Humpty Dumpty’s Class War Flunkies

Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, the embodiment of modern day GOPer propaganda techniques

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all.”
– Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass (1872)

Substitute “class warfare” for “glory” above and you have the GOP messaging technique in a nutshell. Recall what Karl Rove famously called the “reality based community” during the 2004 presidential campaign:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

No wonder the Rovians are so fanatical about regaining the presidency. It’s tough to be on the outside looking in, watching someone else “creating other new realities.” Tough to be a student and not an actor, a subject of the empire rather than one of its rulers. Must be messing with their grandiose self-image something fierce.  How I wish I could have seen Rove’s face as Obama was feted for killing Usama Bin Laden. Mission Accomplished, you deluded, incompetent jerk.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), all singing from the same ruling class hymnal, called Obama’s recent economic recovery proposals “class warfare.”  Ryan whined:

Class warfare…may make for really good politics but it makes for rotten economics. We don’t need a system that seeks to divide people,”said Ryan with a straight face…

In an op-ed in The Washington Post last month, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor charged that the president’ agenda was:

…anti-business, hyper-regulatory, pro-tax [ and] sent the message from the administration that “we want to make it harder to create jobs…[and is] fueled by efforts to incite class warfare.

Too bad Ryan and Cantor didn’t apply the same analysis to themselves and their party. In their eyes, George W. Bush‘s greatest success was his two massive, unfunded tax cuts. Radically skewed to benefit the rich, they will add $3.9 trillion to the national debt  over the next decade, which the Rethugs’ want to offset by increasing taxes on the middle class and with extreme budget cuts to entitlement programs including those that are specifically targeted to help children and the poor, like Head Start.

Bush promised to reverse a long time conservative complaint, that too much of their wealth was being transferred to the middle class and the poor. Well, he delivered. That was the real Mission Accomplished in their book.

Previously, the high tax rates that prevailed during the latter half of the Twentieth Century served as a disincentive to the kind of economic activity we see today– leveraged speculating during boom times and hoarding during down times. Back then, a “use it or lose it” reality prevailed, designed to increase investment in the economy. Employers could either write a big fat check to Uncle Sam or use the money to expand their business by buying new equipment, hiring workers,  increasing their sales force, and fueling the advertising industry.

All this created a virtuous circle in which GDP expanded and the American Dream was realized by the first two post-war generations. Sadly for the current generation, saddled by huge student loan balances with little opportunity to pay them off given the shitty employment environment, it is now more appropriate to refer to The American Nightmare.

Idle money like idle hands too often does the devil’s work. Tempted by the high returns produced by private and largely unregulated hedge funds and investment banks, much of the bonus Bush tax cut cash found its way into the real estate market. Not in the building of homes or office buildings or anything particularly ‘concrete’ but in paper– CDOs, synthetic CDOs, credit default swaps, and other exotic derivatives created by freshly minted MBAs looking to make their own millions on Wall Street.

During the Wild West, deregulated  days of the Bush Administration, a huge virtual casino sprang up in which bets for and against various mortgage pools were made, expanded exponentially by huge amounts of leverage afforded to Wall Street. An unleveraged dollar would buy a dollar’s worth of chips while a leveraged dollar would buy 40. In just a few short years the nominal amount of derivatives totaled hundreds of trillions of dollars, an inverted pyramid teetering precariously on top of the original collateral– people’s homes. Until, like the house of cards it was, it all fell down. Add to The American Nightmare the millions of older American workers who have lost their homes, and the additional millions that are in the process of losing them, many of them living on what remains of their retirement funds after the Banksters got done raiding them.

 Stephen Colbert explains the psuedo-scientific “math” of class warfare

Eat The Rich

Now we find ourselves at another historical crossroad, another presidential election. As part of his campaign to grow the economy and reduce the deficit, Obama is proposing to  tax millionaires and billionaires at the same rate as the middle class, the so-called “Buffet Rule.” Named after the legendary investor Warren Buffet, Buffet believes that it is unfair that he and his fellow billionaires, whose income is derived primarily from dividends and capital gains, are taxed at  half the rate the average American worker pays. Apparently, 75% of Americans agree.

Credit Buffet for displaying a sense of fairness on the tax issue. Even more praiseworthy is his philanthropic works,  highlighted by his pledge to give more than 99% of his wealth to charity. Contrast his compassion for the plight of the less fortunate and the struggling working class with our previous president, George W. Bush. Who can forget W’s clueless response to a woman who said she was working three jobs: “Uniquely American,” he praised. “I mean, that is fantastic that you are doing that…”

Meanwhile, the stats just keep on coming. The wealthiest 400 families earn as much as 150 million American taken together. That’s roughly 24% of all income, 25% greater than the heyday of the Rockefeller/Carnegie/J.P. Morgan Robber Barron days.   As Bernie Sanders points out, the percentage of income going to the top 1 percent has nearly tripled since the 1970s. Your average big corp CEO makes $9.5 million a year.

Not surprising that those same 400 families own 50% of all the nation’s wealth as well.   On the ‘trickle down’ side of the equation, according to the Census Bureau’s latest stats,  a record 46.2 million people  now live in poverty. That’s 15%, nearly one in six Americans including 37% of young families (defined as under the age of 30). This  is the highest of any major industrialized nation, and many experts believe it will get worse begore it gets better.

Jobs Creators Versus Job Destroyers

Naturally, Obama’s radical, socialist, jobs creating proposal drew immediate howls of protest from the Rethugs: How dare he propose that millionaires and billionaires pay the same rate as the middle class! What arrogance!

Arrogance is of course code for Uppity Black.  Just the latest ad hominem designed to shift attention away from the fact that Obama is simply proposing a return to the same basic  tax rate that prevailed during the boom years of the Clinton presidency. Recall that under Clinton’,  a record high 23 million jobs were created. During the comparable eight years of the Bush Administration, when the existing, lower tax rates prevailed, the number of jobs created was a record low 3 million. A record that the Rethugs are trying their best to obscure by yelling things like: President Obama is punishing the job creators!  

“Job creators” has to be one of the greatest political canards of the 21st century, the mutant offspring of Reagan era trickle down economics.   In this case it is classic misdirection, a Rovian strategy designed to shift attention away from the Rethugs’ greatest weakness by attacking what was was once the Dems’ greatest strength. Just how many jobs have been created anyway by trust fund babies like Paris Hilton sitting around the pool waiting for the arrival of their dividend checks, on which they pay less than half the tax rate as the middle class, many of whom have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet?

The landscape has changed radically since the beginning of the Second Great Depression that Bush dumped at Obama’s feet. Job creation has been replaced by job preservation as about the best that can be obtained under current political realities, thanks to the dominance of The White House Office of Preemptive Capitulation.  But the political refrain that helped the Rethugs retake the House in ’10– “Where’s the jobs?”– doesn’t quite have the ring of authenticity it once had. After nine months in power, the Rethugs  haven’t proposed a single jobs bill.

The 2012 Election

Even a pseudo-populist like Barack Obama should be able to make political hay out of the above.  His recent confrontational rhetoric is sounding a lot like the kind that got him elected in ’08. Is there a wind-up populist Obama that only come down off the shelf only when his job prospects are on the line, returned after an election is over so he can go back to playing head waiter to the rich? Or has he learned his lesson and will henceforth ignore Wall Street Trojan Horses like his Treasury Secretary Timmeh Geithner.  

Some six weeks into his presidency, I implored Obama to dump Geithner and and his former chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers. For an insight into what a duplicitous, Wall Street snake Geithner has proven to be is documented in Ron Suskind‘s latest book, Confidence Men. For instance, Suskind reveals that Geithner sat on an order from Obama to break up CITIbank, much to the consternation of the rest of his economic team.

Why would Geithner defy his own president? Well, Citibank was at the other end of the revolving door between the government and Wall Street. Geitner’s former boss was Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, serving as his Deputy Director. Rubin’s previous job was as co-chairman of The Great Vampire Squid itself, Goldman Sachs. After engineering the financial deregulation that led to the crash of ’08, before the ink was even dry, Rubin returned to Wall Street to work for– wait for it– Citibank, as it chief legal counselor and as its Chairman for a short stint. His compensation for services rendered– $50 million. (It would be left to another former Goldman CEO and Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, to engineer the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer guaranteed bailout of the Wall Street Banksters went their shit hit the proverbial fan.)

When Obama got the keys to the White House in early 2009, he was an undistinguished legislator with little practical business experience, wet behind the ears, naive in the ways of The Powers That Be. If he had been experienced hands on manager, he would have likely recognized that Geithner didn’t ultimately report to him but to his former boss, Robert Rubin, and by extension, the whole Wall Street Crime Syndicate.

The Financial Times’  Martin Wolf observes  “Mr. Obama wishes to be President of a country that does not exist. In his fantasy US, politicians bury differences in bipartisan harmony.” Time will tell whether his vaunted intelligence will allow him to see what is obvious to everyone living outside the D.C. Bubble.

Henry Kissinger once said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Power over others is a drug-less drug that starts out as a means to an end but eventually hijacks the brain’s neuro-circuitry to become an end in itself. Like a physical drug, it requires ever increasing doses just to maintain a minimum level of satisfaction.  Without the counterbalancing power of humility,  its wielders becomes reckless, convinced of their personal invincibility. And as always, pride goes before the fall.

True liberty is the associate of genuine self-respect; false liberty is the consort of self-admiration. True liberty is the fruit of self-control; false liberty, the assumption of self-assertion. Self-control leads to altruistic service; self-admiration tends towards the exploitation of others for the selfish aggrandizement of such a mistaken individual as is willing to sacrifice righteous attainment for the sake of possessing unjust power over his fellow beings.

The Urantia Book

[Image taken by author, from somewhere in the fog of Sin City]

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