’t identify ALL the rich as the bad guys, but we can identify ALL the teachers as bad guys.

Bart Abel

December 14th, 2011
12:37 pm

it is pretty rich of you, without any basis in fact, to accuse Henderson of making up the story out of whole cloth.

Am I mistaken, Kyle, or weren’t you one of the guys who questioned John Lewis’ assertion that a Tea Partier yelled the n-word at him as he was entering the capitol building? No video proof, it must not have happened. Lewis made it up out of whole cloth. Wasn’t that you?

You proved that Henderson debated a guy associated with the Occupy Movement. You didn’t prove that the guy is a Marxist.

For the sake of discussion, let’s assume Occupy guy is a Marxist. It’s still supports my point. They identify somebody, real or not, that isn’t representative of the whole to give the false impression that he is. Most people who are participate in or support the Occupy movement are not Marxists, and this story simply serves to give the false impression that they are. As I said, standard operating procedure.

getalife

December 14th, 2011
12:44 pm

kyle,

It had the votes to pass and you write cantor’s spin.BS.

corporate media finally did their job and exposed they are illegally insider trading in corrupt congress and you do not hold them accountable.

No, that will not work in the real world.

This issue will help the OWS movement grow because we know you cons will never hold your corrupt, criminal party accountable.

JDW

December 14th, 2011
12:48 pm

I didn’t particularly care for Henderson’s article. I think by focusing on specifics of a given individual that he loses the chance to understand and discuss the broader implications of the issues raised. Clearly OWS was targeting those that Conover called “society’s predators and parasites”. Not that they did it very well but that was the underlying intent.

As for Conover, I think he has done a great job of articulating the real issue. “It’s just not as simple as “the rich versus the rest.”” There is no crime in being rich and it should be a goal. Our only failing is that we have, at the behest of the Republicans, reduced the taxes the rich pay to unsustainable levels. The only thing we need do to fix that issue is return to the taxation framework of Reagan and Clinton.

He squarely hits the issue that is most at fault for the recent economic downturn…

“It’s also true that not everyone at the top earned their way to that position. For example, a few are the well-positioned rentiers leveraging their strategic position at a bottleneck in the financial system. As economist Tyler Cowen points out, “The high incomes in finance should give us all pause.” Why? Because much of it was not earned; it was instead obtained by gaming the system, by staying a step ahead of the statutes, by keeping profits privatized and risks socialized, and by monetizing moral hazards. This group includes Wall Street firms employing high-speed data feeds into computers programmed to beat less-sophisticated market participants by using a trading technique known as “quote-stuffing,” a method designed to submit-and-retract thousands of dummy bids per second in the profitable quest for fleeting arbitrage events worth pennies each. This group stays one step ahead of the letter of current laws and regulations, lobbies to prevent unfavorable changes in those regulations, nudges the free market a step closer to a fake market, and extracts the resultant economic profits from a comparatively inexpert investing public.”

He is right on and these are the issues that must be addressed.

JDW

December 14th, 2011
12:52 pm

BTW on the computers and high tech trading for pennies…it accounts for well more that 75% OF ALL TRADING ACTIVITY.

getalife

December 14th, 2011
12:59 pm

cantor could write a simple bill that states congress will abide by all laws written by congress. They think their laws they write do not apply to them. They think they are above the law.

It is a easy solution but cons will not hold their corrupt party accountable.

So until you do, you lose the right to whine about the OWS movement.

Bart Abel

December 14th, 2011
1:04 pm

Steve Conover, In short, the class war as it stands today finds “Democrats accusing Republicans of siding with the rich, and Republicans countering that Democrats were taxing small business owners who create jobs.” Voters are faced with an apparent dilemma, a contest between the two powerful emotions of envy and fear: should we let our envy of the supposedly too-wealthy, too-powerful “rich” outweigh our fear of damaging the economy’s ability to create private sector jobs? Which side should we take in the unfolding class war: the Democrats’ message exploiting envy, or the Republicans’ message exploiting fear?

Okay, once again, the use of the word “envy” is a gross misrepresentation of liberal, progressive, and Democratic values and positions on the issues.

For those who buy into the envy claim, our complaint is that income from work is taxed at higher rates than income from investments and inheritances…sources of income that primarily benefit the rich. Also, government programs and subsidies benefiting the poor and middle class are generally under threat while government programs and subsidies benefiting the wealthy generally are not. Finally, many of the wealthiest members of corporate management get rich at the expense of their employees, their stockholders, and their customers…in other words, they didn’t earn their wealth.

Seriously, do Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and others who support higher taxes on the wealthy, envy the rich?

Complaints from the left have nothing to do with envy and everything to do with fair taxation, fair competition, fair labor markets (including at fairness for those at the top of the ladder), and a fair democratic system. Anybody who repeats the “envy” meme either doesn’t get it or doesn’t want others to.

Kyle Wingfield

December 14th, 2011
1:08 pm

Bart @ 12:37: What I did in the Lewis case was point out that the allegation had been challenged by those who were present. So far as I know, you were not present at the debate, and no one who was present has challenged Henderson’s account of the statements made there. If Philbrook denies he made those statements, and if there is ample video footage of the event, and if said footage does not verify Henderson’s account, then we will have analogous situations and you might have a point. If. If. If.

But taking your assumption: I think it actually underscores Henderson’s point. Henderson did not claim that all Occupiers are Marxists, only that someone who in a public forum represented the movement said he was a Marxist. And Henderson’s point is that such representation does the movement no favors.

It’s funny to me that you have your back up against the wall about this, because I read the article as constructive criticism for the Occupiers — not as an attempt to slander them.

Bart Abel

December 14th, 2011
1:10 pm

Me, …our complaint is that…

I probably shouldn’t have put it that way. Obviously, I don’t speak for all liberals and progressives, and I didn’t mean to pretend to. That said, I’ve read enough and listened enough to know that there a few out there who are on the same page.

Kyle Wingfield

December 14th, 2011
1:13 pm

getalife @ 12:44: I take it you’re the kind of person who does not evaluate whether an action will be effective, only that the person taking the action has their heart in the right place. (Which is pretty much the same theme as in the cellphone ban post.)

If not, tell us what research you’ve done about this particular bill, the alternatives to it, and why you believe this particular bill would have been effective.

Kyle Wingfield

December 14th, 2011
1:18 pm

JDW @ 12:48: I think Henderson’s whole point is that Occupy is making a mistake by trying to define “the 1 percent” too broadly. There is no “1 percent” at fault for all the problems of the country; there’s this “1 percent” responsible for this problem, that “1 percent” responsible for that problem, and so on. (Btw, I’m not so sure the ratios are always as skewed as 99-to-1. But I take his broader point that there are concentrated interests in many areas that are more easily organized and more successful than the diffused interests who pay the price.)

I read the article as complementary to Conover’s article (although I think Conover’s piece was better done by far).

Kyle Wingfield

December 14th, 2011
1:22 pm

getalife: You might want to begin your discourses by telling us what’s wrong or self-interested about this analysis of the serious flaws with the STOCK Act.

Bart Abel

December 14th, 2011
1:25 pm

It’s funny to me that you have your back up against the wall about this, because I read the article as constructive criticism for the Occupiers — not as an attempt to slander them.

You give the benefit of the doubt to Henderson, I give the benefit of the doubt to John Lewis. I guess that’s to be expected.

Like I said, identifying any movement and leaders among the left as Marxists is standard operating procedure from the right. That’s why I have my back up against the wall.

Given that most Occupy participants and supporters are not Marxists, you have to forgive me for being skeptical that a right-wing commentator, entirely by coincidence, plucked a self-identified Marxist out of the list of possibilities to debate. Maybe it is a coincidence, but it feels like more of the same to me.

Maybe Henderson did have some constructive criticism in his piece, but I was too distracted by the irrelevant distractions that he chose to include.

wallbanger

December 14th, 2011
1:27 pm

This country is really on the skids when people look at a mansion and say, “I’d like to steal that house and everything in it from the man who earned it.”, rather than, “I would like to work hard and have a home like that some day.” Given the character of our people, and the reality of our reality shows, we have hit those skids pretty hard.

Kyle Wingfield

December 14th, 2011
1:29 pm

Bottom line from Bart @ 1:25: It’s pointless to present things that distract or offend the sensibilities of Mr. Abel. Duly noted. I’ll waste no more time responding to you.

JDW

December 14th, 2011
1:39 pm

@Kyle, I think you are right about what Henderson was driving towards and I think that his basic premise that the 99% – 1% concept can be extended to other situations is quite true. I think he is off base with the Teachers being the 1% I think that is more applicable to the Administrators and Politicians, they have the power, the Teachers execute their instructions. While his comment about Teachers unions may be true somewhere it is not in Georgia.

Conover, on the other hand did the best job of articulating where the “fight” should be focus that I have seen. If you add in the concept that one of the responsibilities of wealth is to pay ones equitable share of taxes I would run with that banner…unfortunately we have Newt, Mitt, and Obama from which to choose.

Lt Dan

December 14th, 2011
1:56 pm

Regarding the wealth envy situation: have any of the occupy-crowd’s leadership stated what amount constitutes a “fair share” amount for Federal taxation?

Has der fuhrer, I mean Obama, made any specific statement on what is someone’s fair share?

I’m actually asking this in seriousness as I have not read or heard anyone mention a specific amount (except one Wall Street occupier stated in an interview it should be at least 50% {as in a Federal Tax rate of 50%} of earned income for the wealthy, but they declined to define “wealthy”).

If nothing else, I think (I may be reaching here) we could all agree that are current tax system should be scrapped and replaced with a much simpler system of flat tax rates.

UGA 1999

December 14th, 2011
1:57 pm

Getalife, have you been checked for brain damage?

That Black guy

December 14th, 2011
1:57 pm

Kyle Wingfield

December 14th, 2011
1:22 pm
getalife: You might want to begin your discourses by telling us what’s wrong or self-interested about this analysis of the serious flaws with the STOCK Act.

Kyle, don’t hold your breath waiting for getalife (gotnolife) to partake in a civil, fact based discussion. He just flings poo and run away licking his fingers. EWWWW

Bart Abel

December 14th, 2011
1:57 pm

Duly note this, Kyle… It’s just as important to correct talking points intended to create or reinforce a false image or story line or misinformation, even when tossed in as an aside to what might otherwise be a benign article. My objections have nothing to do with sensibilities and everything to do with intellectual honesty.

carlosgvv

December 14th, 2011
2:02 pm

The only reason you should read Henderson’s article is because it is the best example of disingeneous writing I’ve seen in a long time. He knows perfectly well the 1% people are protesting are the rich, not teachers or military contractors. As for the idea that society’s predators and parasites “span all rungs of the economic ladder”, this is technically true but conveniently neglects to say that the VAST MAJORITY of these predatory capitalists are the Big Business rich.

retired early

December 14th, 2011
2:16 pm

This commentary attempting to defeat the notion of class warfare going on in America is bogus.
All you have to do is look at the “winners” over the last 3 decades and the “losers”…and we all know who they are…don’t we.

UGA 1999

December 14th, 2011
2:23 pm

Retired…no who are they? The ones getting away with no federal taxation and entitlement programs?

getalife

December 14th, 2011
2:34 pm

The insider trading law is already on the books.

Ask Martha Stewert Kyle.

Where is the we are not above the law bill cantor.

Nope, they will do nothing.

nelson

December 14th, 2011
2:35 pm

It is wealthy that we All want to be
the poor want to be rich
if they knew how.
everyone would be rich

UGA 1999

December 14th, 2011
2:37 pm

Nelson, true no one ever got rich living off of welfare.

UGA 1999

December 14th, 2011
3:12 pm

everyone leave?

Don't Tread

December 14th, 2011
3:25 pm

“so until you hold cantor accountable, you lost the right to whine about anything”

Well, using your logic, you have lost the right to whine about anything until you hold Eric Holder accountable for Fast and Furious (which has cost more innocent lives than anything Cantor has done).

You might want to follow the spirit of your (self-chosen) moniker and, um, get a life.

Back on topic – so which do we choose? The party of Big Government or the party of Big Business? (I’ll take Big Business as the lesser of two evils until something better comes along.)

saywhat?

December 14th, 2011
3:25 pm

I suppose Kyle would have no problem with an article debating the merits of unfettered capitalism vs regulated markets if the interviewees were Bernie Madoff and Ken Lay( yes I know he is dead) in favor of the first vs Warren Buffet and Elizabeth Warren in favor of the latter.

ragnar danneskjold

December 14th, 2011
3:53 pm

I have little interest in the class warriors. My agenda is freedom for all adults; from that starting perspective it is easy to put every issue in black and white.

ragnar danneskjold

December 14th, 2011
3:55 pm

Is getalife still over here trying to protect the insider traders of Congress (Pelosi and Reid) from the voters?

Gimme Gimme Gimme

December 14th, 2011
4:10 pm

Nice article Kyle. I enjoyed it.

getalife

December 14th, 2011
4:17 pm

How about a nice I will not break the law bill?

We have to look at their stock purchases now with zero trust in government.

Nice job cantor.

getalife

December 14th, 2011
4:19 pm

Welcome home troops.

Dekalb comments

December 14th, 2011
4:19 pm

Wallbanger @ 1:27

It is disingenuous to suggest the majority of Americans have such envy and dislike of the wealthy to want to steal their home from them.

The majority simply want to have a system that treats them fairly so that they can own a home of their own (not a mansion), have a job and earn a decent wage (wages have been largely stagnant for 30 years).

The question remains how did the person in the mansion attain their wealth? Was it through hard work? Was it earned in a system that was fair to everyone? Was it earned by laying people off and shipping jobs overseas? Was it earned by breaking unions and paying as little as possible with no benefits? Was it investing in companies that engage in unscrupulous business practices?

I am not suggesting the majority of the “haves” fit that description but it is the question. Has the accumulation of wealth over the past 30 years been done in a system that treated everyone fairly? I suggest not.

Inside Out

December 14th, 2011
4:29 pm

Wow….Suggesting that everyone,( even the rich) be subject to o the same playing field is now being equated to wanting to ” steal that house and everything in it from the man who earned it”. Just wow…..

Jefferson

December 14th, 2011
4:32 pm

You cannot have a society of haves and have nots and expect it to flourish.

getalife

December 14th, 2011
4:33 pm

Well, I would shake up the political world and demand accountability for the gop.

You would be famous Kyle.

Make all the talk shows.

Make your mark.

td

December 14th, 2011
4:33 pm

Bart Abel

“You give the benefit of the doubt to Henderson, I give the benefit of the doubt to John Lewis. I guess that’s to be expected.”

Lewis was a big fat liar in this case. Bill O’Reilly put up $1 million dollars for any evidence and there were hundreds of people with their video cameras and cell phones recording the event and not one person come forward to collect. Money talks and if there was any evidence that the N-word was used then you better believe it would have been presented. People would have turned in their own mother for a million dollars.

Churchill's MOM.....Ron Paul for President

December 14th, 2011
4:34 pm

Looks like The Maynard Jackson family & their friends kept all their aorport contracts. Does the AJC plan to look in to that or do we have to wait 5 years for some vendor that was screwed by Mayor Reed win the lawsuit?