What means war?

So, over at Almost Diamonds Stephanie Zvan talks about an image that’s making the rounds that she seems to think is really insightful and that I think really shows the flaw in this new-fangled occupyish, 1% versus the 99% movement that we’re seeing these days.

Basically, the image says “Busting unions that provide teachers with middle-class salaries, affordable benefits and job security” as not being class warfare, but “Asking people who make hundreds of millions of dollars in capital gains to pay more than 15% of their income in taxes” as being class warfare. The picture — and Zvan herself — then imply that this is ridiculous, that of course the first statement is also class warfare if the second one is, and perhaps even implies that the first just is class warfare regardless of whether the second statement is or not.

But there’s a big problem here, which is the rather simple fact that something cannot be reasonbly called class warfare unless it’s directly implemented to favour one class over another, or to create an antagonistic situation between two classes. There are a multitude of reasons to go after unions other than to attack the middle class. First, one may argue that it’s better for the middle class as a whole, since it is generally the taxes of the middle class that pay the salaries of teachers and so working around the union helps them get the benefits and salaries under control when they have it generally better than most middle class people. One can also argue that public expenditures need to get under control, and that’s a big one. One could also simply hate unions. None of these have to do with singling out the middle class and attacking them for simply being the middle class.

However, the second statement is indeed saying that this upper economic class is somehow deficient, and that it is their hoarding of the money that’s causing the problems, and that to solve our problems we must take the money from that greedy class to put to the benefit of the other classes. It is, indeed, singling out that class because of the class they’re in, and making them a target. Yep, that’s clearly class warfare, no matter how many “WTFs” one puts into an image that misses the point.

Look, just admit that yes, you are engaging in class warfare. Don’t try to rely on sophistry to dodge that point. Be honest about it, and see if others want to go along with it. If you’re ashamed to admit to doing what you’re actually doing, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.


6 Responses to “What means war?”

  1. Héctor Muñoz Says:

    I think that both opposition to monstruous unions (such as teacher’s union in Mexico) and the demand for rich people to pay more taxes are fully justified.

  2. verbosestoic Says:

    Possibly. I’m leery about a demand for rich people to pay more of a PERCENTAGE of their income just because they’re rich because that really does seem like singling out their class and saying that somehow they have a greater burden. After all, they already pay more in absolute dollars. That being said, that is indeed targeting a class, while going after a union isn’t, hence the distinction.

  3. Héctor Muñoz Says:

    Well, I think it’s fair for them to be more accountable for common wellbeing since super rich people have only became richer because of a social and economic system that allows them to have exceptional oportunities, advantages and exempts that can only be sustained while detrimenting the general population’s level of wellbeing.

    Richness is social resources concentrated on an individual. Without society individual richness vanishes. They are receivers of both greater privilege and greater responsibility.

  4. verbosestoic Says:

    The problem is that you are assuming that somehow the system has been set-up for them to take unfair advantage. This is probably true in some cases, but is also probably false in others. For many of them, they both did work hard and still work hard to generate their wealth, and maybe got some breaks along the way. It’s simply an unfair generalization to characterize them as simply being super-rich and mostly idle.

    Add to that that under a uniform tax rate they’d still contribute more actual dollars to the budget — and the budget is expressed in dollars and not in percentages of the income of each citizen — and so do in fact contribute more to the functions of government. Increasing that burden will only increase calls from the rich for a big say in how that money is spent, and in defining what the common well-being actually is. After all, if I’m paying for you and you take the money I’m paying and squander it, I am in fact likely to reasonably demand that either you don’t take that money from me or that you spend it in what I consider to be, at least, more productive ways.

  5. Héctor Muñoz Says:

    I don’t think the system is inherently unfair, I think society needs some individuals to be more powerful and to concentrate more resources so there can be complex social structures and dynamize society. I also think this is natural.

    But for there to be richer people they have to receive extraordinary profit for ordinary amounts of effoft. Under natural circumstances the differences in wealth between the wealthiest and the poorest couldn’t be so extreme, very rich people concentrate extraordinary wealth only because there is a huge social base supporting them, not because of personal merit. Therefore they have a greater responsibility to that social base whose income is crippled in order to support them.

    Richest citizens currently have the most power over government decissions, that is why they currently pay lower percent of taxes. They are failing to fulfill their role out of pure greed.

  6. verbosestoic Says:

    I disagree. I think people being richer is usually the result of receiving extraordinary profit for extraordinary amounts of effort. But it is not the case that all people put in extraordinary amounts of effort or that all extraordinary amounts of effort produce extraordinary profits. And there are exceptions to all of this, of course. But a lot of the richer people got there by coming up with some great idea and working really, really, really hard to put it into play so that they then can make those profits.

    As for them paying the lower percentage, that actually is because they follow the laws that, in many cases, are set-up to provide other benefits that the very rich simply can take advantage of more than other people. For example, the capital gains percentage is based on HOW you generate your income, mostly through investment. Anyone can in fact pay that percentage if they generate their income through those methods. So, if I could generate my income that I have today through that, I’d pay the same rate they do. But it does seem to me that we want to encourage investment, and so that they decide to generate their income that way BECAUSE it means they pay less on it in taxes seems to me to show that the reason the rate is different is working to achieve its actual goal of getting people to generate income through investing. So the debate is over whether we DO want to encourage that goal or not, not over whether those who do take advantage of those encouragements are somehow “not fulfilling their role”. Because, as I said before, even if they pay less in percentage they still pay more in total dollars, so how do we define what their fair obligation is?

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