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Bill Moyers: The Great American Class War

9:50 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Stencil: No War but Class War

Bill Moyers on Class War in America

If you’ve heard the phrase “class war” in twenty-first-century America, the odds are that it’s been a curse spat from the mouths of Republican warriors castigating Democrats for engaging in high crimes and misdemeanors like trying to tax the rich.  Back in 2011, for example, President Obama’s modest proposal of a “millionaire tax” was typically labeled “class warfare” and he was accused by Congressman Paul Ryan, among others, of heading down the “class warfare path.”  Similarly, in 2012, Mitt Romney and other Republican presidential hopefuls blasted the president for encouraging “class warfare” by attacking entrepreneurial success. In the face of such charges, Democrats invariably go on the defensive, denying that they are in any way inciters of class warfare.  In the meantime, unions and the poor are blasted by the same right-wing crew for having the devastatingly bad taste to act in a manner that supposedly might lead to such conflict.

In our own time, to adapt a classic line slightly, how the mighty have risen!  And that story could be told in terms of the fate of the phrase “class war,” which deserves its Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart moment.  After all, for at least a century, it was a commonplace in an all-American lexicon in which “class struggle,” “working class,” and “plutocrat” were typical everyday words and it was used not to indict those on the bottom but the rich of whatever gilded age we were passing into or out of.  It was essentially purged from the national vocabulary in the economic good times (and rabidly anti-communist years) after World War II, only to resurface with the Republican resurgence of the 1980s as a way to dismiss anyone challenging those who controlled ever more of the wealth and power in America.

It was a phrase, that is, impounded by Republicans in the name of, and in the defense of, those who were already impounding so much else in American life.  All you have to do is take a look at recent figures on income and wealth inequality, on where the money’s really going in this society, to recognize the truth of Warren Buffet’s famed comment: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Recently, Bill Moyers (who needs no introduction) gave a speech at the Brennan Center in New York City in which he laid out what class warfare really means in this society.  The first appearance of the host of Moyers & Company at TomDispatch is a full-throated call to save what’s left of American democracy from — another of those banned words that should come back into use — the plutocrats.  Tom

The Great American Class War
Plutocracy Versus Democracy
By Bill Moyers

I met Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in 1987 when I was creating a series for public television called In Search of the Constitution, celebrating the bicentennial of our founding document.  By then, he had served on the court longer than any of his colleagues and had written close to 500 majority opinions, many of them addressing fundamental questions of equality, voting rights, school segregation, and — in New York Times v. Sullivan in particular — the defense of a free press.

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Mattea Kramer: A People’s Budget for Tax Day

6:30 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Close up of Washington's eye on dollar bill

Upset about how your tax dollars are spent? Even worse, it could be fixed.

Recently, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave a major speech at the National Defense University on cutting military — aka defense — spending.  Hagel is considered a “realist” and so when it comes to such cuts, this is undoubtedly the best we’re likely to get out of Washington for a long time to come.  Unfortunately, it turns out that the best is pretty poor stuff.

The speech was filled with the sort of complaints we’ve already grown used to hearing from the Pentagon about the “deep cuts… imposed by sequester.”  These, Hagel insisted, will result in “a significant reduction in military capabilities.”  (In fact, President Obama’s just released 2014 budget calls for only a miniscule 1.6% cut in the Pentagon’s bloated budget.)  There was also the usual boilerplate stuff about the U.S. global military stance — “America’s responsibilities are as enormous as they are humbling” — and about the “vacuum” we’d create on planet Earth if we reduced it in any way.  As the Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss wrote, “Nature may abhor a vacuum, but it isn’t the job of the United States to go stumbling into every regional conflict, humanitarian crisis, failed state, and would-be terrorist nest that arises. Whatever those things are, they’re not ‘vacuum’ to be filled.”

Like Leon Panetta before him, Hagel, who took a voluntary sequester pay cut, managed to make it sound as if the U.S. military were teetering at the edge of some financial cliff.  He spoke mournfully, for instance, of the Pentagon having “significantly less resources than the department had in the past.” Well… no, as Mark Thompson of Time magazine pointed out, it just ain’t so.

The facts aren’t difficult to sort out, even for those of us who aren’t secretaries of defense.  In a world filled with the most modest of enemies, after those “sequestration” and other planned cuts in the military budget are taken into account, the country would still be spending at levels that weren’t reached in the Cold War years when there were two overarmed superpowers on the planet.  As the Congressional Budget Office concluded last month, “In real terms, after the reduction in 2013, DoD’s base budget is about what it was in 2007, and is still 7% above the average funding since 1980.”

Among Hagel’s more accurate, if disheartening, comments was his praise for the way the U.S. military had, in the post-9/11 era, grown “more expeditionary.”  Back in the nineteenth century, that phrase would instantly have been recognized as code for “imperial” — for, that is, a great power exerting its muscle by policing the far frontiers of the planet.  In ending his speech, Hagel added definitively, “America does not have the luxury of retrenchment.”  So here’s a simple budget-cutting formula for you: if you can’t retrench and become less “expeditionary,” then significant cuts to the military, not to speak of the full-scale national security state, including the homeland-security complex and the intelligence-security complex, simply will not happen.  There’s only one way to cut the national security budget in a meaningful way: downsize the mission.

With tax day looming, we asked TomDispatch regular Mattea Kramer to get the number crunchers at the invaluable National Priorities Project to work on what a people’s budget might look like with genuine military cuts in a less imperial world.  Her answer: don’t underestimate the much-ignored wisdom of the American people on where their tax dollars should (but won’t) go. Tom

A Tax Day Plan for Righting the Republic 
Just Doing What’s Popular Would Make Us Healthier, Wealthier, Wiser, and Less Indebted 
By Mattea Kramer

After heroic feats of arithmetic and a your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine interpretation of opaque rules and guidelines, millions of Americans will file their taxes by this Monday, April 15th.

Then there’s the bad news.

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