Thoughts on Class Warfare in America
December 27, 2011 § Leave a Comment
For a twenty-five year old, I’ve been lucky to have an unusually broad set of experiences. I’ve worked in a factory, on a farm, on an overnight construction shift for a department store, on hot rooftops running electrical wire, in a store bagging groceries, in my car delivering pizzas all over town, in the district office of a U.S. congressman, in the legal offices of several state agencies, and in some of the most high-level policy meetings among some of the most well-connected individuals in my home state of Arkansas. But beyond just jobs, I’ve lead Bible studies in jails, in the homes of millionaires, and everywhere in between. By virtue of being the son of a father who served twenty-four years in our armed forces, I was privileged to travel and meet people from all walks of life all over the country and the world (I was born in the Philippines). By virtue of being the son of a mother who is the most natural networker in the world who knows virtually every businessperson and public figure within an hour, I’ve been blessed to benefit from the network that almost from scratch she has put in hard work to establish. I’ve played golf at private country clubs in foursomes with CEOs as well as with less-well-off people on some of the cheapest municipal tracks you could not imagine. I spent one night wining and dining with people who will make more in their life than my whole family several times over and literally spent the next night at Wendy’s with a homeless man—a Vietnam veteran who had just lost his job as a trucker. If I had the patience here, I could with little difficulty dig for even more diverse experiences and acquaintances.
Let me drive this point home though: No matter where or with whom I’ve found myself, one constant has been respect for those who through hard work and integrity find themselves successful. What exceptions I have found to this have neither been frequent nor influential.
It is on this background that I find myself at odds with and even offended by the notion that there is a class warfare taking place in America. I don’t want to speak for the whole “occupy” movement because it includes many viewpoints. And I have no intention of writing the definitive article here on the merits of returning our highest income tax bracket to what it was in the 90s (39% from today’s 36%). But I absolutely want to see blotted out of the debate the phrase, “class warfare.” By an overwhelming majority, those advocating for our top income earners to be taxed what the top income earners were taxed in the 90s (when our top income earners were without question doing quite well) are not doing so because they disdain success. Class warfare is simply not in the DNA of Americans.
It is beyond question that our middle class is thinning out. A thinning middle class is a concern for every income class—for the lower class because it is into the middle class that the poor seek to enter and for the upper class because it is the middle class who consumes their goods and services. How to solve this problem is the subject of legitimate arguments on both sides of the Republican-Democrat divide. You might believe that a tax increase would discourage job creation. It’s a fair argument. And if this is what you believe, then by all means make this argument. But do not dismiss the viewpoint of the other side as mere class warfare. All too often this has proven to be a rhetorical device that has permitted opponents of the tax increase to ignore the merits of the underlying argument.
When making criticisms, criticize arguments. Not imagined characterizations of those making them.