THE WAR BETWEEN THE CLASSES: America’s Second Civil War

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class that’s making war, and we’re winning.”  

Warren Buffett

It’s hard to pinpoint when the first shot in America’s Second Civil War was fired. People willing to go to battle in order to get ahead of others is a story line that dates back to the dawn of time.

The first American Civil War was a bloody one, with over 600,000 fatalities.  The Second American Civil War is an economic one-The War Between the Classes. But make no mistake about it, people are dying.

Our country seemed to have its economy under reasonable control for several decades (roughly from the 1940s through the mid-1970s). The middle class grew stronger, the disparity between the rich and poor was not extreme, and economic conditions improved for nearly everyone.

However, the upper classes retained fond memories of those halcyon days prior to The Great Depression and FDR’s detestable social programs. They longed for the opportunity to revisit that golden era.

The War Between the Classes broke out in intensity in the 1970s, and escalated rapidly in the Reagan years.  “Government is the problem,” President Reagan famously said. Translation: deregulate big business, give the rich tax cuts and let social Darwinism run its course. Even Democrats, with their finger in the wind and corporate money in their pockets, stepped deftly aside as the wealthy took an increasingly larger piece of the economic pie.

The gap between the rich and poor widened to historic levels, and by the time George W. Bush left office, the disparity between the rich and poor was the widest in our country since the 1920s, and the largest in the developed world.

Corporate America, flushed with cash, figured out the best investment in the world was to donate to political campaigns–tens of thousands of dollars scored millions;   millions of dollars reaped billions. Wealthy special interests have ramped up donations to their favorite candidates, with the expectation of favorable laws, tax breaks and subsidies. Republicans and Democrats are dependent on this legalized bribery to win elections.

The last restraints on the wealthy came crashing down with the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, which blasted open the floodgates of corporate campaign contributions. The Court allowed special interests to give unlimited contributions to political campaigns and influence elections–in effect, shattering the time-honored democratic principle of “one man, one vote.”

The War Between the Classes has pretty much been a one-sided “shock and awe” victory for the rich. Having tasted blood, they will likely never be satisfied. It’s the nature of greed. As to fatalities, think of the thousands who have died from lack of health care, poverty conditions, and fighting wars to protect our business interests overseas.

Here are some of the battlefield numbers:

  •   The top one percent of taxpayers saw their share of national income rise from ten percent in 1981 to about 24 percent now. The share for the top one-tenth of one percent of households has tripled to over 12 percent during the same period.
  •  The richest ten percent of Americans received 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007.
  • The richest 400 Americans have more wealth than the nation’s poorest half (150 million Americans).
  •  The tax rates for top earners ranged between 70 to 91 percent in the years from 1936 to 1980, as the economy hummed along.   From the Reagan years to now, the top tax rate dropped to its present 35 percent and less than half as much after tax breaks and deductions.
  • Corporations and the wealthy pay far less taxes than any other developed nation. If you paid even a dollar in U.S. income taxes last year, you paid more than Bank of America, Boeing, General Electric, Exxon-Mobil, Citigroup and many other profitable American corporations.

These numbers clearly point out the winners and losers in the War Between the Classes. Americans don’t like to hear or talk about class warfare. Nonetheless, if one side is on the offense, and the other side doesn’t understand where and from whom the attack is coming, this economic war will remain one-sided.

The 98 or 99 percent of us who are losing America’s Second Civil War will continue to be under assault until we recognize the threat we are facing and figure out how to fight back.

We don’t have the luxury of waiting much longer. It’s the other side that, literally and figuratively, has that luxury.

(Revised from its original posting on July 10, 2011, and posted on, Sept. 2, 2011.)

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30 Responses to THE WAR BETWEEN THE CLASSES: America’s Second Civil War

  1. ragnarsbhut says:

    Arlen Grossman, this class warfare started at the time of the Progressive era.

  2. ragnarsbhut says:

    Arlen Grossman, the term class should be restricted to academic institutions. Speaking of classes from an economic standpoint is divisive language.

    • Divisive, perhaps. But real nonetheless.

      • ragnarsbhut says:

        Arlen Grossman, those on the Left thrive on class warfare.

        • The class war in the U.S. is real, and the gap between the upper and lower classes is widening.Why not draw attention to it?

          • ragnarsbhut says:

            Arlen Grossman, if we provided more incentives to save money, we would all benefit. Particularly the poor and the middle class. Some people may still have more money than other people, however, the wealth gap could be reduced if we had a tax-free threshold, as well as not taxing savings and investment.

          • Ragnar, somehow I expect the most benefit will go to the upper class. A lot of less fortunate people may not pay taxes or don’t have accountants to figure out tax savings. And they may not make enough money to save. It would be a lot easier if we just raised the top marginal tax rates. A wealth tax, as Elizabeth Warren puts it.

  3. “Arlen Grossman, if I was a wealthy business owner, I would not hoard all of the wealth for myself. I would be happy to write bigger paychecks for my employees if there were no taxes taken out of them.”
    Perhaps that is true. We’ll never know because to my knowledge you are not a wealthy business owner. In any event, it sounds like something Donald Trump would say. By the way, Jeffrey, how do you feel about Donald Trump?

    • Arlen Grossman, the if part was obviously a hypothetical. As far as my personal feelings about Donald Trump are concerned, I would describe them like this: I like the fact that he is a cage brawler type, not being a doormat for people to walk all over. Personally, I would have been more inclined toward Ted Cruz, however, Ted Cruz seemed to be too polite. Don’t get me wrong. Common courtesy is a good thing, however, politics is definitely a blood sport. Donald Trump zinged Hillary Clinton during one debate where she said that it was a good thing that someone with his temperament was not in charge of the law in this country by responding that she would be in jail over her misconduct. The best line in the whole debate.

  4. True, Jeffrey. Fair and unfair are value judgements. It is my opinion than record inequality is not good nor fair. Perhaps you feel otherwise.

    • Arlen Grossman, I am inclined to believe that a flat tax or a national sales tax is better. Having said that, in order to see that the rich will pay more, that is where the sliding scale on Capital Gains taxation takes place. You said that you would tax short term Capital Gains at 25% and long term Capital Gains at 15%. Just so I am clear, why would you advocate a higher rate on a short term Capital Gain and a lower rate on a long term Capital Gain? Your point about speculation is valid, however, I might need a little more clarification.

  5. Arlen Grossman, class in the economic sense is Marxism talk.

    • That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, Jeffrey.

      • Arlen Grossman, class rhetoric is a tool that is used by Leftist ideologues to pit us against each other. I know that you don’t believe it, however, that sort of talk is only meant to create division, not unity. Classes in America-to be realistic, those are to be found in educational institutions. Otherwise, the use of the word class from an economic standpoint is absurd. What purpose does it serve to pit people against each other regardless of income?

        • You may note like the term class, Jeffrey, but it’s real nonetheless. Do you think Charles Koch is part of the same class as his janitor? Our president and others of his ilk like to pit race, country of origin, ethnicity, gender, etc against each other. Class is real in this country, however I don’t want to see people pitted against each other. But inequality is a big problem and needs a solution. Pretending the problem isn’t real won’t make it go away.

  6. Michael Sellars says:

    As the new “numbers” Guru on the block, apparently, you obviously then know that the top 1% of taxpayers pay 39% of all income taxes collected in this country, and the top 25% are forking over 86%, meaning, math being what it is, Sir — as you demonstrably know so well — that the other 75% (that would be all the “not” rich) carry but a mere 14% of the entire tax load. Heck, 50% of the population pay no federal income tax at all! And of those, a substantial number get money back from the government, beyond what they’ve paid in withholding (if any). It’s called the “Earned Income Tax Credit.“ Looks to me like you’re winning the war, if your definition of victory is to put the burden on the rich!

    • I find it so endearing, Michael, how you and other conservatives are always looking out for the welfare of the rich in America, even though you will never be a part of their social and economic world.
      I take it you want those who have the least to pay more income tax. It doesn’t bother you at all that the wealthiest Americans continue increasing their share of the dwindling American economic pie, while the working class keeps getting kicked in their pants and falls further behind. At least your heart is in the right place.

    • Arlen Grossman, unless you have a wealthy person who claims that he or she is not taxed enough, most advocates of progressive tax rates are clearly advocating those tax rates out of envy. These people can deny it, however, it seems to be the only logical explanation for their mentalities.

      • It’s not about envy, Jeffrey, it’s about fairness. The rich keep on getting richer and need to pay more taxes so we can make this country work for the majority of its citizens.. When the rich paid higher tax rates several decades back, the middle class thrived. Not any more.

        • Arlen Grossman, here are a few questions that I have for you: 1: If someone got rich as a result of producing goods that people wanted, why should the person be punished for providing the good and service with high taxes? 2: Since the Dictionary’s definition of the word fairness is the only legitimate one, why do Progressives twist that word to fit their delusional narrative?

          • 1) Here’s where we differ, Jeffrey. I don’t see taxes as a punishment. Taxes to me are the dues we pay to establish a workable, civilized, and caring country. The rich get a lot of breaks and privileges and should feel okay about paying their fair share of taxes.
            2) Fairness is subjective, and we will probably never agree on what is fair.

  7. Bart Hinesly says:

    A simple, eloquent, and correct opinion of the USA economic landscape, in my opinion.

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