A Philosopher's Blog

Class Warfare

Posted in Business, Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on September 23, 2011
The Republican Party encourages every form of ...

Image by Cornell University Library via Flickr

Everyone agrees that the deficit is a serious problem. The basic solution is obvious enough: as a country, we need to spend less than we take in. This can be done by decreasing spending, increasing revenue or both. Naturally enough, the Republicans are largely devoted to decreasing spending and the Democrats are willing to increase revenue.

One current proposal is for the wealthiest of Americans to pay marginally more in taxes. Naturally, the Republicans and the fine folks at Fox are extremely critical of this proposal. The main Republican solution has been to leave taxes as they are (or reduce them) and address the deficit by cutting what can general be classified as social spending: education, Medicare, infrastructure, and various social programs. Attempts to address the deficit by increasing revenue by having the wealthy pay more are greeted with the nifty rhetorical phrase “class warfare.”

On the face of it, such a charge is absurd and pure hyperbole. While the proposal is for the wealthiest class to pay marginally more in taxes, this hardly seems to count as class warfare. After all, warfare would seem to indicate a serious and significant attack, presumably with an element of violence. If the Navy started sinking the super yachts of the mega wealthy and the Army started seizing mansions, then  Fox would be warranted in using that term. Until then, they are just engaged in their usual empty hyperbole.

The Republicans seem to be the ones that are engaging in what could be considered class warfare. After all, their main plan seems to be to cut deeply into social services and this will do real harm to people who depend on such services, such as students, the elderly, the disabled and other folks. In contrast, the wealthy would merely be paying marginally more in taxes, thus still leaving them quite wealthy.

One defense of the wealthy being offered by the Republicans is the “job creator defense.” The idea is that the wealthy cannot be expected to pay more because this would prevent them from creating jobs. This argument, as has been argued before, has almost no merit. Lower taxes Taxes are lower now than in the Clinton era, yet unemployment is considerably higher. If lower taxes created jobs, then unemployment should be lower now.

One defense that has some merit is that it would seem unfair to tax the wealthy more so as to be able to keep various social services that provide “free stuff” to people who have not earned it.

My first reply is that the taxes on the wealthy do not simply go to provide “free stuff.” After all, the wealthy generally benefit a great deal from the state. The state provides protection for their property, wages war on their behalf, intervenes in foreign countries to their benefit, provides the infrastructure they utilize in their business, and so on. The wealthy get a great deal from the state and, as such, it is something of a smoke screen to raise the specter of the freeloaders.

My second reply is that the folks who get “free stuff” have, in some cases, actually paid for that “free” stuff by their own taxes and efforts. For example, do we want to call people who are retired or veterans who were disabled fighting in our wars free loaders who are sponging off the rich? I would not be inclined to do so.

My third reply is that some of the folks who get “free stuff” will later repay it. The obvious example here are the students of today who will become the workers (and sometimes the wealthy) of tomorrow. This can be seen as investing in the future rather than supporting free loaders.

My fourth reply is that some of the folks who get “free stuff” are people who cannot fend for themselves. The most obvious example is children. Should we abandon them so that millionaires and billionaires can avoid paying just a bit more? That would seem to be an act of callous wickedness, especially from a party that screeches about the sanctity of life (except in war and capital punishment, of course).

My fifth reply is that some of the folks who get “free stuff” need that stuff because of the grotesque inequality in wealth in this country. While I will admit that there are some people who are parasites, there are plenty of people who are  working poor. They often work very hard, sometimes holding multiple jobs. However, the economic system is such that they simply cannot earn enough to live without the support of the state. If the tiny fraction of people who hold the vast majority of the wealth are asked to let a few crumbs fall from their banquet, that hardly seems like too much to ask.

My sixth reply is that providing such “free stuff” is actually a good idea for the wealthy. After all, when a society becomes extremely unbalanced, social upheaval tends to follow. Even a cursory review of history will show the consequences of having highly concentrated wealth and a large lower class. The “free stuff” provided to people can often be what keeps them from taking to the streets in revolution and engaging in  real class warfare (not the bulls@t that Fox talks about) in which the wealthy are put against the wall. Paying a little extra to maintain the social order that supports, protects and enables their incredible wealth seems like a rather miniscule price to pay. Even some of the wealthy realize this and support this sort of proposal. Those who serve the wealthy as their loyal minions should also realize this and act in the best interest of their masters by supporting this proposal. Yes, I am talking to you, Republican “Tea Party” politicians and Fox “News”.


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12 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on September 23, 2011 at 6:33 am

    “Democrats are willing to increase revenue.”

    Democrats could have raised taxes when they controlled both houses of Congress, but they didn’t. They are in favor of having the Republicans raise taxes.

    Democrats also say they are in favor of reforming entitlements, except that they have never put a concrete plan out there for people to analyze.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on September 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      Entitlements need to be reviewed across the board, much like a business or household should review its expenditures when its finances are in the dumpster.

  2. WTP said, on September 23, 2011 at 8:52 am

    “On the face of it, such a charge is absurd and pure hyperbole” – Pot/Kettle again.
    “One defense of the wealthy being offered by the Republicans is the “job creator defense.” The idea is that the wealthy cannot be expected to pay more because this would prevent them from creating jobs. This argument, as has been argued before, has almost no merit.” – Again, you are very ignorant in the area of economics and are not qualified to state that this argument has almost no merit. And what has its being “argued before” got to do with its validity. Fallacy number what?
    “The Republicans seem to be the ones that are engaging in what could be considered class warfare.” – and yet further below you accede to its inevitability.
    “some of the folks who get “free stuff” will later repay it.” – Well then let them take out loans and REPAY them.
    “After all, the wealthy generally benefit a great deal from the state.” – More like the state benefits a great deal from the wealthy. That’s where it gets the vast majority of its tax revenue from.
    There is so much more here to argue. This is not philosophy, this is sophistry and I’m beginning to suspect you know that.
    Yes, I’m talking to you Ivory Tower intellectuals and fellow travelers.

  3. dhammett said, on September 23, 2011 at 9:47 am

    On the issue of class warfare:


    Let’s add a few words from Mr. Krugman , an actual economist, whose major negatives would seem to be that he’s an ivory tower intellectual, he disagrees with conservatives and libertarians on a regular basis, he’s got a beard, he’s human, so, unlike some of us, he’s capable of error, and , like Milton Friedman, he won a Nobel Prize. We all know how meaningless those are, because Obama won one, right?
    We could always, if we wish, add a dash of Buffett , a man who has indisputable hands-on experience with money–huge amounts of it–to the mix to provide more depth and clarity. Maybe later.

  4. WTP said, on September 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Is this the sort of thing you believe, Mike:

    • dhammett said, on September 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      Too harsh and ‘intellectual’ for you?

  5. ajmacdonaldjr said, on September 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    It’s the waste of tax money, more than social services, that angers the Tea Party more than anything. Progressive income taxes are immoral, which also bothers the Tea Party. Washington DC, economically speaking, is a boom town: construction everywhere, because of all the federal “workers” who are paid too much, have too many perks, and do basically nothing. DC is now the wealthiest urban area in America, because it’s built on the backs of hard working tax paying Americans.

    See: Wasted tax dollars: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/09/23/national/main20110835.shtml

    See: Wasted tax dollars: http://www.iwatchnews.org/2011/08/26/5985/state-dept-spends-terrorism-and-emergency-dollars-parties-rented-linens-and-kitchen

    See: Wasted tax dollars: http://www.scribd.com/doc/65819860/Nowhere-to-Cut-Spending-in-Washington

    See: Washington richest city: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/14/AR2010121404031.html

    See: Federal workers ride Metro for “free”: http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/dc/thousands-federal-workers-ride-metro-free

    See: Federal worker’s salaries/bonuses through the roof even during tough economic times: http://washingtonexaminer.com/blogs/beltway-confidential/federal-salaries-through-roof-unemployment-climbs

    See: DC Housing construction up: http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/2011_to_see_most_new_condo_construction_since_the_boom/2573

    Let’s call a spade a spade. Federal employees are leeches who live like princes and princesses who live off the taxpaying American’s backs, while they/we go jobless and hungry.

    • dhammett said, on September 24, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      “Federal employees are leeches who live like princes and princesses”. This statement should be of some interest to MAGUS. I’ll bet all this time he thought he was employed by the federal government. I doubt he considered himself a leech–even though veterans returning from the theater of war are sometimes treated worse than leeches. See the PBS Frontline documentary I referred to in an earlier post:


      And witness the sometimes shoddy treatment of vets (federal employees) in military hospitals.

      I see some danger in labeling progressive income taxes ‘immoral’. Who, precisely, thinks they’re ‘immoral’?
      Is it possible that there are many (many) people who don’t believe they’re ‘immoral”. Are those disbelievers wrong simply because they believe that way?

      “What is morality in any given time or place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like and immorality is what they dislike.” Alfred North Whitehead
      That’s “the majority”. That’s Whitehead’s point of view.

      And millionaires and billionaires don’t ultimately get their riches from the taxpaying (let’s substitute something like “spending/purchasing” here) public’ backs?

  6. Anonymous said, on September 25, 2011 at 1:04 am

    Everyone should pay their fair share. Pretty simple really. But I refuse to think of the poor as noble, or any other class as noble for that matter. That includes soldiers. Some are noble, some are not. It just so happens that certain classes and jobs often reveal nobility while others rarely do.

    I still say if you’re born poor in America there’s no better place in the world to dig your way out. Go get a loan and go to college. Criminal activity is what will keep a person down because so much is based on trust. No trust=no job.


    • dhammett said, on September 25, 2011 at 10:15 am

      Agreed. As long as ‘I’ get to determine what ‘my’ “fair share is”, right? Simple. Who can do a better job of that than me? I’d be more efficient. I know my needs. There’d be less bureaucratic red tape involved. And I’d pay waaaay less taxes, I guarantee you. You could do the same. Easy as pie.
      But, seriously are soldiers– some of whom “are noble, some are not”— “leeches” –in the same general, all-inclusive, nasty sense that “Federal employees are leeches who live like princes and princesses”.? That’s part of what I believe is a much more complicated question posed by WTP’s statement.

      Yes. America’s a great place “to dig your way out “, IF you’ve got the genetic tools to do so. It’s a great place to dig your way out if you’re in the gutter—and one sort of “out” is a job sweeping restrooms. Without the necessary intelligence, coordination, emotional makeup etc. the toilet may be as “out” as you can get. There’s a sort of nobility there. But I doubt that any reputable bank would give the average toilet cleaner a college loan. Then of course, during the mortgage debacle houses were sold to people who just didn’t get what a variable interest rate is, by banks who knew very well what the likely repercussions of providing the loan would be.

      But–and we agree yet again— it’s still faaaaar better here than in Somalia.

      Note: Comedian on a late night show this week (approx. wording):

      “President Obama said, ‘This is not class warfare. This is math!’
      That’s too bad because this country’s really good at warfare, and we really suck at math.”

      • dhammett said, on September 25, 2011 at 10:18 am

        Oop! I just took a quick look back at the posts here.
        My sincere apology to WTP. He did not make the leeches claim.

  7. Free Stuff said, on October 13, 2011 at 3:51 am

    […] Class Warfare (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) […]

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