Election season is fast approaching and directly on cue, the right wing is accusing President Obama and progressives of engaging in so-called class warfare. When it comes to talking about the government's money, and where and how to spend it, political rhetoric, more often than not these days, can be brutal -- and false.
The debate we see in Washington is predicated on so many myths and mistruths it's daunting to think about confronting them all but the attempt by the right to slander the middle class and the poor with the class warfare label is particular deserving of being debunked.
Myth 1: Progressives are engaging in class warfare
Progressives aren't engaging in any kind of warfare. At this point, most progressives are on defense; trying to forestall a massive and continuing transfer of wealth from the bottom and middle to the richest and most privileged heights of American society. When overwhelming money and power is stacked up against people who have little in terms of political sway and monetary authority, it is not a mystery who gets heard. 24 million people lack access to a good job and yet the primary concern in Washington is protecting corporations who are shipping jobs and profits outside of America and cutting the very government spending which is critical to maintaining the jobs that are barely keeping the economy afloat.
When progressives argue that the system needs to be more balanced, instead of crafted to favor some, it's not an act of warfare. It is a simple act of logic and humanity: Asking every person to consider the needs and well-being of every other person. This leads to the next point...
Myth 2: Class doesn't matter in America
The only people you will hear say that class does not matter are those who are privileged. When children can't get the medical care they need, their parents will tell you that class matters. When a single mother can't get her kids a good education because the public school system is broken and she can't afford a private school, she will gladly sit you down and tell you class matters.
Among children born into low-income households, more than two-thirds grow up to earn a below-average income, and only 6 percent make it all the way up the ladder into the affluent top one-fifth of income earners, according to a study by economists at Washington's Brookings Institution.
Class warfare would require that each class had the ammunition to fight each other. But in this "war" one side has a fully loaded army and the other only has a stack of overdue bills.
Myth 3: Trickle down works
Let's talk about the most obvious false version of this, a GOP favorite: that tax giveaways to corporations create jobs. Two things are at an all time high in America and they are corporate profits and long term unemployment. Corporations reported an annualized $1.68 trillion in profit in the fourth quarter and on Friday of this week are expected to announce even more layoffs, downsizing and outsourcing. Our economic system has become so unbalanced and predicated on such upside down values that what is good for largely multinational American companies is no longer good for America - at least it's apparently no longer good for the American middle class or underprivileged.
Myth 4: Washington will pay attention to ordinary Americans without a movement
If Washington paid attention to ordinary Americans, even when they did not get together and mobilize to ask for real change, my organization and many others like it would not exist. But the fact is, strong corporate and lobbying interests have more power in Washington than low-income people, or rural people, or many other communities. Consider one example of one industry sector: Since 2008, the health care and insurance lobby spent $1 billion to make sure profits kept getting priority over people in our health care system (Health Care Profiteers: A Billion-Dollar Lobby).
There's only one way to confront this type of open class warfare by elites against middle and lower income people and that's to organize together and fight back. Progressives must engage and mobilize our people and NEW people. Change doesn't come from one election cycle - it comes from building a strong and vibrant movement that can demand shifts in our economy from the top and bottom and from inside and outside. Too many of us on the progressive side have been waiting for politicians to deliver change. That's not how it works. Strong grassroots community organizing will be critical in counterweighing the political clout of the moneyed and powerful corporate interests.
The path to an America that values and achieves real shared prosperity can be opened up in the coming weeks. It could begin with conversations among concerned friends and neighbors at hundreds of house meetings on July 16 and 17. Many Americans are gathering at homes, church basements, and community centers across the country -- not just to talk about what a new American Dream looks like, but to commit to each other that we'll stand together to make it happen.
For more information visit: http://www.joinchangenation.org/page/dosomething