Class War as Tribal Sacrifice

by Matthew Payne on January 7, 2011Comments Off

  Finally, someone gets it.   That someone being the Nation’s Eric Alterman.  We are living in a new Gilded Age with economic inequality rivaling the level of the 1920s and the rule of Wall Street exemplified by its unprecedented share of overall profits.  Most of contemporary political speech is simply unintelligible unless you use the secret decoder ring of class bias.  None of the deficit hawks, it turns out, are deficit hawks (some call them deficit peacocks, others the austerians but I’ll just go with hypocrites); they are, rather, in favor of tax cuts for the rich and do not really care how that blows up the national, state or local budget.  Note I said rich.  For those paying attention, you will note that a number of conservative commentators think there is plenty of people who should be paying taxes – the poor.  A complaint that not enough poor people are paying taxes (not, by the way true) and their earned income tax credit (one of the most successful anti-poverty measures ever adopted) be reduced.  Most flat-tax and sales tax proposals are extraordinarily regressive as well.  In fact the recent “budget deal” raised taxes on the America’s working poor.


Just as the deficit hawk tag is malarkey, so is the “law and order” one.  Powerful political and economic issues are so commonly insulated from their lawlessness–whether it be massive financial fraud, torturing prisoners of war, illegally attempting to seize someone’s home or simply running someone down with reckless driving.  Meanwhile average citizens are victimized by the highest incarceration rate in the world and so much police intrusion that America is quickly becoming a police state.  Of course anyone pointing out such obvious class bias is quickly labeled a fomenter of class war. 

This shooting of the messenger, of course, is facilitated by our media chattering classes who, firmly ensconced in the protections of fat contracts, happily tut-tut the lesser breeds for their alleged excess.  They are great enthusiasts for “sacrifice” when sacrifice means stealing workers’ pensions, working manual laborers into decrepitude, making Grandma eat cat food, and letting poor people die.  Apparently raising income, capital gains or (horrors!) inheritance taxes on those who control the vast bulk of the nation’s wealth wouldn’t be simply economically ineffient but “immoral.”  So much solicitude for the wealthy, so little for everyone else!  This disparity is caused by a failure to understand the way our class warriors use “sacrifice”–not as shared belt-tightening but a bloody offering to the gods of chance.  Only if the sacrifice actually leads to death and suffering, hopefully of some scapegoats who stand in for the sins of the community as a whole, is it efficacious.  This is why our chatterers have never met a war they couldn’t monger.  Suck. On. This. (note, that is an alleged “liberal”)

Alterman is right.  Our insulated, corrupt and corrupting elite have proven to be the most devoted acolytes of Marx.  Now, in practice, Marx was a Victorian-era economist and sociologists who shared the conceits (Germans are better than Slavs!) and delusions (Hegelianism!) of their era.  The western left’s infatuation with the guy in the last century was, I’d argue, nothing short of disastrous.  That said, the politicians assembling in the new 112th Congress are as flinty-eyed and cruel as any Dickensian Whig and seem anxious to use Das Kapital as a how-to manual.