Blue-Bloods vs. Red Bloods

The Truth About Class Warfare in America

by Ben Price

In this, the hey-day of guilt by conservative disassociation, I am an unapologetic liberal thinker who has yet to be convinced of my status as a social pariah. It may chagrin right wing thinkologists to learn that right here in front of God, John Ashcroft, and the Limbaugh literati I'm going to dare speak the unspeakable, and play the unplayable class warfare card. Conservatives are masterful at stacking the deck against liberal opponents. In the high-stakes card game of politics, rather than declaring one card wild, the right wing puts off-limits whole issues against which they have no chance of putting together a winning hand.

You've heard the kind of ad hoc game rules I'm talking about. It's okay to chortle against the liberal demand for "political correctness," but just try raising a topic declared taboo by conservatives! Consider a right-of-center political cliché that you probably know by heart:

"There the liberals go playing the race card again!"

It's an accusation offered as a friendly suggestion to exercise a little self-censorship. And it's worked very well to put liberals on the defensive when they should have been mounting a frontal assault on anti-social programs that champion special privileges for small elites at the expense of everybody else.

Liberals use to be noted for challenging taboos. But until Trent Lott caught a very public case of foot in mouth disease they had all but forgotten about the race card. There he was: the Senate Majority Leader giving away the secret signals he'd been passing across the political game table ever since political correctness took bigotry out of legal play. Finally the people on the left remembered how to cry foul. But taking one trick in the political deal does not a Canasta make.

The Lott fiasco didn't change anything, but it should have. It should have made the effort to eviscerate affirmative action by the Bush administration political kryptonite. But as long as Bush has the Bin Laden boogey man and Saddam Hussein action figures in his hand, it's tough to get anybody to acknowledge social issue trump cards when they're played.

There are few liberals left in Congress. The moribund Democratic Party seems unlikely to challenge the White House version of affirmative action, which reads: more privileges for the privileged. Bush's wealthfare disguised as tax cuts for "working Americans" officially recognizes the value of insider trading, off-shore corporate tax havens, phony profits to entice foolish investing, and retirement funds (including Social Security) as capital sources for a house of cards pyramid scheme disguised as an economy. Here come tax-free dividends in the guise of an economic stimulus package! Watch this space for inheritance taxes being curtailed for the sake of hereditary wealth!

Under the rubric of "government reform," it's the privatization of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, schools and while we're at it how about the whole money marinated electoral process!Yeah, I'm playing the class warfare card.

Guerilla Anti-Intellectualism

Let's talk about how the Bush administration is waging class warfare and about how right wing ideologues have enlisted the rhetoric of conservatism to promote the interests of a privileged neo-aristocracy. There's nothing conservative about it. Hell, it might even be a colorless aristocracy. (But given the sleight of hand we've seen so far, I wouldn't want to argue that point with a sense of certainty. Condy and Colin may be useful, but are they well-liked?)The strategy for class warfare embraced by the Bushistas is guerilla anti-intellectualism incubated in far-right think tanks, grown on a rich medium of hostility toward altruism and sprayed into the air-ducts of America's electronic media like a neurotoxin being unleashed by corporate terrorists.

If you think this statement is florid exaggeration, consider the orchestrated campaign to sell a war of colonial conquest against Iraq. It's a policy that offers the administration a blank check to pay for an offensive military campaign at a time when the economy is floundering and all fifty states are unable to cover the shortfall left by the federal government's abdication of its social responsibility to tend to the priorities of American tax payers (by definition this disenfranchisement does not include multinational corporations). Programs funded by tax dollars and targeted at alleviating human needs in our communities don't even appear on the neo-conservative radar screen.

Flagrant Social Inequities

The rheumy-eyed right wing TV person-allergies who frequent infotainment shows disguised as news programs unctuously blast "entitlement" programs that take money out of the pockets of hardly working millionaires. Flagrant social inequities against the sanctity of personal property rights are easily fixed, they argue, with a trillion dollar plus windfall "tax cut" to the richest crème of the human curd. The poor and disenfranchised have no voice. (Hey, I'm serious! It's not like liberals have no ammunition against these yahoos! We just can't keep a show with a liberal bias on the Murdoch, GE, Disney or Time-Warner networks. "What about the liberal bias in media?" you ask. All I can say is: some people will believe anything!).

Meanwhile the Turks are approached with a bribe to host Bush's war against Iraq. They're offered $35 billions of tax dollars collected from the American peasantry if only they'll join the Axis of Weasels. That's about half what Bush asked Congress as a down payment for the whole war! "Money is no object!" says the little corporal punisher. It's enough to jade an ultra patriot. And even though I'm no Bush apologist, I'm not one who subscribes to the myth that Mr. Bush's war is just about oil either. Certainly not, it's about blood too: the blue and the red.

A brief aside

Attention to the class war in America is often diverted by the so-called "culture war" between liberals and conservatives. Letting the common folk squabble over copyrighted moral questions while the lords and ladies of American culture collect their royalties has become great sport. But the class war in America boils down to the bones of contention once thought to have been picked clean when the founders of our nation adopted the Bill of Rights. The few scraps of unsettled privilege left behind by the founding fathers (excluding the joker in the deck of American history: slavery) was a mere broth of favoritism toward propertied white men compared with the gumbo of goodies on simmer for our latter-day Gatsbys.

Back to Basics

Money's short order cooks in Congress have boiled up a pot of rich property porridge that will stick to the ribs of history's zombie: the resurrected corpse of the East India Company. I'm talking about multi-national corporations and their role in the privatization of American democracy. Most Americans aren't taught in school that it was the over-reaching multinational East India Company against which the rowdy colonists revolted with the Boston Tea Party. It was one of the first return volleys from the regular folk in the class warfare being waged around the globe by the British Empire and its monstrous instruments of commerce. Considering the tyrannical meddling of petroleum giants in our nation's economy and foreign policy today, it may be time for a Texas Tea Party.

It's not surprising that the neo-aristocracy has succeeded in fleshing-out their dream of dominion from the corpse of such a historic bad idea. Consider how well we as a nation have been persuaded to defend the crazy idea that property rights are superior to personal rights. With the incorporation of property into the legal equivalent of people, corporations have been given constitutional rights. No, I'm not kidding! We have permitted this monstrosity of an idea to be unleashed across the human landscape in the form of unaccountable multinational corporations and they, not we, are now the masters of America's fate.

Meanwhile the Bill of Rights has been rendered into a thin au jus served to the peasantry with pleasantries.

Manipulating Human Lives

From the deregulation of usury laws to bankruptcy legislation that ensures the indentured status of millions, from the curtailing of popular access to malpractice torte (the cure offered for shortfalls in insurance industry profits) to the privatization of healthcare to ensure a profit is skimmed from the life and death struggles of ordinary families: manipulating human lives en masse in order to create wealth ad nauseum makes infinite sense to the New World's blue bloods.

Elimination of capital gains taxes is a higher priority for conservatives than debt relief for millions of working Americans. It's more important than funding schools. It's more compelling than a living wage. Tax relief for Republican and Democratic Party benefactors trumps unemployment benefits for laid-off workers, child care for working parents, safety regulations for the workplace, a decent life for the elderly.

Generosity to the gentry is the new norm. Opponents of the up leaching of profit from the neediest are called derisively "bleeding heart liberals." It's a badge of honor in my book. The Renaissance sense of liberal social justice opposes the lie that hierarchical privilege is naturally deserved by the fortunate few. Liberalism will blow the lid off the myth that trickle-down policies favoring the well-off will benefit all if the hoi polloi will only stop questioning the judgment of their betters. The privilege of royalty was dispersed from kings and distributed among sovereign citizens in the remarkable age that saw the birth of the American nation. Red-blooded Americans assumed their rightful claim to sovereignty over their own fate. But the class warfare of a well-funded right-wing revolt against popular rule has turned the tide and gladdened the hearts of a privileged minority. The lifeblood of average red-blooded American men and women flows across Iraqi sand even now so that a well-heeled minority may live large and then yet larger.

Red Blood vs. Blue Blood

It is really no mystery that aristocrats are referred to as "blue bloods." The reason is as familiar as the back of your own hand. Have a look! See those veins? Under the skin they're blue with the living blood of life. It's only when that blood is spilled that it turns red.

Red blooded Americans have been spilling it on battlefields, on decaying urban streets, in uninsured hospital beds, at jobs that are unsafe and in working conditions that are unregulated, all to prop up the aristocratic privileges of those who can say to themselves as they look in the mirror: "It's not my problem. Hey! I've got mine!"

If the world were a peaceful place where equality and justice reigned we could all claim to live like blue-blooded royalty. But in the real world it's only the fortunate sons and the well to-do who get to keep their bloodline blue. In the new world of American empire building, in this nasty right wing game of redirection and deceit, it's considered indiscreet for regular folk to play the royal flush they're dealt at birth as American citizens. But I don't think there's anything wrong with claiming my birthright as a free American. I don't think it's "anti-American" or treasonous to make our government work for the benefit of regular people. So pardon my indiscretion for playing the class warfare card in such polite company. But I do so unrepentantly.

Ben Price is vice president of the Pennsylvania Citizen Action Network and recent Congressional candidate for the PA 19th District on the Green Party ticket.