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It’s not about cutting taxes for the rich

July 1, 2017

In a recent blog post, Paul Krugman branded the healthcare bill as “pure class warfare, with extra contempt” and said it’s really “all about the tax cuts”. While he’s certainly right about class warfare, I think he overstates the brutality of this particular battle versus the great many preceding it. What I’ll quarrel with here, though, is the idea that the central goal of the conservatives is as simple as cutting taxes for the rich. I believe the driving dynamic is not about monetary taxes but is instead deeply fundamental to the system itself. It is very old.

Oligarchy is a system of concentrated minority power over the majority which, in its current phase, is justified through ideologies of individualism. The existential enemy to the propertied minority is, and must always be, the threat of the propertyless majority. The enemy is collectivism and the age-old war against the population is widely (and reasonably) viewed in terms of a ‘slippery slope’.

‘Give him an inch, and he’ll take an ell’ is a 16th century saying that captures the spirit of what’s happening. The masses won’t be satisfied with the inch of healthcare, give them that and they’ll just come back asking for even more. Before you know it, “individualism” will collapse into socialism and we’ll be ruled by the mob. The dynamic, then, isn’t about tax cuts for the rich, it’s about denying the majority the power of agency in society.

The ‘slippery slope’ meme expresses the prime forward defense strategy for holding the mob at bay and it has been in place throughout all of civilization. It’s instructive to consider a few examples of the basic mindset.

Aristotle: “if you are remiss in your discipline [of slaves] they grow insolent, and think themselves upon an equality with their masters; and if they are hardly used they are continually plotting against you and hate you.”

Cicero: “You may distribute, indeed, some show of power to the people, as Lycurgus and Romulus did, but you inflame them, with the thirst of liberty by allowing them even the slightest taste of its sweetness.”

Popular 18th century British writher Arthur Young: “Everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious”.

Frederick Douglass: “Beat and cuff your slave, keep him hungry and spiritless, and he will follow the chain of his master like a dog; but feed and clothe him well, work him moderately, surround him with physical comfort, and dreams of freedom intrude. Give him a bad master, and he aspires to a good master; give him a good master and he wishes to become his own master. Such is human nature.”

1975 report to the Trilateral Commission, an organization formed by billionaire David Rockefeller and others associated with the elite Council on Foreign Relations, entitled “The Crisis of Democracy: report on the governability of democracies to the Trilateral Commission”: “Instead of appeasing tensions, material progress seems to have exacerbated them…”. “The incorporation of substantial elements of the population into the middle classes has escalated their expectations and aspirations, thereby causing a more intense reaction if these are not met in reality.”

To conclude, we miss the entire point if we think the issue is taxes. It’s not taxes, it’s power.

From → Dynamics, Suppression

  1. I thoroughly agree, but I also wonder if the US ruling class is getting worried about financing its many military adventures and subversive operations abroad to support their hegemonic aspirations. Thus they are doing everything they can to cut back domestic expenditures to their working class.

  2. Hi Ron, hope you’re doing well and keep up the great posts on your site!

    A real interesting point that can be addressed from a number of angles. The oligarchy has ultimate control of the money supply so there shouldn’t be any worries about financing.

    A key question, I think, is the degree the global oligarchy is united. There are many reasons to think in terms of a consolidated global class. Production is transnational and so is, to a very large degree, corporate ownership. Foreign earnings account for about 50% of S&P earnings and it’s about the same on all other exchanges. Portfolios as well are globally diversified. So a strong case can be made that the owners of the US are more or less the same globally consolidated class as the group which owns Germany. And so on throughout the world. US military power has been widely supported by foreign oligarchs for many decades since that power has helped cement their rule over their populations.

    But, then again, US oligarchs have disproportionate wealth / power versus their fellow foreign oligarchs; i.e. they own a greater share of the corporate whole than would be warranted by population size. So we should definitely expect foreign oligarchs to try to expand their power whenever they see weakness.

    So, just some random thoughts. My fundamental perspective is that oligarchs in the US and everywhere else are far more afraid of their populations than they are of each other. That to me is the basis of what the system is – concentrated minority power (oligarchy). I’d expect them to join hands in aggressive multinational suppression if / when populations start getting more demanding. NSA surveillance, I think, is oriented far more toward that than supposed ‘terrorists’. And transnational cooperation is extremely strong.


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