Plutocrats Use Ideology to Wage Class War

By Mark Mansperger

With the growth of inequality in America, class warfare has been waged against the middle and lower socioeconomic classes for the last 30 years. One of the main weapons of the corporate and upper classes, in addition to dominating the Federal government, has been the effective use of ideology.

Today, we don’t have ‘divine’ kings, but we still have a profusion of ideology originating from the rich and corporate.

This can be seen in the issue of taxation. It was not Reagan’s tax cuts that led to a prosperous 1980s. Instead it was a worldwide collapse in oil prices, his deficit spending, and the skillful work of Paul Volker as Federal Reserve Chairman. Volker was a Jimmy Carter appointee; hence Carter should receive the credit for his performance. The contemporary veneration of Ronald Reagan is not warranted.

In reality, after his policies created an alarming deficit, Reagan raised taxes 11 times (labeled “revenue enhancements”) to stem the tide of red ink.

Moreover, George H.W. Bush increased taxes, as did Bill Clinton, setting the stage in the 1990s for one of the strongest periods of economic expansion in our nation’s history: rising incomes, surging markets, rising GDP, soring employment … Just what people want.

G.W. Bush then cut taxes, deregulated businesses, and we’ve suffered through massively accruing debt and a poor economy ever since.

Yet Americans by the millions are successfully led to believe that cutting income and corporate tax rates will produce a better economy.

“Tax Cuts” has become a mantra to many. In actuality, economic growth and a raising standard of living correlate better with growing governmental involvement in society, as experienced during the Golden Age of American economics (1950-1973). Corporate tax “rates” in America are indeed high, but over 50% of corporations don’t regularly pay their taxes. Many of the remaining companies pay only a fraction of what is due. In the 1950s, the corporate share of US tax receipts was approximately 25%; today it is only about 10%. Individually, federal tax rates for wealthy Americans have also plummeted since 1980, and the richest 20% now have 85% of our privately held wealth. These are the only people who have seen their real incomes increase over the last decade. Everyone else is losing ground. The bottom 50% of the American people only possess about 2.5% of our nation’s privately held wealth. That’s why they rarely pay federal income tax; they don’t have enough income to quality, although they still must pay property taxes, sales taxes, Medicare, Social Security. CEOs of major American corporations are currently paid approximately $9,000,000 annually. Many collect 200 to 400 times the amount of their average workers.

In Europe and Japan, CEOs generally receive only 10 to 30 times more.

What does all this tell us?

Fox News would have you believe that corporations and upper income individuals are being “punished” by an over-taxing society. It’s rather hard to imagine, however, how people receiving so much more than others are being penalized. A more objective view might be that elites are using their positions of power to take for themselves vastly more than they contribute. With a progressive tax code, the more one makes the more they are supposed to pay. The rising share of national income tax paid by the rich is not indicative of an unjust and expanding burden levied against them, but instead rising inequality in their favor.

Ideology generally comes from the top down. Elites are producing a self-serving worldview, promoted by their ideologues, politicians, and propaganda outlets masquerading as news: Tax cuts will balance the budget and make the economy grow … Only rich people are creative and generative of wealth.

This inaccurate assessment belittles most Americans. And to recruit citizens who might be doubtful of their economic postulations, name calling and an exploitation of emotionally-charged wedge issues (involving religion, nationalism, abortion, or guns) are employed: “Those Godless, baby-killing, Marxist liberals are going to take your gun!” Ironically, people are hoodwinked into supporting policies that ultimately will harm them.

Part of the current GOP agenda is to roll back the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

This Act (only partially implemented at this time) is designed to reform the abuses on Wall Street which contributed to the Great Recession and our continuing economic malaise.

If we were to launch a robust jobs program, rein in business abuses, reinstate the 1995 tax rates, and make some reasonable spending cuts in entitlements and defense, we could solve our financial woes – and have better capitalism. Enough wealth is here to solve our problems. Wouldn’t it be logical to turn away from what is clearly not working and return to the policies that promoted prosperity?

Mark Mansperger is an assistant professor of anthropology and world civilizations at Washington State University Tri-Cities in Richland, Wash. Email

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2011

News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2011 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652