Monday, September 20, 2010

Traitors To Their Class

Paul Krugman today talks about how angry, how under unjust assault, how victimized the rich feel, during hard economic times affecting them and their prerogatives hardly at all:

I've noted that Angry Rich business for some time. I've met some of 'em. They complain. Taxes. Parasitic brown people sucking on the public teat. Sneaking into the country, dropping their babies in ERs so they can claim citizenship. Welfare queens. Fat smokers with cell phones on food stamps. And the rich, too, have cash flow problems. They can't save as much as they thought they could. Maybe a six figure hit in their 401ks. early retirement less of an option. Life is altogether more difficult than it should be.

And these people have 5000 sq ft homes in tony suburbs. Kitchens the size of airplane hangars. The Cape house. The 6-series BMW and Lexus SUV. Three kids in private schools, lest their opportunities be compromised by an underperforming public Tony Suburb HS under the thumb of a teachers' union. Maybe one or two in college, and, at that, certainly not a state school. Landscapers, classy restaurant meals, golf, hairdressers, spas, shoes, suits, Botox, boats, planes. And they feel entitled to all that, because they work their butts off, and, since they only talk and listen to their peers, don't have much of a feel for their economic lessers, working their butts off too, but with far less security and return on their labor. And, if they have cash flow problems, they never reconsider whether or not they really need All That Stuff. They feel as great a sense of entitlement to it, all of it, as that which they project onto dirt-poor single parents, greedy geezers and those having so little regard for themselves and society that they get sick and need medical care.

So they're angry. They talk about 'class warfare', comically restricting the notion to that waged by the poor against the rich, at a time when the upper tenth of 1% take home 14% of the income in this country. And, since they talk mostly to each other, and listen to nobody else, they get increasingly removed from reality. An unstable situation, this, neither sustainable as is nor as it is playing out. The ways such situations have evolved historically have not all been pretty, and don't offer reassuring precedents. It's ugly and getting uglier, crazy and getting crazier.

Obama, I think, is trying to save the system mostly as is, rather than challenge it. We on the left see him as centrist, perhaps slightly center-left, his actions not nearly sufficient in substance or in energy of presentation. The right, we think implausibly, even comically, sees him as interventionist without precedent, wildly to the left, a socialist, an out of touch elitist, a despoiler of the American way of life, a Constitution-shredder, entirely illegitimate: a crypto-Kenyan, Muslim, vacation-abusing, Panther-coddling, dictator-appeasing uppity nigger, not One Of Us. We've seen this sort of thing before, with that traitor to his class, FD Roosevelt, who might well have saved capitalism from itself during history's worst economic calamity, by running a government that the people thought cared about them, was working and fighting for them. If Obama can't similarly legitimize government, and times get worse and people feel increasingly abandoned, seems to me we're headed for big trouble. And not just prolonged economic stagnation.


Anonymous said...

Tumbrels and guillotines. I am just saying.

Micala said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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