Friday, February 18, 2011

Understanding Politics in America

Robert Reich has a good post on his blog that explains the Republican political strategy:
The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class – pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don’t believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.

By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.

Republicans would rather no one notice their campaign to shrink the pie even further with additional tax cuts for the rich – making the Bush tax cuts permanent, further reducing the estate tax, and allowing the wealthy to shift ever more of their income into capital gains taxed at 15 percent.

The strategy has three parts.
Go read the whole article to get all the details.

The political battle lines are drawn. Wisconsin is the tip of the spear. As Reich points out, the Republicans are using the fall in revenues of the Great Recession to attack public unions. It is a well thought out attack of the same scale and intensity as the 1980s Reagan attack on unions. If this succeeds the stagnation of the last 30 years will look like paradise. And, the rich are too idiotic to understand, but the longer they succeed in distorting the economy and the political process, the more likely the outcome will be a violent revolt and not a peaceful change of power through the ballot.

The sad fact is if there is blood in the streets it won't be rich versus poor, it will be middle/working class versus middle/working class, i.e. those who have been suckered into the propaganda of the radical right will be willing to throw their bodies into a fight against those on the left who want to stop the plunge into the abyss and recover some of the dignity and financial stability which working people had from 1945-1975. In short, the ultra-rich will pull puppet strings. They won't man the barricades. They never do. They "outsource" the actual struggle to the social conservatives and crazed libertarians.

As you watch the demonstrations in Wisconsin, keep this fact in mind. Robert Reich points out:
Last year, America’s top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains – at 15 percent – due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.

If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of over 5 million teachers. Who is more valuable to our society – thirteen hedge-fund managers or 5 million teachers? Let’s make the question even simpler. Who is more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?
But nobody on the left is calling for strong medicine. If you want to re-establish America on a sound financial foundation, bring back the Eisenhower Republican tax rates:
Click to Enlarge

The economy was sound and growing strong in the 1950s and 1960s. Obviously those tax rates didn't hurt the economy. So if Republicans are really worried about deficits and the growing debt, they would be clamouring to bring back the tax rates in effect under Eisenhower's Republican administration.

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