From The Minneapolis Star Tribune: http://www.startribune.com/opinion/otherviews/130474108.html
Whatever you call it, it is a natural response to the concentration of wealth.
by: MYLES SPICER
September 24, 2011
Recently, Warren Buffett remarked that America was engaged in “class warfare.” Conservative reaction was immediate, indignant, and anticipated. When President Obama followed up this week with his “Buffett Tax,” conservatives again were aghast.
Words like “class warfare” are not commonly used anymore — they were considered anachronisms from the days of “commies and socialists.” Nevertheless, they are appropriate — and Americans should not be horrified by them.
The fact is, “class warfare” has been an essential part of American history for more than a century. As the industrial revolution gained traction, and as America became less of an agrarian society, wealth and capital began to be accumulated and concentrated on a severely uneven basis. Between 1870 and 1900, the share of national wealth held by the richest 1 percent of households peaked at around 45 percent. The results were violent strikes, the rise of unions and the beginnings of the socialist movement in the United States. In short, “class warfare.”
In the early 1900s, Republican Teddy Roosevelt arrived on the political scene to fight the excesses of the infamous “robber barons” whose greed had undermined economic fairness in America. He clashed with the superwealthy, like J.P. Morgan, and ordered the Justice Department to take antitrust action against monopolists. He introduced railroad regulation, and food and drug safety. He pushed for the adoption of an income tax, and a federal estate tax on the inheritances of wealthy families. He set precedents in federal regulation of manufacturing and commerce. He launched the federal government on an ambitious program of environmental protection and conservation. He was truly engaging in “class warfare.”
Later, another Roosevelt, FDR, would engage in similar “class warfare” with the New Deal. His election in 1932 and his subsequent presidential terms marked a historic political realignment, creating a new Democratic majority of liberals, workers, immigrants, African-Americans and women, and laid the foundations of a limited American version of the welfare state. During World War II, he raised the top tax rate to 92 percent.
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