Kenneth Anderson penetrates through the general confusion about what the Occupy Wall Street protests are all about and explains that what we see is the indignation of the low-end intellectual clerisy left behind by more successful representatives of the same class.
The problem the New Class faces at this point is the psychological and social self-perceptions of a status group that is alienated (as we marxists say) from traditional labor by its semi-privileged upbringing — and by the fact that it is actually, two distinct strands, a privileged one and a semi-privileged one. It is, for the moment, insistent not just on white-collar work as its birthright and unable to conceive of much else. It does not celebrate the dignity of labor; it conceived of itself as existing to regulate labor. So it has purified itself to the point that not just any white-collar work will do. It has to be, as Michelle Obama instructed people in what now has to be seen as another era, virtuous non-profit or government work. Those attitudes are changing, but only slowly; the university pipelines are still full of people who cannot imagine themselves in any other kind of work, unless it means working for Apple or Google. ...
The lower tier is in a different situation and always has been. It is characterized by status-income disequilibrium, to borrow from David Brooks; it cultivates the sensibilities of the upper tier New Class, but does not have the ability to globalize its rent extraction. The helping professions, the professions of therapeutic authoritarianism (the social workers as well as the public safety workers), the virtuecrats, the regulatory class, etc., have a problem — they mostly service and manage individuals, the client-consumers of the welfare state. Their rents are not leveraged very much, certainly not globally, and are limited to what amounts to an hourly wage. The method of ramping up wages, however, is through public employee unions and their own special ability to access the public-private divide. But, as everyone understands, that model no longer works, because it has overreached and overleveraged, to the point that even the system’s most sympathetic politicians understand that it cannot pay up.
The upper tier is still doing pretty well. But the lower tier of the New Class — the machine by which universities trained young people to become minor regulators and then delivered them into white collar positions on the basis of credentials in history, political science, literature, ethnic and women’s studies — with or without the benefit of law school — has broken down. The supply is uninterrupted, but the demand has dried up. The agony of the students getting dumped at the far end of the supply chain is in large part the OWS. ...
The OWS protestors are a revolt — a shrill, cri-de-coeur wail at the betrayal of class solidarity — of the lower tier New Class against the upper tier New Class. It was, after all, the upper tier New Class, the private-public finance consortium, that created the student loan business and inflated the bubble in which these lower tier would-be professionals borrowed the money. It’s a securitization machine, not so very different from the subprime mortgage machine. The asset bubble pops, but the upper tier New Class, having insulated itself and, as with subprime, having taken its cut upfront and passed the risk along, is still doing pretty well. It’s not populism versus the bankers so much as internecine warfare between two tiers of elites.
Anderson is perfectly correct. Just as in places like Egypt and Tunisia, the penchant for empire-building on the part of the Academic industry combined with the general recognition of university education as the path to success and security led the United States to run through a vastly over-inflated system of ersatz higher education a large population with resulting delusions of self importance and entitlement and no means of satisfying them. Naturally, they think the system is unjust. Those other guys, over there, they have money and power, and we, the purer, nobler spirits, who majored in Afro-American Musical Traditions or Gender Inequity Studies are working in Starbucks. It’s so not fair! Rage against the Machine!
Anne Applebaum contends that the really important class division in the United States isn’t between the infinitesimally small category of the Super Rich and everybody else, but the ever enlarging fissure between the haute bourgeoisie and the ordinary middle class.
I would argue that the growing divisions within the American middle class are far more important than the gap between the very richest and everybody else. They are important because to be “middle class”, in America, has such positive connotations, and because most Americans think they belong in it. The middle class is the “heartland”, the middle class is the “backbone of the country”. In 1970, Time magazine described middle America as people who “sing the national anthem at football games – and mean it”.
“Middle America” also once implied the existence of a broad group of people who had similar values and a similar lifestyle. If you had a small suburban home, a car, a child at a state university, an annual holiday on a Michigan lake, you were part of it. But, at some point in the past 20 years, a family living at that level lost the sense that it was doing “well”, and probably struggled even to stay there. Now it seems you need a McMansion, children at private universities, two cars, a ski trip in the winter and a summer vacation in Europe in order to feel as if you are doing minimally “well”. You also need a decent retirement fund, since what the state pays is so risible, as well as an employer who can give you a generous health-care plan, since health care is so expensive.
Anne Applebaum focuses her brief discussion on the economic gap between the community of fashion elite and the old-fashioned middle classes, but I think that the cultural and political division is even more important.
The American Upper Middle Class constitutes the constituency of Progressivism, Scientism, Statism, Collectivism. They are the people who consider eating at the newest restaurant vitally important, but who never attend church. Members of the American community of fashion elite feel more comfortable and at home in Rome and Paris than they do in Akron or Bakersfield. They are more sympathetic to Islamic insurgents overseas than they are to tax protestors at home.
A certain small number of Americans (myself and a number of the contributors to Maggie’s Farm are typical) have a foot in both camps, having acquired elite educations and expensive tastes, but somehow mysteriously having avoided complete assimilation to haute bourgeois liberalism. From our uniquely privileged perspective, it is exceptionally clear just how deep, and how bitter, the recent new class divisions really are.
It isn’t only, as Anne Applebaum notes, that the upper middle class and ordinary middle class have become increasingly distinct and different. They now really detest one another.
Tyler Durden responds to President Obama’s “Millionaire Tax” proposal.
In his increasingly desperate attempts to pander to a population that has by now entirely given up on the hope, and barely has any change left, Obama is going for broke (or technically the reverse) by setting the class warfare bar just that little bit higher. This time around, his targets are millionaires, who according to the NYT are about to see their taxes soar. Or not: nobody really knows if the proposed “Buffett Rule”, affectionately known for crony communist #1, will impact just millionaires income tax, which incidentally is the same as what everyone else is paying, or, far more importantly, their Investment Income, which is where the bulk of America’s wealthy income comes from. Which incidentally makes all the sense in the world: two and a half years after Bernanke has been desperately doing everything in his power to raise the “wealth effect” if only for the richest 1% of the US population, it is, from the government’s perspective, time for the taxman to come knocking and demand his share of the capital gains. Yet what is lost in this ridiculous proposal are the unintended consequences…
There isn’t any hope that Obama can get these kinds of proposals through Congress. What this is all about is testifying aloud in public to his fidelity to the leftist redistributionist faith and energizing his base of parasites and looters.
Angelo M. Codevilla, in the American Spectator, describes the great division in American society between the rulers and the ruled, explains how someone like Barack Obama can make a career as a professional Alinskyite agitator while remaining a member in good standing of the establishment elite, and addresses the dilemma of the oppressed “country class:” how does a Burkean class, conservative in temperament and habits, finding itself revolutionized over a substantial period of time make its own revolution?
Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters—speaking the “in” language—serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government. ...
Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?
The most widespread answers—by such as the Times’s Thomas Friedman and David Brooks—are schlock sociology. Supposedly, modern society became so complex and productive, the technical skills to run it so rare, that it called forth a new class of highly educated officials and cooperators in an ever less private sector. Similarly fanciful is Edward Goldberg’s notion that America is now ruled by a “newocracy”: a “new aristocracy who are the true beneficiaries of globalization—including the multinational manager, the technologist and the aspirational members of the meritocracy.” In fact, our ruling class grew and set itself apart from the rest of us by its connection with ever bigger government, and above all by a certain attitude. ...
Professional prominence or position will not secure a place in the class any more than mere money. In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (just ask Justice Clarence Thomas), or even president (Ronald Reagan ), and not be taken seriously by the ruling class. Like a fraternity, this class requires above all comity—being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs. Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment’s parts. ...
Its attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that “we” are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. ...
Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof. Like left-wing parties always and everywhere, it is a “machine,” that is, based on providing tangible rewards to its members. Such parties often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods and enhance mightily the upper levels’ wealth. Because this is so, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges—civic as well as economic—to the party’s clients, directly or indirectly. This, incidentally, is close to Aristotle’s view of democracy. Hence our ruling class’s standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government—meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc. Hence more power for the ruling class has been our ruling class’s solution not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make Americans kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it. ...
By taxing and parceling out more than a third of what Americans produce, through regulations that reach deep into American life, our ruling class is making itself the arbiter of wealth and poverty. While the economic value of anything depends on sellers and buyers agreeing on that value as civil equals in the absence of force, modern government is about nothing if not tampering with civil equality. By endowing some in society with power to force others to sell cheaper than they would, and forcing others yet to buy at higher prices—even to buy in the first place—modern government makes valuable some things that are not, and devalues others that are. Thus if you are not among the favored guests at the table where officials make detailed lists of who is to receive what at whose expense, you are on the menu. Eventually, pretending forcibly that valueless things have value dilutes the currency’s value for all.
Laws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally. For example, the health care bill of 2010 takes more than 2,700 pages to make sure not just that some states will be treated differently from others because their senators offered key political support, but more importantly to codify bargains between the government and various parts of the health care industry, state governments, and large employers about who would receive what benefits (e.g., public employee unions and auto workers) and who would pass what indirect taxes onto the general public. The financial regulation bill of 2010, far from setting univocal rules for the entire financial industry in few words, spends some 3,000 pages (at this writing) tilting the field exquisitely toward some and away from others.
Repair Man Jack is fed up with democrat class warfare efforts at distraction.
If the majority of Americans really and truly believe that cutting the size of government, when struggling under $14Tr of national debt, equates to a desire to snuff puppies, we deserve a national default. If the majority of Americans truly believe they have a right to extract a loan for their tuition costs out of some other person’s paycheck, America is massively overdue for a well-deserved 2nd Great Depression. If the majority of people really believe the National Weather Service won’t just hire replacements from Korea or China; where students go to class at college sober, they are in for a grievous upset and disappointment.
There must be something special in the water of certain small towns, like Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where guys like Rush Limbaugh and Terry Teachout come from, and Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, where I grew up, that immunizes people from there who move away to the bright lights of the big city from becoming brainwashed and totally absorbed into the community of fashion which loves big cities and itself and loathes and despises ordinary small town America.
Terry Teachout is a rara avis, an astonishing intellectual polymath who knows everything about music and the arts and who also writes seriously on politics. Terry is the unusual intellectual Bohemian, who works harder than any Wall Street Law firm associate, writing articles and books and, for a number of years, working as the Wall Street Journal’s drama critic.
Someone like Terry would typically be expected to take the New Yorker magazine’s point of view that Manhattan is the center of the universe surrounded by an insignificant cultural wasteland, some fortunate few of whose unhappy natives succeed in escaping to the metropolis.
Terry Teachout has got to be the only major professional critic in New York who would say anything like this:
I left my home town a few months after graduating from high school in 1974, and since then I’ve only returned as a visitor. Not so David, my younger brother, who chose to settle in Smalltown, U.S.A., and has never lived anywhere else. He and his wife live three blocks from my mother’s house. If there’s such a thing as a model citizen, he fills the bill with room to spare. Among countless other valuable things, he’s served two terms on the city council and is a member of the board of trustees of his church, and whenever anyone in Smalltown now has occasion to mention the name “Teachout,” they usually mean him, not me.
I’m proud of my brother’s achievements, and more than a little bit jealous of them. In particular I envy his deep roots in the soil of Smalltown. I can’t claim to feel that way about New York City, where I’ve lived for the past quarter-century but to which I have no special attachment save for my love of certain people who live there.
For me, “home” is where Mrs. T is, and that changes from day to day. We moved to a new apartment last November, but we’ve spent so little time there that most of our belongings are still packed in cardboard boxes. So far this year we’ve “lived” in upper Manhattan, rural Connecticut, various parts of Florida, and a string of hotel rooms in Chicago, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. Right now we’re in Smalltown, but we’ll be driving up to St. Louis on Thursday, and a week and a half after that we’ll be on our way to Pittsburgh.
Truth to tell, I’m about as close to rootless as you can get, and because I come from Smalltown, where people tend as a rule to grow where they’re planted and stay where they’re put, this rootlessness has always seemed strange to me. I ought to feel at home somewhere or other, but when I moved away in 1974, I lost the sense of belonging that I possessed throughout the first eighteen years of my life, and since then I’ve never managed to recapture it.
This came as a surprise to me. I always figured I’d find a job in town, marry a Smalltown girl, start a family, and become a pillar of the community. My brother did those things, but I pulled up stakes and became a rambling man, moving from city to city in search of an identity that it took me the better part of a lifetime to find, insofar as I can be said to have found it. At various times in my life I expected to become a concert violinist, a lawyer, a high school teacher, and a psychotherapist, none of which I ended up doing. Instead I’ve paid the rent by working as a bank teller, a jazz bassist, a magazine editor, an editorial writer, a biographer, and a drama critic.
My brother and I, in short, have both led typical American lives. It is fully as American to stick close to home as it is to become a wanderer, but it’s the wanderers who get most of the press, perhaps because we’re the ones who write it—and I’m not so sure it should be that way. I left home to find myself, but my brother didn’t have to leave home because he knew who he was. I call my mother every night, but he sees her every day. I write books, but he has a grown daughter. I like to think that my work may ultimately prove to have some lasting value, but I’m sure that he’s done more to make the world a better place.
I understand Terry’s point of view perfectly. I’m another of the smart, bookish kids who went away to college and did not come back. In my case, my hometown was dwindling into a ghost town (that’s what happens to mining towns when the industry dies), and there isn’t even a there anymore that anyone could go back to.
I’ve always been aware that I was better read, more widely informed, and had found wider horizons for myself and developed a lot more expensive tastes than the people I grew up with, but I also remain conscious that I never had to go to work in the breakers as a schoolboy or risk my life everyday in the mines to support a family. I’ve never deluded myself into believing that being luckier, more affluent, and liking foreign films translates into making somebody a higher level of being.
Walter Russell Mead, writing in the American Interest, though a classic representative of the liberal elite, is increasingly uneasy about his own class’s characterstic contempt for their fellow citizens, attitudes of self-entitlement, anti-patriotism, and aversion of self-doubt.
To listen to many bien pensant American intellectuals and above-the-salt journalists, America faces a shocking problem today: the cluelessness, greed, arrogance and bigotry of the American public. American elites are genuinely and sincerely convinced that the American masses don’t understand the world, don’t realize that American exceptionalism is a mental disease, want infinite government benefits while paying zero tax, and cling to their Bibles and their guns despite all the peer reviewed social science literature that demonstrates the danger and the worthlessness of both. ...
But by historical standards, the average American is actually ahead of his or her ancestors. Today’s average Americans are smarter, more sophisticated, better educated, less racist and more tolerant than ever before. Immigrants face less prejudice in the United States than ever before in our history. Religious, ethnic and sexual minorities are more free to live their own lives more openly with less fear than ever before. There is more respect for science and learning, more openness to the arts and more interest in the viewpoints of other countries and cultures among Americans at large than in any past generation.
The American people aren’t perfect yet and never will be — but by the standards that matter to the Establishment, this is the best prepared, most open minded and most socially liberal generation in history. ...
By contrast, we have never had an Establishment that was so ill-equipped to lead. It is the Establishment, not the people, that is falling down on the job.
Here in the early years of the twenty-first century, the American elite is a walking disaster and is in every way less capable than its predecessors. It is less in touch with American history and culture, less personally honest, less productive, less forward looking, less effective at and less committed to child rearing, less freedom loving, less sacrificially patriotic and less entrepreneurial than predecessor generations. Its sense of entitlement and snobbery is greater than at any time since the American Revolution; its addiction to privilege is greater than during the Gilded Age and its ability to raise its young to be productive and courageous leaders of society has largely collapsed. ...
Many problems troubling America today are rooted in the poor performance of our elite educational institutions, the moral and social collapse of our ‘best’ families and the culture of narcissism and entitlement that has transformed the American elite into a flabby minded, strategically inept and morally confused parody of itself. Probably the best depiction of our elite in popular culture is the petulantly narcissistic Prince Charming in Shrek 2; our educational institutions are like the Fairy Godmother, weaving shoddy, cheap, feel-good illusions into a gossamer tissue of flattering lies. ...
Some of the problem is intellectual. For almost a century now, American intellectual culture has been dominated by the values and legacy of the progressive movement. Science and technology would guide impartial experts and civil servants to create a better and better society. For most of the American elite today, progress means ‘progressive’; the way to make the world better is through more nanny state government programs administered by more, and more highly qualified, lifetime civil servants. Anybody who doubts this is a reactionary and an ignoramus. This isn’t just a rational conviction with much of our elite; it is a bone deep instinct. Unfortunately, the progressive tradition no longer has the answers we need, but our leadership class by and large cannot think in any other terms.
The old ideas don’t work anymore, but the elite hates the thought of change.
Past generations of the American elite were always a little bit nervous about their situation; it is morally difficult for an elite based on birth, ethnicity or wealth to justify itself in a country with the universalist, democratic values of the United States. The tendency of American life is always to erode the power and prestige of elites; populism is the direction in which America likes to travel. Past generations of elites were conflicted about their status and struggled against a sense that it was somehow un-American to set yourself up as better than other people.
The increasingly meritocratic elite of today has no such qualms. The average Harvard Business School and Yale Law School graduate today feels that privilege has been earned. Didn’t he or she score higher on the LSATs than anyone else? Didn’t he or she previously pass the rigorous scrutiny of the undergraduate admissions process in a free and fair process to get into a top college? Haven’t they been certified as the best of the best by impartial experts?
A guilty elite may be healthier for society than a self-righteous one.
Evan Sayet, writing at Front Page, discovers that his liberal interlocutor in a coffee house conversation hates Sarah Palin with a white hot passion, but (surprise, surprise!) on being pressed is unable to identify exactly what Palin political positions she opposes. It must not be positions, he concludes, that drive liberals round the bend. It has to be who she is, her life story.
what is it about Ms. Palin’s life story that generates this blind loathing? The answer is that, at every turn, Ms. Palin’s story debunks the myths of victimization and self-centeredness that is at the heart of the modern liberal ideology.
First, Ms. Palin is married with children. The Democrat Party’s treasured storyline is that women with children – especially those who take care of them themselves – are oppressed, victimized and doomed to a life without personal fulfillment. Ms. Palin’s life proves them wrong and the Democrats hate her for this. If Ms. Palin were a Democrat she would have offed the last child before he was born so that she could have more “me” time to pursue her own wants and pleasures. There is clearly something very “wrong” with this woman who allowed her “special needs” child to live. They hate her for that.
One of the most obvious demographic differences between the Left and the Right is that people without children – those too self-centered and jealous of others stealing “their” attention, angry and hate-filled “feminists,” radical homosexuals and school children too young to have started a family — are just about guaranteed to pull the lever for anyone with a “D” next to their names. Those married with children are just as assured to pull the lever for someone from the Right.
And Sarah Palin ran a small business. Democrats don’t run businesses. In fact, Democrats don’t do anything. If you eliminated from the voting roll everyone who did nothing other than talk – the academic, the newscaster, the actor, the politician – and those who game the system, collecting welfare and years of unemployment benefits and “workman’s compensation” and food stamps, how many people would be left voting Democrat?
Let’s put it this way, if having had a job – having done something that required either physical labor or risking one’s own money – were a prerequisite to work in the White House, Barack Obama would have to fire 94 percent of his top advisers. That’s a real number. Ninety four percent of Obama’s top advisers have never done anything like run a small store, paint a bridge, wire a house for electricity or anything else other than flap their lips.
This is the genesis of the notion that Palin is “stupid.” Liberals are convinced that there’s something “the matter” with people who have jobs. This is what they mean by “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” Kansas being a place where people work – Hollywood, Cambridge Massachusetts, the TV studios in Manhattan are places were people talk. To the liberal, anyone who has a job must be stupid, after all, not everyone is as good a talker as they are, but surely everyone can find one excuse or another to sit at home and collect welfare.
In fact, to the modern liberal, anyone who has a job is not just stupid, he (or she) is dangerous. These people “cling” to their guns and their religion because they toil for their reward. These people are constantly on the verge of violence, whether it’s an attack like the one they caused in Tucson (according to the leftist script) or just by going home and beating their children. Consider the lyrics of “the working man’s troubadour” by Bruce Springsteen:
Early in the morning/factory whistle blows
Man rises from bed and puts on his clothes.
Man takes his lunch, walks out in the morning line
That’s the work, the workin’, that’s the workin’ life.
End of the day/Factory whistle cries
Man walks through them gates with death in their eyes.
And you just better believe, boy, somebody’s gonna get it tonight.
(Why?) Cause that’s the work, the workin’ that’s that workin’ life!
Sarah Palin is stupid and dangerous because, well, to those who have made their millions by doing nothing other than talking, that’s the work, the workin’ that’s the workin’ life. Just in case you think that’s just one example of Springsteen’s take on anyone who has a job, consider the horrors of his “daddy” who “worked his whole life, for nothing but the pain.” In this song, “Adam Raised a Cain,” daddy, of course, beats his children, “now he walks these empty rooms searching for something to blame.” And, in fact, it gets worse because, clearly, a child who is beaten is going to continue that cycle of violence and beat his child (“you inherit the sins/you inherit the flames”). So, even to the most sympathetic leftist like Springsteen, not one, not two, but three generations are destroyed all because “daddy” had to go to work.
And they hate Sarah Palin because she joined the PTA and made things better. No, no, that’s not supposed to happen. Schools (read: the teachers’ union) need more money, only more money will solve the problems in the schools. Sarah Palin must be destroyed!
And, finally, they hate Sarah Palin because she was a successful mayor and governor. The Democrat Party narrative is that the American people are too stupid to successfully govern themselves and need Harvard and Yale elitists to dictate to them how they should live their lives. If a graduate of the University of Idaho can successfully run the biggest state in the union, then so can a kid who graduated from Texas A & M or even a kid with a degree from Eureka College.
One assumes that, as is traditional, the bride’s parents were paying for the wedding. The Clintons, of course, haven’t got a dime that hasn’t come from leveraging the power and fame associated with politics. Their kind of politics consists of exchanging favors and money taken directly from the public purse for personal advantage. We have currently something on the order of 20% real unemployment in this country, and close to 10% of all the home mortgages in the country are currently in default. The latest wave of recession stories talk about the depletion of the life-time savings of middle class Americans, who are emptying their retirement accounts in order to stay afloat. The economic catastrophe is directly connected to mortgage lending policies enacted during the administration of William Jefferson Clinton. So, although I tend to have little sympathy for class warfare, I think that white trash thieves and looters feasting and celebrating their daughter’s nuptials on a stupendous scale in a grand, inner sanctum of the American aristocracy at a time in which ordinary Americans are experiencing long unprecedented and major financial distress does have precisely the aspect of Neronian irony that this Doug Ross piece notes.
There really are two Americas: the Democrat ruling class and everyone else.”
Today’s Day By Day illustrates Richard’s point about the sophistication of Tea Party commentary
Richard Fernandez notes that Tea Parties have taken the political debate to deeper than customary levels of analysis, which may possibly be connected to the recently discovered fact that Tea Party activists are not really the rubes and yokels that the community of fashion inevitably supposed they were.
Perhaps the greatest distinction between the Tea Parties and the televised “debates” between candidates is that issues are raised at fundamentally different levels. In the first the money is for the candidate to dispense. In the second it is about how much he has a right to dispense not at the margins but structurally. The psychological difference is captured perfectly by Barack Obama’s response to the Tea Parties. ABC News reported that
Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser tonight, President Obama touted his administration’s tax cuts and said that the recent tea party rallies across the nation have “amused” him.
“You would think they should be saying thank you,” the president said to applause.
Members of the audience shouted, “Thank you.”
‘Thank you for what?’ the Tea Partiers might respond, ‘it is our money.’ The incendiary potential of that type of conversation may explain the heat which has been generated by the crashers and anti-crashers at these events. The Tea Parties are less a debate than political clash. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has a number of links to sites which have promised to infiltrate the Tea Parties and efforts repel boarders. It has the aspect of conflict and consequently generates many of the same emotions. Dana Milbank at the Washington Post was nearly beside himself at the sight of these “faux populists”, only recently described as hicks, but now revealed to have Harvard Degrees.
A CBS News/New York Times poll released on Tax Day found that Tea Party activists are wealthier than average (20 percent of their households earn more than $100,000, compared with 14 percent of the general population) and better educated (37 percent have college or postgraduate degrees vs. 25 percent of Americans ).
Milbank should be careful about opening that can of worms lest it lead to a discussion of whether the half of US households who pay Federal Income Tax so it can be transferred to the other half should have any say on how their money is spent. Because the only thing worse than the narrative that Tea Partiers are the ingrates who should be saying “thank you” to the quality that wisely governs them is the reverse: a narrative where the Tea Partiers are the quality who dare to question the ingrates that govern and write about them. Any idea that threatens to invert the positions of the elite and the peasantry is by definition subversive. The real problem with portraying the rebels as well educated and smart is that it begs the question of what their critics are.
Victor Davis Hanson explains who is conducting today’s Revolution in the United States and against whom it is directed.
[T]he present attempt to remake America is the effort of the liberal well-to-do — highly educated at mostly private universities, nursed on three decades of postmodern education, either with inherited wealth or earning top salaries, lifestyles of privilege indistinguishable from those they decry as selfish, and immune from the dictates they impose on others.
Such are basically the profiles of the Obama cabinet and sub-cabinet, the pillars of liberalism in the Congress and state legislatures, the public intellectuals in the universities and foundations, the arts crowd, and the Hollywood elite. Let us be clear about that.
They are all battling on behalf of “them,” the poorer half of America, currently in need of some sort of housing, education, food, or legal subsidy, whom the above mentioned elite, in the way they live, send their children to school, socialize, and vacation so studiously avoid. (The New York Times owners are likely to follow the cut-throat business practices of Wall Street, live in the most refined areas of New York, and assume privileges indistinguishable from other CEOs; the difference is that they so visibly care about those they never see or seek out).
Note well the term “poor.” These are not Dickensian or Joads poor, but largely Americans who by the standards of the 1940s would be considered lucky. Partly because of globalized Chinese consumer goods, and partly redistributive practices of a half-century, our current “underclass” has access to clothes, electronics, entertainment, apartments, cell phones, transportation, etc., undreamed of by the middle class of the recent past. I live in one of the poorest areas of one of the poorest counties in a bankrupt state; and those I see poor are not like those I saw 40 years ago in the same locale.
No, the revolution is not one of the abject poor and starving storming the Bastille, but of the angry and self-righteous well-off— angry as hell that the less well-off are living lives quite differently from the very well-off. (A trodden down poor person today flies standby from San Francisco to LAX; a very rich person gets into his $50 million Gulfstream — but note modernism’s paradox: the poor person’s United Airlines pilots are as good, he gets there as safely and in some comfort, and not much later as well.)
Some of the revolutionaries are guided by genuine noblesse oblige. Others act out of guilt and can justify their own consumption if they “care” for a distant poorer other. Still more explain their own privilege through using government to redistribute income. A few are driven by genuine hatred — stemming from the fact that the highly educated academic or artist makes far less than the doctor, lawyer, CEO, or — heaven forbid — tire store owner, family orthodontist, or owner of a half dozen Little Caesar pizza franchises.
Everybody today is watching this amusing skirmish in the culture wars.
Butler, Missouri car dealer Mark Muller turns the tables on oh-so-superior CNN interviewer Carol Costello foiling an attempted slam interview. Costello was intending to put Muller on the spot by confronting him in a live interview over a sales promotion at his dealership awarding a AK47 semi-automatic rifle with the purchase of a new pick-up truck.
But Muller quickly proves to be a lot more likable than the smarmy and condescending Costello. He answers frankly, as she continually targets him with hostile questions invariably presented as what “some people might say.” And the rube car dealer proves entirely capable of embarrassing the slick professional reporter by demonstrating repeatedly her weakness on details (like his name).
People going through today’s American educational system can be assured to have been intensely trained to understand that using crude stereotypes to whip up hatred toward Jews and blacks in order to justify targeting them with public and private persecution is gravely wrong.
I can remember, though, a day back in my parochial elementary school when our nun brought in a film projector and told us all about the Holocaust. Scarcifying images of great piles of emaciated bodies being pushed into mass graves by bulldozers, of skeletons lying in piles in ovens, of the pitiful starven and emaciated survivors took the entire class of children through the emotional wringer. How could human beings do such things to other people? more than one classmate demanded indignantly in the subsequent discussion.
Then rang the recess bell. As my classmates filed down the porch steps to the asphalt school yard, the dark atmosphere of the tormented history of Europe suddenly lifted, and, to my own astonishment, first one aggressor singled out a particular class misfit for persecution, then one by one nearly all of my classmates joined in. I marveled at the time that so much enthusiasm for the accepted moral lesson could go hand in hand with a complete incapacity to generalize it.
Editors and journalists employed by major newspapers and television networks are highly paid members of America’s upper middle class community of privilege, but that does not stop them from behaving like nasty school children ganging up on vulnerable victims, or from forming lynch mobs to go after not-necessarily-in-every-case better-paid business executives.
We’ve had a disgraceful orgy of class hatred for days now directed at AIG employees who receive, in accordance with the custom of their industry, large portions of their compensation in the form of bonuses. The bolshevik quarter of the blogosphere and the mainstream media have been deliberately whipping up public indignation by using selective and inflammatory reporting and general ignorance of the bonus compensation system as a basis for stirring up group hatred aimed at Wall Street and the business community as a class.
A trader or division leader in a firm which is losing money may himself, of course, be making his firm all kinds of money, and may be more than amply exceeding his own profit targets. It is not extraordinary or astonishing in the least that in an industry in which bonuses play a major role that, even in times of negative overall earnings, firms may be obligated by contract to pay bonuses to many executives.
The press also doesn’t stop to remind the public that any responsible business organization will first pay its own employees, before it attempts to meet external obligations to creditor or stockholders, or even to Big Brother.
The press and the leftwing blogs are simply cynically manipulating the emotions of the public by relying on false stereotypes and imaginary grievances to stir up envy and hatred which they propose to use to as the mechanism for gaining public support for their own radical, pernicious, and socially and economically destructive agenda of institutionalizing class warfare in public policy.
The American socialist revolution ironically typically features the fat and comfortable bourgeoisie yelling for the blood of the harder-working, less prestigious representative of exactly the same class as himself.
The gleeful tricoteuses at the Washington Post report that the public’s “rage swells,” proud of having whipped the mob into a sufficient fury as to pose actual physical hazard to their fellow citizens.
A tidal wave of public outrage over bonus payments swamped American International Group yesterday. Hired guards stood watch outside the suburban Connecticut offices of AIG Financial Products, the division whose exotic derivatives brought the insurance giant to the brink of collapse last year. Inside, death threats and angry letters flooded e-mail inboxes. Irate callers lit up the phone lines. Senior managers submitted their resignations. Some employees didn’t show up at all.
“It’s a mob effect,” one senior executive said. “It’s putting people’s lives in danger.”
Even so-called Republicans senators, like the egregious Charles Grassley of Iowa, have been unable to resist the temptation to pick on a defenseless target. Grassley is quoted by the Politico suggesting that AIG executives entitled to bonuses should resign or commit seppuku.
American life is growing darker and more dishonest.