In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of he husband and then killed her.
That is class warfare.
Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top one percent is not.
Of course, it's not only an outrageous smear for Republicans to accuse those seeking some measure of economic justice as waging class warfare; it's also the very definition of hypocritical. Because in the Post-Industrial Era, it's the Republicans who have been attempting a systematic dismantling of all government protections and services that help the less economically advantaged, while at the same time opposing any similar cuts that might affect the wealthiest, while at the same time continuing to promote government spending that further enriches the wealthiest. But that's not class warfare. Calling for a return to the tax rates of 1950s and 1960s—which saw the blossoming of the middle class, the construction of the national highway system, the expansion of Social Security and the creation of Medicare and Medicaid—is class warfare.
Republicans love to blither about moral values. To Republicans, moral values seem solely and obsessively to be about repressing people's sex drives. To Republicans, moral values don't seem to have anything to do with protecting such other drives as the need to eat and have shelter, much less such extreme luxuries as health care, an education and economic opportunity. To Republicans, moral values don't seem to include social and economic fairness and justice. To Republicans, moral values don't seem to have anything to do with being our neighbors' keepers. Child poverty is nearing an astonishing 25 percent, but to Republicans, that's probably the fault of the children themselves, who apparently didn't choose the right families into which to be born.
It's bad enough that the Republicans deliberately pursue an agenda that hurts people, voting against jobs programs, trying to deny expanded health care, waging war on the unions that were responsible for forcing the creation of the forty hour work week, mandated time off, worker safety laws, and an end to child labor. But they also blatantly lie about the dire conditions in which increasing millions of people live. They blatantly lie about the causes of economic duress. They blatantly lie about their own economic agenda, the promotion of which is almost entirely constructed of lies. They know that they can't convince people deliberately to vote against their own self-interests, and their economic agenda is hostile to most people's self-interests—their economic agenda is hostile to most people—so they have no choice but to lie. And the more successful they have been, the more difficult and desperate life has become for most people.
The poverty rate last year hit a 52-year high while the wealthiest continued to grow wealthier. And that was but the continuation of the expansion of the greatest income gap ever recorded in this country. But to what purpose? How rich is rich enough? How many future generations need to be ensured of having more money than they will ever be able to spend? What is the need for such extreme greed, such mendacity and such cruelty? Real people are hurting. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 48,800,000 Americans lived in food-insecure households in 2010, and 16,200,000 of them were children. And none of it is accidental.
What kind of people would willingly inflict so much suffering on so many people? On millions of children? What kind of people would block every attempt to help so many people who are suffering, and then label attempts to help them "class warfare"? This is the real question, both about next year's elections and about the past 30 years of right wing economic policy. Which century do these people most want to emulate? The Gilded Age of the 19th century? The Rococo era of the European royals?
Those striving for some measure of social and economic justice mean to hurt no one. Creating some balance in the income gap and the distribution of wealth will not cause anyone to go hungry or homeless or to lack adequate health care. Those using every possible means to deny some measure of social and economic justice are hurting people. They are deliberately and unconscionably perpetuating the causes of immeasurable unnecessary suffering. So who is waging class warfare?
Who are these people?