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Class Warfare: Guerrillas in the midst
Bryan Zepp Jamieson
November 25, 2006

American military might isn't the only thing that has been weakened by misapplication from the Putsch junta. The mighty American economic machine is showing signs of faltering.

The dollar, under growing pressure to devalue as a result of huge trade imbalances and public debt, has finally broken loose and dropped nearly 5% in value in the past week. This in turn is expected to cause the markets in the US to take a dump when they open on Monday. Speculators always assure us that they know what they are doing, and this justifies the millions of dollars they make in exploiting every transitory imbalance that comes along, but they always react like a flock of chickens when the unexpected occurs. Or when the long expected finally occurs. Or when a cloud passes in front of the sun. Ba-BOCK!

Captains of industry, folks. Captains of industry. That's why they get the big bucks.

In the middle of this (and if you hadn't heard about it, don't be surprised – the corporate media is soft-pedaling the story), there were a couple of news articles that sort of illuminated the state of the American economy, and why it is struggling despite all the intrinsic value of America.

The first was a by-now familiar news story that featured bleats from some rancher about how he had a bumper crop (pears, in this case) but that because of the Wall being built along the Mexican border, there was no migrant labor available to pick the pears.

"'I'd lay in my house,' he said, 'and hear, 'plop, plop, plop' . and I'd have to look at them out my window. And, it's just sickening.'" the John Quinones article reported.

It probably never occurred to that rancher that if he just offered a decent wage and reasonable working conditions, he would have people who already live here and speak the language lining up to apply for work. He wouldn't have to worry about other pear ranchers undercutting him, because they would be facing the exact same conditions – raise labor costs or let the crop rot. And the speculators who buy the pears would have to accept higher prices because otherwise there would be no pears being brought to market. This is economics 101, folks.

It's weird. That rancher operates on a small margin, but labor isn't that big a part of his expenses. And when you go to market to buy a pear, you're paying a hell of a lot more for the transporting, packaging and marketing of that pear than you are for its actual production, let alone what it cost to pick it. Double the salary of the crop pickers, and the price of that pear goes up maybe five percent.

That dumb rancher doesn't mind that 80% of the final retail on that pear goes to people who didn't have a damn thing to do with bringing the pear to existence. He deals with it when his take is forced down because supermarkets want to budget more for advertising, or because the price of diesel has gone up, or the insurance companies want more for their 40% overhead for profits. It's reaching the point where working people can no longer afford pears. But he'll let the crop rot before he'll stop cheating poor Mexicans.

And then he wants our pity. And demands we do something to assure him of a supply of cheap, powerless labor.

Bet he raves about having to pay for schools and medical care for the children of "illegals," too.

The other story came from the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Now, I'm not a big fan of the WSJ editorial staff. I watch them whimper over the terrible injustice that Paris Hilton, as a result of the estate tax, might only see $3.6 billion of the $4 billion she'll eventually get, and then they'll whip around and snarl that people who are getting by on $240 a month in food stamps aren't having that $240 taxed, the lucky duckies! I wait in vain for one of those sleek upholstered parasites on the WSJ editorial staff to quit his job and go to the tax-free haven of extreme poverty, but it hasn't happened yet. So I just refer to them as "rich white trash" and usually only bother to quote them when they have said something particularly insensitive or stupid, which actually happens fairly often.

So when one of the Weasels passed along a story entitled "Class Warfare" by Jim Webb of the Wall Street Journal, I thought, "Oh boy! Fresh meat!"

Except that wasn't the case. Webb's piece begins, "The most important-and unfortunately the least debated-issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes."

It doesn't stop there. Webb goes on to discuss the amazing sums of money corporate board members make for doing little or nothing, and notes that thanks to "trickle-down" economics, wages and salaries are at an all-time low as a percentage of the economy. He mentions the fact that manufacturing jobs have all but vanished.

Then he gets to the meat of the matter. He discusses the "troubling arrogance" of the upper class, in which they not only refuse to discuss these issues, but cannot or will not acknowledge that the issues actually even exist. He notes that the upper class sneers at anyone who complains about not getting a fair share of the wealth.

Webb ties these and other elements together and warns that such bifurcation will lead to what Webb rather delicately calls "political unrest." A less polite person such as myself might have used the word "revolution."

It would have been an amazing thing to read in any newspaper in the legions of America's corporate media, but in the pages of the Wall Street Journal? The paper that routinely sneers that the working poor, lacking medical coverage, pensions, vacation pay, and routinely cheated on overtime and unemployment benefits, are "lucky duckies" because they don't share the crushing burdens of the wealthy? That Wall Street Journal?

Webb is right. The class warriors of the upper class are their own worst enemies, with their assertions that the wealthy deserve to be wealthy because they are intrinsically superior. This doesn't go over well in a country where, more and more, the faces of wealth are seen as being those of Paris Hilton and George W. Bush.

It made an interesting counterpoint to the news that the dollar could fall, with all that entails for both America's rich and America's poor. It also made an interesting reflection of the California rancher who whined and let his crops rot because he couldn't get his annual supply of captive labor.

As Webb notes, it portends an end to the era in which the rich can distract from the fact that they are robbing America blind with appeals to peoples' patriotism, piety, xenophobia, racism and fear.

It can't come too soon.

Original Text