Through a class, darkly

Posted: 15 July 2012 in Uncategorized
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It just can’t be denied any longer: class is central to much of what is happening in the midst of the Second Great Depression.*

For Will Hutton [ht: ja], the “economic and social crises are merging” because of the hardening of class distinctions.

The protracted “contained” depression is making life ever harder and disillusioning for those, and their children, trapped at the bottom – while making those at the top ever more robust about looking after themselves and their own. A mean world growing still meaner fosters division and mutual suspicion.

Paul Krugman, for his part, sees this year’s election as an example of class warfare.

like it or not, we have an election in which one candidate is proposing a redistribution from the top — which is currently paying lower taxes than it has in 80 years— downward, mainly to lower-income workers, while the other is proposing a large redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the top.

So the next time someone tut-tuts about “class warfare”, remember that the class war is already happening, in real policy — with the top .01 percent on offense.

Meanwhile, Globescan found, in a poll of 23 nations [pdf], that in only six countries did more than half feel that rich people deserve their wealth. Sam Mountford, GlobeScan’s Director of Global Insights, comments:

These figures show that citizens around the world remain far from convinced that the way wealth is divided in their country is fair. This underlying sense of economic inequity may well present a challenge to governments planning to cut and deregulate their way back to prosperity.

The latest attempt to recognize the existence of a class divide in the United States—but then to deflect attention from its economic roots—focuses on marriage patterns, as if changes in family structure were an independent cause rather than a consequence of growing inequality.

Estimates vary widely, but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality. Long a nation of economic extremes, the United States is also becoming a society of family haves and family have-nots, with marriage and its rewards evermore confined to the fortunate classes.

“It is the privileged Americans who are marrying, and marrying helps them stay privileged,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University.

Finally, to show what is at stake in the current forms of class war, we need look no further than the cash payments made to the families of the miners who died in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West Virginia—without a single high-ranking Massey Energy executive having been criminally charged or a single new piece of federal mine safety legislation having passed. As one commentator noted:

These people want justice, not money. Some of you posters seem to be lacking the gift of empathy. No amount of money replaces a lost loved one. In taking the money they, the survivers actually feel guilty because that the amounts they receive will allow them to live a different lifestyle. The problem is somebody had to die in order for that to happen. Furthethmore there seems to be nothing they can do to get the justice they Desire in the form of criminal convictions for Massey managers and executives. This problem should be disturbing to us all.

What the families wanted, as a fitting memorial for their dead children and spouses and for all the surviving miners, was class justice. And they didn’t get it.

Not when a war is being waged against them and all the lower classes by the tiny minority on top—who, instead of offering agape (1 Corinthians 13), look at the world through a class, darkly.

*Class is, of course, not the only determinant of current events—either in the first or last instance. What’s interesting, however, is that after decades of deriding the existence and significance of class, a wide variety of commentators and news reports just can’t overlook or ignore the injuries and insults of class any longer.

  1. petriesan says:

    ah, just give them cake

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