Class warfare in politics and media

Statue of Atlas, that became the cover illustration for Atlas Shrugged. Is the Third Option a variation on this theme?
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Class warfare is as old as society itself. Now it has broken out full-bore, not only in the White House but also in the traditional media.

Obama’s class warfare proposal

Barack Obama: is class warfare his new campaign?

Barack H. Obama, class warrior extraordinaire.

The man now holding office as President, Barack H. Obama, is a class warrior par excellence. Anyone who cared to know, knew that class warfare informed his deepest convictions. In 2001 he once told an interviewer at radio station WBEZ that he found fault with the Constitution of the United States. He called that document “a charter of negative liberties.” He wanted a charter of positive measures—including redistributing wealth.

This week he finally disproved any notion that he wanted compromise. Yesterday he railed against “the rich” (a group he never defines) and repeatedly ordered them to agree to pay more taxes. “Pay your fair share!” he thundered. Warren Buffet, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, stood by his side. Buffet has hypocritically complained that he pays a lower rate of tax on his income than does his secretary. (That’s not correct. He pays exactly the tax rate he ought to pay—on investment income.) Yet Buffet has never once drawn a check payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt, nor encouraged any of his friends to do so.

Obama’s media allies

Everyone knows that the traditional media have allied themselves with Barack H. Obama. Recently an NBC-TV news anchor provided fresh evidence. He said that Republican objections to Obama’s tax-increase plans were “bunk.” Then he dared the Republicans to “defend greed.”

What is greed?

Greed is the most common class warfare buzz word. No one has ever defined it in a way that everyone can agree on. Greed could stand for shortsighted or reckless behavior—acquiring just one thing too many, or taking the one risk one should not take—that creates a problem. One who eats more than his system can digest is the classic example.

But to a class warrior, greed is any acquisition of wealth other than by the speaker or his allies. The essence of class warfare, then, is envy. A class warrior envies the wealth that another person has. Or if that class warrior is a politician, he fears any wealth that someone possesses. A wealthy man can be independent. So the class warrior cries out that the wealthy man is dangerous to society. Not so. The wealthy man per se is dangerous only to the authority of the politician doing class warfare.

The true quarrel

The thing that class warriors fear most is one who feels no shame or guilt over having money—so long as he came by that money honestly. (This is why one frequent tool of class warfare is to say that he stole his money—or even that if he has money, he must have stolen it.) And so the class warrior dares the wealthy man to “hold [his] own interests above the interests of the public” (or those of “those less fortunate”).

Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged, anticipated this. She witheringly replied,

[S]uch a question can never arise except in a society of cannibals.

She went on to explain: human beings who deal honestly with one another in free trade, need never have a conflict of interest. But when one person wants something that the other one has, and is not willing to pay for it, then the two persons’ interests are in conflict.

Of course, the public can make another man’s wealth of no moment at any time—by refusing to trade with him. But Obama proposes to seize wealth by treating one man differently from another. That is flatly unconstitutional. Article I, Section 9, Clause 2 plainly says:

No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.

Yet that is what class warfare inevitably uses: trying a target class in the legislature, not in court. To do this, the class warrior tries his target in the “court” of “public opinion.”

The proper response

The only way to answer class warfare is to reject its moral premise out-of-hand. The only fair and moral way for a government to behave is to grant equal opportunity—not equal result. (Equal result is usually a “miserable” result, to quote the James Earl Carter administration.) Again, to quote Rand:

I could say to you that I have done more good for my fellow man than you can ever hope to accomplish—but I won’t say it. [I] do not seek the good of others as a sanction for my right to exist. [N]or do I recognize the good of others as a justification for the seizure of my property or the destruction of my life….I could say to you that you do not serve the public good…[W]hen you violate the rights of one man, you have violated the rights of all. [A] public of right-less creatures is doomed to destruction….[Y]ou will and can achieve nothing but universal devastation—as any looter must, when he runs out of victims. I could say it, but I won’t. It is not your particular policy that I challenge, but your moral premise….If it is now the belief of my fellow men, who call themselves the public, that their good requires victims, then I say: The public good be damned! I will have no part of it!

Featured image: this statue of Atlas became the cover illustration for the 50th anniversary edition of Atlas Shrugged. Photo: Lee Gillen, CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

19 Responses to Class warfare in politics and media

  1. As a progressive I really hope conservatives and the Republicans in particular will continue to push the “class warfare” canard whenever Obama proposes that the burden of reducing the deficit should not fall on the shoulders of the American middle class alone. It will kill them at the polls.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      If by the above you mean that “entitlements” are sacred sacrifices on the Altar of Need, then yes, we will talk about that—and about reforming our society so that it no longer resembles, in any way, shape or form, a society of cannibals.

  2. Steve says:

    One should ask the question, ‘What benefit is it to Buffet’s secretary, if he pays more in taxes?’
    Answer: None

    This class warfare serves only one purpose – destabilization of the nation to allow for greater control of the masses.

  3. Dante says:

    You know, as a Libertarian, I like Rand, but I still don’t understand why Conservatives revere her when her claims are directly at odds with Jesus Christ. You know, her claims to disregard the poor and Jesus’s claims to sell all your stuff and give it to the poor?

    Speaking of which, I never really understood why the right is mostly composed of Christians at all. Seems like Mark 10:21-25 outright conflicts with the private property and free market ideal.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Rand never understood Jesus Christ, any better than the looters did. She accepted the looters’ definition of what Christ was, and what He stood for, as the real deal—and rejected both. That was a double tragedy. She understood well enough that the Robin Hood legend was distorted history. She never understood that the popular myth of Jesus Christ as Socialist was also distorted history.

      Now about Mark 10:21-25: Jesus was giving that man a test: would he be willing to give up everything he had to follow Him? Ironically, that is precisely what John Galt asked of his strikers: to give up every benefit they could possibly realize in the world as it then existed, and follow him to what was at first a totally uncertain future.

      The meaning of Jesus Christ’s test will become obvious to everyone in the very near future. A war is coming, at the end of which history as men know it will come to a close, and society as men know it will perish. Like John Galt’s Atlantis, Jesus Christ’s Kingdom is not of this world. Unlike John Galt, Jesus will come back at the head of a conquering army.

  4. Martin says:

    “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”

    Matthew 19:24

    I am a conservative and a firm believer on traditional values and the teachings of the holy Bible. And as such it pains me to see Conservatives standing for the rights of the rich in such a blatant way. True conservatives care for their fellow man, like the founding fathers did when they stood against the British crown, and the lord Jesus was not a messiah of the rich and powerful.

    And the worse part is this man who wrongfully took the presidency is saying exactly what the conservative politicians should say, even if is just in a deceitful way. But true conservatives should stand for the majority of the American people, not for the minimal amount who can travel in private jets and change their luxury car every time it gets dirty.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      First of all, the “eye of the needle” was the little gate-let inside the big city gate. A camel can’t get through there because he must lower himself considerably. Similarly, one who trusts in riches and will not lay them aside in the Presence of the Divine, cannot assume a properly trusting attitude toward God.

      But that does not mean that a man loses his rights after he earns a certain amount of money.

      Either we stand fully for the rights to life, liberty, and property, or we do not.

      • Andrew Donn says:

        Yet the GOP rejected tax cuts for the middle class.

        I feel saddened America’s right has become so blind. President Reagan must be writhing on his grave.

        It seems most of the GOP think the best way to save America is to outright reject anything Obama wants, but the liberal vipers have figured this out already and are making things that apparently seem good, just because they know the GOP will reject them and look like the villain.

        And the GOP and the Tea Party cannot see this. The liberals are no different from any other enemies America had. Two times we underestimated our enemies, and we got Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

        We should learn from that.

        • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

          Never assume that Obama is actually proposing any tax cuts for the middle class just because he says he is. And never forget something else: the GOP rejected Obama’s package deal. They rejected the blackmail threat from Obama: increase taxes on my preferred class-warfare targets, or I’m going to tax your grandmother more.

          And never try to explain how the world really works, in terms of how Obama and his advisers think the world works. The two are mutually incompatible.

  5. Jon says:

    “That’s not correct.” But it is *true* that Buffet’s investment income is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary’s salary. And you carefully chose your words to avoid acknowledging this.

    How dishonest. How disrespectful of your readers’ intelligence.

    It’s a good thing nobody will ever rely on a word you write.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      No less an authority than the Internal Revenue Service, finally set the record straight on something that you missed, and Obama is deliberately hiding. The money that Warren Buffet put up to invest in the first place has already been subject to tax at “his secretary’s level.” And the only reason that he had less total tax, in proportion to the money that flowed in, was that he cashed in on a slew of tax-loss carry-forwards that he had qualified for, years before. Most men in his position do not have that benefit.

      You have to ask yourself why Warren Buffet would make so much noise. Nobody offers himself as a sacrificial victim. Nobody. What he really wants is to harm his competitors, who do not have those loss carry-forwards to fall back on. If anyone knows how to game the system, it’s Warren Buffet. And he’s playing a more sophisticated game than even I can explain.

      All I’m saying is: when someone makes an open plea to be subject to higher tax, and does not do the obvious thing and cut a check to the Bureau of the Public Debt,

      He.

      Is.

      Lying.

      • Jon says:

        Terry, I think you’ve revealed something pretty fundamental with that response. You find it impossible to believe that someone as wealthy and respected as Warren Buffett could honestly believe it’s a good idea to contribute to the rest of society.

        But he does.

        The fact is that Warren Buffett has already committed billions of his personal wealth toward social investments in the Gates Foundation.

        He also believes that taxing his personal investment income at the same rate as his secretary’s salary is important for addressing the deficit while protecting other social investments in roads, schools and innovation.

        …and he does this all while investing Berkshire Hathaway’s capital to create many more new jobs.

        Your facts are outdated and your worldview is obsolete, Terry.

        • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

          What I find impossible to accept is that he would honestly believe all that—and not do anything about it on his own hook.

          For instance, why did he bother with those capital loss carry-forwards? Why not let them lapse?

          And more to the point: he can write a check, any time he pleases, to the Bureau of the Public Debt. Why won’t he?

          No. He wants to change the tax laws so that other people will not be able to climb to his heights. He might also be doing some rent-seeking, though at the moment I cannot figure out where he might find the rents he seeks.

          The Gates Foundation is not the federal government. And get this: it’s all very well for him to contribute to the Gates Foundation. But let any of his competitors try to do the same thing, and he would have the government change the rules so that they may not do that. They must give it to the government.

          I tell you again: something is missing here.

          Why are schools a social investment? By what authority does the government, at any level, but especially the federal, keep a school? Do you understand what a government school means? It means teaching a government version of history, and government science, and government math, and government everything-else. Maybe it means teaching little children to sing paeans of praise to a sitting President (or rather, The Man Now Holding Office As President).

          Facts are never outdated. Either you are accusing me of lying, or else you suggest that a fact can change to a non-fact at your whim. It doesn’t work that way. A is A, and A remains A.

  6. Montmac says:

    I didn’t see anywhere in the article where the author actually covered what Obama’s proposal was. All it says is he’s asking for the rich to pay more in taxes. That may be all you need to know to be against it, but I don’t think just a little more detail, like you know, an extra sentence, would have been so hard to manage.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      That’s all I need to know. His proposal does not contradict that, does it?

      • Montmac says:

        Yea, but I’m assuming your not writing these articles to hear yourself talk, your writing to inform your readers. I still don’t understand; in an article about a tax proposal, why would you not state what the proposal is?

        For example, saying its a tax on the rich is enough to convince you to be against it, but might not be enough to convince other people. You are trying to get people to see your side of the argument, right? Is it an income tax? A capital gains tax? Is he raising it 0.1% or 90%. Those are kind of obvious, big question that you could have answered in the article in a sentence or two.

        If you are against a the tax on principle, which many are, why would you not want to know that kind of information? Wouldn’t you want to know how damaging Obama’s proposal is? Is it a little damaging or catastrophic economy halting damaging? If hes proposing a one cent tax increase on the top 1%, you may still feel thats wrong, but its clearly less dire than if you was calling for all private property in the country to be taken by the government. Also, knowing that kind of basic information

        See, in your article, your claiming that this is class warfare, that it proves that Obama has no intention to compromise. When I read your article, I try to understand the topic your covering and also see if I agree with you. Both of those things are vary hard to do when you write this vaguely.

  7. Montmac says:

    The computer cut me of mid sentence at the end of paragraph two:

    Also, knowing that kind of basic information allows you to compare Obama’s ideas and politics to other politicians.

  8. Rimbaud says:

    I can’t wait till all of you old, rich, White men who were alive for segregation die.

    3%, Tea Party, the various Ultra-right Christian groups = the desperate and dying gasps of a people and culture in decline.

    The same reasons that the Radical Left has ultimately failed at recruiting a critical mass of young people to actively support their movements will be the same undoing for the Radical Right.

    And just like the Far Left, every pathetically earnest attempt you make at mobilizing youth and young adults will result in the furthering of their annoyance with your zealotry and their rationalization for complete and total apathy.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Not this time. We have a coherent philosophy. The Left doesn’t. Or rather, they daren’t say it out loud. We dare.

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