Monday, July 14, 2008

When is it class warfare?

Class warfare simply means that people are choosing their sides in a fight based on how much money they have ... or at least how much money they think they have. It's probably important to note, before we begin, that most people have an inflated sense of their position in the economy. I'm reminded of a survey done a while ago in the United States showing that 39% of the population felt that they were in the top 1% of all annual incomes.

But equally well, we must remember that "class warfare" isn't generally declared when the rich want a larger share of the pie. If the upper class takes control of government, lowers personal and income taxes while cutting education and health care, this is not called "class warfare". This is called "economics", "modernization" and sometimes the "free market" or "economic freedom".

Rest assured that you have never heard Global Television or CBC in Canada, or Fox, CNN, ABC and NBC in the U.S., complain that what Mike Harris or George Bush did was in fact "class warfare". Even as these invoked regressive tax measures and cut government services and ran up huge deficits for future people to pay off, there was never a word of class warfare.

But just you try to increase taxes on the wealthy (Hint: you're not wealthy, not by these standards, or do you really think you're in the top 1%?) and the accusations of class warfare will fly.

Point out the latest stats from Stats Canada showing that income has risen most quickly for the rich and shrunken for the poor and the papers will be quick to excuse this on all sorts of flimsy grounds.

This guy wants you to believe that since "family incomes" have risen, everything is okay. Because working twice as many hours for slightly more money is great! He also excuses it because poor people have all of those pension plans and government transfers that StatsCan doesn't count. (Except StatsCan says quite specifically that they do count government transfers) Makes you wonder if rich people have RRSPs, stock options and tricky life insurance policies that don't count either. Maybe I'll just say that without substantiating it at all. That's apparently legitimate journalism.

This 2006 report from TD bank is pretty straightforward. Productivity gains in Canada resulted in huge amounts of generated wealth. 71% of that wealth went to the people who were already in the top quintile. Meanwhile the rest of us are waiting for all those "wait time" promises to come true at our nearest hospitals. Go ahead, grep the report for "class warfare". You won't see it anywhere in there.

You won't see it anywhere at all until people start fighting back. And then you'll hear about how bad "class warfare" is for the "economy".

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