Lay Off the Class Warfare Rhetoric and Get Real

Warren Buffett, "My class is winning." For the first decade of the 21st century the Republican party controlled the Presidency for eight straight years and both houses of the Congress for most of that time. Given that, how can GOP leader, Paul Ryan, come before the nation and claim Obama’s policies are creating class warfare?

America today is a nation divided many ways but especially about who gets the big piece of the pie. As I and others have stated before, one-percent of the people have over forty-percent of the nation’s wealth. Much of that disparity results from tax cuts, tax rates, tax policy, and neglected tax regulation fostered during the eight years of George W. Bush.

The story on America’s middle-class is, at best, one of stagnation. A greater truth is that it’s increasingly disappearing. For decades, America’s middle-class was the world’s foremost example of upward-mobility. Today it is merely an example of a class in decline. America’s consumer based economy cannot recover in part because the middle-class is no longer large enough to power the economy.

Obviously middle-class decline and the lack of meaningful jobs are connected. Many think the jobs problem in America has two main causes, technological innovations and globalization of the economy. Simply put, there are too many computers and robots doing jobs once performed by people and America today must compete with nations who fifty-years ago weren’t considered as economically important.  One didn’t buy things labeled “Made in Bangladesh” in 1960 because Bangladesh didn’t make things. We imported cheap Japanese made “junk” but being politically estranged from mainland China after World War II, a young Sam Walton wasn’t selling anything made in what is today’s emerging economic powerhouse.

NY Times columnist, David Brooks, believes that government, regardless of which party controls it, can do little but ease the pain of joblessness. It can treat the discreet but not the systemic causes of America’s unemployment problem. In other words, it can spend money on programs that will ease the burden of the jobless but it has little power to change the system that produced the loss of those jobs. It can’t make manufacturers bring factories back to America, it can’t make manufacturers stop employing robots to replace people, it can’t make consumers spend more of their income on consumer goods, it can’t make people buy things still made in America, and it can’t force American companies to grow their labor force if they have no real economic need to do so.

After reading Brooks one can conclude that our political leaders have been less than straight forward with us. Each party loudly proclaims the other at fault and each more loudly shouts that things will be better under their tutorship. In Brook’s words, the result is that,

Over the past decades, Americans have developed an absurd view of the power of government. Many voters seem to think that government has the power to protect them from the consequences of their sins. Then they get angry and cynical when it turns out that it can’t.

It is this anger and cynicism that people like Paul Ryan are exploiting for political purpose. To stand before the nation and claim that one party or one president is using “class warfare” as a scare tactic while his own party is directly responsible for much of the economic disparity in the nation is, at best, untruthful. If I understand Brooks correctly, the Perrys, Bachmanns and Romneys who promise to put America back to work are simply continuing to misdirect people’s attention from the real answers to joblessness.

So, what are the real solutions? While there is certainly room for further debate, I’m pretty sure the solutions will have to include a work force that is far better trained than it is, a lot more emphasis on obtaining a good education, government and private stimulation of new technologies, a restructuring of government regulations that make doing business less onerous while still protecting the rights of working people and protecting the environment.

Reform of the nation’s tax code must be a part of the answer. I don’t know anyone who likes today’s federal tax code. It is too big, too complex and difficult to understand, and because of its many loopholes favoring corporations and the very wealthy it is often seen as being unfair. Nobody in America, especially large corporations and billionaires, should end the year having paid no federal income tax.

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