Monday, April 23, 2007

What Did You Do During the Ruling Class War, Daddy?

I am back from the Progressive States Network’s first annual gala in conjunction with the National Conference of State Legislatures meeting in Washington, D.C. - a city where ruling class warfare rages on, despite (or perhaps because of) the new partisan makeup of the nation’s capital. While our event trumpeted the courageous group of progressive state and federal lawmakers who are fighting on our side, a look at news from the Beltway this week nonetheless broadcasts the steep odds this courageous group faces in its efforts to make government even acknowledge the existence of the vast majority of Americans.

Take, for instance, today’s Washington Post story on the Alternative Minimum Tax, which though projected to hit more middle-class families, still today exclusively hits the richest 3 percent of Americans. After a few paragraphs highlighting an admirable and potentially progressive reform of the tax, we get this nugget:

“Democratic Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, who represents a suburban Philadelphia district, said she was among those who argued successfully that any AMT change should provide relief to some of the 4 million families who already pay the tax. That way, she said, “real people will be able to stand up and say, ‘I don’t have to pay it next year because Democrats understood that it was unfair.’”

There’s really nothing quite like a Democratic congresswoman inserting herself into a national news story by demanding new tax cuts for the richest sliver of the population that already pays the AMT - the same sliver that was handed about half a trillion dollars from the Bush tax cuts already. But then, why should we be surprised when the Post simultaneously reports today that “in the four months since the midterm elections, the number of new lobbyist registrations has nearly doubled to 2,232 from 1,222 in the comparable period a year earlier” and that “hundreds of new Democratic lobbyists have been hired” to shill for the super wealthy.

But it gets better.

In an Associated Press story about recently passed legislation giving shareholders a right to offer non-binding advisory resolutions on CEO pay, we get this doozy:

“‘It greatly worries me that this bill could set a precedent of giving activist institutional investors, who may have their own political and social agendas unrelated to the financial wealth of the companies, more influence,’ said Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE)….’This is Congress beginning to intrude on corporations,” said Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL).’”

So now not only is the White House threatening to veto the legislation, but the Republican Party is publicly saying that shareholders - that is, company owners - should have absolutely no say (not even a non-binding one) on what the companies they own pay the CEOs they employ. If anyone thought the “ownership society” was anything more than an Orwellian, Frank Luntz-inspired sham, these quotes put that delusion to rest.

But while Iraq burns and middle American economic casualties simultaneously mount, the “let them eat cake” attitude of the ruling class in D.C. is shoved down our throats. For, the truly pressing political question as the Post breathlessly asks today is “What would the White House correspondents’ dinner be without the after-party?” Reporters at one party receive bags “containing camera memory cards and $50 gift certificates to Lord & Taylor” while “hot model types in bathrobes give out single-serve bottles of champagne from a bathtub.” In another scene “Antonin Scalia is in deep conversation with Ana Marie Cox, nee Wonkette, who is on the sofa.” And yet another party is being held at the Colombian ambassador’s residence - the ambassador who represents the foreign government that is helping assassinate union organizers while our own government cheers its approval by offering up a free trade agreement.

Yes, the Ruling Class War is on, folks - replete with Democrats who look middle-class economic disaster in the eye and demand more tax cuts for billionaires, Republicans who give company owners the middle finger, and Beltway reporters who toast it all to flutes of champagne provided by runway models. While our country is driven into the ground, it’s party time in Washington. And when the rest of us outside the Beltway look back, our kids will have just one question: What did we do to stop it?

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