Friday, November 02, 2007

Class War

It’s not fashionable to raise the specter of class warfare in America. It is especially frowned upon by the forces that have been most successfully waging it for the past quarter century. It is the war that dares not speak its name, if I may borrow the phrase from another context.

The war is one of Capitalism’s most successful projects, being fought not by those who control the means of industrial production, but by those who control the means of financial production…the great web of financial institutions, banks, merchant banks, brokerages, insurance companies, mortgage companies and real estate interests.

These are the “New Capitalists.” The old capitalists controlled the material means of production, the great factories that produced the cornucopia of consumer goods that were America’s pride and the envy of the less fortunate. They made money by transforming raw materials.

But where the old capitalists produced consumer goods, the New Capitalists produce only money, the precondition for the production of which is money itself. I intend to return to this theme in future posts. For now let me observe that most of us are victims of this class war, victims of an exploitation that is so subtle that we’re not only unaware of it but have already largely lost it.

I started thinking about this after reading a paragraph in a Judith Warner NY Times article, “The Clinton Surprise. She cites a new set of data from the I.R.S.

“It showed that America’s most wealthy earn an even greater share of the nation’s income than they did in 2000, at the peak of the tech boom. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, the Wall Street Journal reported, earned 21.2 percent of all income in 2005 (the latest date for which these data are available), up from the high of 20.8 percent they’d reached in the bull market of 2000. The bottom 50 percent of people earned 12.8 percent of all income compared with 13 percent in 2000. And the median tax filer’s income fell 2 percent when adjusted for inflation (to about $31,000) between 2000 and 2005.” (Italics mine)

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