Do the rich need us?

On Twitter last night I saw NTodd (via Steve Benen) promote this post by Ted Frier of They Gave Us A Republic (neither a blogger nor a blog that I was familiar with). Frier writes an incredibly thoughtful and important post on today’s economic crisis and the cold way in which the wealthy – and their political proxies in the Republican Party – are showing disdain for the continued existence of the American social compact. Frier writes:

Elites can make money from factories in China by selling to consumers in India, says Lind “while relying entirely on immigrant servants at one of several homes around the country.”  Between the profits they can earn from overseas factories in countries policed by brutal autocracies, and factories in the US manned by non-voting immigrant labor, “the only thing missing is a non-voting immigrant mercenary army whose legions can be deployed in foreign wars without creating grieving parents, widows and children who vote in American elections.” That, maybe in part, is what the Dream Act is about.

There was a time when rich and poor alike subscribed to the promise that a rising tide raises all boats. But American investors and corporate managers no longer need the rest of America to prosper, says Lind, since “they can enjoy their stream of profits from factories in China while shutting down factories in the US.” And if Chinese workers have the impertinence to demand higher wages, says Lind, American corporations can find low-wage labor elsewhere.

The point is, says Lind: If the rich do not depend for their wealth – or even their security — on American workers, consumers and soldiers “then it is hardly surprising that so many of them should be so hostile to paying taxes to support the infrastructure and the social programs that help the majority of the American people. The rich don’t need the rest anymore.”

That is all too evident from the contempt for the unemployed that we see coming from Republicans like Jim DeMint, Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle, as the severing of America’s historic social contract now finds institutional expression in a modern Republican party that has abandoned all pretense that it governs on behalf of those other than the upper class.

From my experience both inside and outside the Republican Party, I’ve gradually come to believe that one of the major differences separating Republicans from Democrats is that Democrats view service in Congress as the pinnacle of their careers while Republicans look at their time on Capitol Hill as an internship – a chance to do their time, pay their dues and build up a resume of favors and chits they can cash in later for a far more lucrative second career as lobbyist or corporate hack.

Yes, Democrats pass through the same revolving door between government and K Street that Republicans push on. But Republican behavior while still in government seems far more devoted towards creating jobs for themselves when that Big Day finally arrives and they get to make the jump to an appreciative corporate sector.

There’s real truth to this, though I think the break is more along the axis of conservative versus liberal than it is Republican versus Democrat. There are many conservative Democrats who do exactly what the Republicans Frier refers to in this passage. Later in the piece, he does get more specific along ideological lines.

Eventually, says Drum, someone needs to notice “that Republican policy is no longer rooted in any kind of recognizable conservative principle” and is instead “little more than a program of preventing the middle class from sharing in the gains of economic growth and divvying up the resulting loot among the richest of the rich.”

Conservatives, says Chait, have simply redefined conservatism to be nothing more than an expression of material self-interest, “defined in the narrowest and most short-sighted terms.”

And there’s the rub.  Conservativism is no longer a substantive ideology, but a vehicle to facilitate the transfer of wealth from the poor and working classes in America to the rich.

Go read all of Frier’s piece. It’s a thoughtful look at wealth, power, and economic voodooism that is driving change in America.

One thought on “Do the rich need us?

  1. The rich look at the american working people and say “you still exist? I thought your irrelevance would have made you disappear long ago. Please have the decency to go die so we don’t have to deal with you.”


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