Monday, October 31, 2011

Let's Have a Class War

Our Occupy friends want to string up the bankers.  I see their point.  The bankers do seem to have screwed things up pretty badly.

But if you want any street cred as a conspiracy theorist you really need to be able to see behind the guy who is saying "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

The power of bankers is limited.  They do the bidding of the central bankers.  And the central bankers do the bidding of the politicians.  This is true even of the best financial system, the "Dutch finance" of the old Dutch Republic, the Bank of England prior to World War I, the financial system of Alexander Hamilton and J.P. Morgan.  The government sets the tune.

It's the same with the corporate chieftains.  As ruthless as they may be, they are under the thumb of the politicians.  After all, who has the guns?  Who pays tribute with political contributions?  Who pays taxes?  Who gets to hand out subsidies of Other Peoples' Money?

When we talk about the one percent, we need to think clearly.  Who are the guys with the power?  Sorry Charlie, it's not the Wall Street bankers.  They have power because they serve the interests of the political elite.  It's not the corporate CEOs.  They have power because they sell good products or, in their crony capitalist version, because they suck up to the right politicians.

If we are going to have a class war in this country, let it at least be between the people and the powerful, not the people and the toadies.  The powerful today are the folks in the permanent educated elite, the New Class of top academicians, journalists, activists, politicians, and bureaucrats.  They are the people with political and cultural power, and they have economic power because of their political and cultural power.

Glenn Reynolds has a bunch of good links to today's Power Elite, and it's worth following them up.  Anne Applebaum speaks of the upper-middle class that has detached, and differentiated itself from the middle-middle.  Reynolds himself links the anti-American sneer to the New Class.

And here is Ross Douthat:
The public-sector workplace has become a kind of artificial Eden, whose fortunate inhabitants enjoy solid pay and 1950s-style job security and retirement benefits, all of it paid for by their less-fortunate private-sector peers...

Our entitlement system, meanwhile, is designed to redistribute wealth. But this redistribution doesn’t go from the idle rich to the working poor; it goes from young to old, working-age savings to retiree consumption, middle-class parents to empty-nest seniors... Then there’s the public education system, theoretically the nation’s most important socioeconomic equalizer. Yet even though government spending on K-to-12 education has more than doubled since the 1970s, test scores have flatlined and the United States has fallen behind its developed-world rivals...

The story of the last three decades, in other words, is not the story of a benevolent government starved of funds by selfish rich people and fanatical Republicans. It’s a story of a public sector that has consistently done less with more, and a liberalism that has often defended the interests of narrow constituencies — public-employee unions, affluent seniors, the education bureaucracy — rather than the broader middle class.
View in this light, the Occupy protesters are clearly useful idiots of the New Class, helping the elite rough up innocent scapegoats while the guilty go free.

Sooner or later the American people are going to remove this self-interested clique that imagines itself born to rule, while it corrupts itself with its sinecures and impoverishes America with its folly.  But, in the way of politics, the American people will probably not get it right first time.  And that's a shame.

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