The New Aristocracy (Let Them Drive Bentleys!)
Since the Reagan Administration, it has been an article of faith among the Republican Party faithful that the best way to grow and help the economy is to cut taxes on the wealthy, and to otherwise make rich people’s lives more comfortable. As a result, the wealthy will spend more money and the wealth will “trickle down” to the middle class and poor.
Yet history shows us that the idea that our economy cannot thrive when the rich are highly taxed is patently false – the postwar boom years of 1946 – 1963 featured the wealthiest Americans paying up to 91 – 92% of their income to the IRS. Until 1982, the last time the wealthiest Americans paid less than a 63% rate was in 1931, when it was 25%. The masters of the universe, undertaxed and unfettered, love plunging the world into massive depression spirals; we learn little from history.
Reaganomics was not the panacea it’s remembered as. The Reagan Administration dropped the top marginal tax rate from 70% to 50% to 38.5%, but as a result income inequality has skyrocketed, and median household income has risen by a paltry 30%, while the richest Americans’ income has tripled or quadrupled in the same time frame.
When your nation is built upon a mythology of equality not only at birth but in opportunity, this sort of thing – a system that is designed to comfort the comfortable and stymie regular people – tends to cause widespread anger and disgust. We cut taxes on the people best able to afford them and propose the privatization, cuts, or elimination to social programs like Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and other portions of our hodgepodge of a safety net.
When you complain about how the system is now bought and paid for by the superwealthy – how the very rich have bought a political party, (if not the entire government), aided and abetted by an almost complete absence of campaign finance limitations, right wing America dismisses you as a Soviet communist engaging in Marxist class warfare.
But class warfare is patriotic; class warfare is the very cornerstone upon which this country was founded. Our late 18th century revolt against Great Britain was a bourgeois revolution, which overthrew an oppressive colonial aristocratic superpower and established a constitutional representative republic based not on birthright and divine providence, but on law. Gentleman farmers, educated professionals, merchants, and traders united to create the first nation forged out of the ideas of the Enlightenment.
Yet now, we are told that helping the bourgeoisie is communism, while a new aristocracy is being created and we are repeatedly told that assisting the aristocracy will help the common man. The facts, however, don’t bear that out. Why that isn’t part of the political discussion has a lot to do with misinformation and propaganda. The New Aristocracy and their paid-for media and politicians have in the past two generations mastered how to frame the argument – help us, help yourselves!
The perfect crystallization of this was revealed this weekend. Republican / New Aristocrat Presidential candidate Mitt Romney attended fundraisers this past weekend in the Hamptons – the uberglitzy, exclusive, and home of ridiculously conspicuous overconsumption – the east coast playground of the New Aristocracy. The Los Angeles and New York Times interviewed attendees, and these quotes ought to be that new class’ “Let them Eat Cake” moment.
A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. “I don’t think the common person is getting it,” she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. “Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.
“We’ve got the message,” she added. “But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies — everybody who’s got the right to vote — they don’t understand what’s going on. I just think if you’re lower income — one, you’re not as educated, two, they don’t understand how it works, they don’t understand how the systems work, they don’t understand the impact.”
A few cars back, Ted Conklin, the owner of the American Hotel in Sag Habor, N.Y., long a favorite of the well-off and well-known in the Hamptons, could barely contain his displeasure with Mr. Obama. “He is a socialist. His idea is find a problem that doesn’t exist and get government to intervene,” Mr. Conklin said from inside a gold-colored Mercedes as his wife, Carol Simmons, nodded in agreement.
Ms. Simmons paused to highlight what she said was her husband’s generous spirit: “Tell them who’s on your yacht this weekend! Tell him!”
Over Mr. Conklin’s objections, Ms. Simmons disclosed that a major executive from Miramax, the movie company, was on the 75-foot yacht, because, she said, there were no rooms left at the hotel.
Oh, the common person is “getting it”.
I’d very much like it if these people paid a bit more in taxes if it means that regular people get improved access to health care, shoring up Social Security, strengthening of Medicaid and expansion of Medicare, and to help pay for our many overseas military adventures – disproportionately fought by the children of the bourgeoisie and proletariat – and ultimately to help reduce the deficit.
Fiscal responsibility begins when you ease and help lives that are tough. There’s a class war being waged, and it’s being aggressively promoted by the modern, New World version of titular nobility.