“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.