One of the mostly untouched subjects in debates between Conservatives and Liberals, is a direct discussion about Class Warfare. On the one hand, it is patently obvious that Liberals believe that Society is divided into various cultural and economic strata, which they blame for a number of perceived injustices. On the other hand, Liberals refuse to test many of their assumptions, as indeed is a problem for Conservatives as well. Today, I would like to explore the hypothesis of the privileged class.
The basic assumption among Liberals is that there are certain Americans who, to put it simply, have things too good. They are rich and powerful and are never called upon to “sacrifice”, which in the Liberal Lexicon means to voluntarily suffer in order to advance some ideal. Thus, tax cuts are demonized as being solely or mostly for “the rich”, even though in actual fact the income tax cuts of the past generation have more often helped lower-income Americans as a percentage effect of their income. Corporations are evil by simple definition of having power to accomplish anything, and anyone who supports the War in Iraq without having personally served in that conflict or suffered the loss of a loved one is somehow disqualified from being able to voice an opinion. The list is by definition never complete, as any targeted enemy can and will be designated as rich or elite, or otherwise marginalized to discredit their position or identity. Conservatives do the same thing, but not to the same degree. Leading Liberals can expect to be stereotyped by their opponents, although Conservatives tend to focus on the argument more than the person.
What’s odd about the Liberal perspective, is what happens when a prominent Liberal happens to have money or power. In their case, some sort of exemption is granted by the Left. John Kerry is the epitome of the empty-suit aristocrat, yet he was tapped to be the Democrats’ candidate for President in 2004. Kerry followed Al Gore, who made millions for himself shilling snakeoil remedies for the ficticitious but trendy Global Warming scare. And no one familiar with Liberal politics can forget the influence and long-time control by the Kennedy empire.
I think the Liberal notion actually started with good intentions. That is, that people who find themselves blessed with financial or positional advantage should be mindful that they have a duty to those less fortunate, a moral obligation to consider the general welfare in addition to their own well-being. Any experienced businessman can tell you that’s smart economics too, as goodwill by a corporation goes a long way and tends to be reciprocated. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy having a reputation as a good citizen?
Where the Liberals went wrong, though, was when they decided that selective morality should be coerced at times, that it was appropriate to deny rights to certain people because of their politics or personal choices. The Liberals also went wrong in deciding to apply charity through government. In addition to the horrid inefficiencies in having government disburse assistance, there is the moral offense of punishing success in business through “progressive” taxation, and the effective elimination of virtue in the assistance; the good comes from the compassion and the voluntary decision to help – it is quite a false claim to tell someone that money they lost against their will was well used, simply because the people who took it by force like what they did with it. By my lights it’s also well outside the boundaries of government authority granted by the United States Constitution, the idea that government should compel you to give money to someone else simply because they have less than you do.
I would also suggest that both parties have a real disconnect with regular Americans. Sure, there has always been a part of the public who would allow themselves to be outraged that a few people enjoyed great success from their own hard work and ingenuity. But more and more, people come to respect that a lot of the rich earn their money and take risks to do it, while members of the House and Senate seem to enjoy a lot of perks, privileges, and money from nowhere that smells an awful lot like graft. The legality of how they got their hoards is frankly beside the point, when the people grabbing the money are in position to make the laws to protect their self-interest. The question about whether or not Roger Clemens used HGH or whether oil companies make “too much money” is a rank hypocritical pose, when the Senators hide how they line their own pockets and fund their futures for when they are out of office. Fewer and fewer Americans see their Congressmen or Senators as defenders of their interests, when so many Senators and Congressmen have biographies that reveal almost no real-world experience. They don’t worry about Social Security, for example. They don’t have to pay for health insurance. They usually send their kids to private schools, and in many cases they don’t know what rush hour traffic is like, or what it means to buy their own groceries or school supplies, or mail their own letters or even do their own taxes. For the most significant routine activities of life, the people who make our laws have no effective understanding of our world. If there is a privileged class in America, it’s the politicians in Washington D.C.