In class war, House Republicans must think they’re the 300 Spartans dying politically so wealth inequality can survive

House Republicans persist in stonewalling an agreement to extend and expand the temporary cut in Social Security and Medicare taxes (AKA payroll taxes). After holding the U.S. economy hostage time and again to maintain temporary tax cuts for the wealthy and paying for them by gutting programs for everyone else, the Republicans are now opposing a little more help for the other 99%.

This move should convince any doubters that there is a class war going on in the United States, and it’s being waged by the wealthy against the middle class and poor. The foot soldiers are conservative pundits and politicians, primarily Republicans. The House Republicans, led by the nose by its Tea Party wing, remind me of the small Greek army led by Spartans that held the Persian Army at the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, recently fictionalized as the movie 300.

The analogy to the Spartans, who sacrificed their lives for the greater cause (Sparta was a proto-fascist state), fits like a glove: The Republicans are taking heat for stonewalling the continuation of this tax cut. Virtually all reputable economists agree that consumers have spent almost all of the extra money in their pockets from the payroll tax cut. This temporary tax cut has thus served as a boost to the struggling economy. Take that boost away, and we will slip back into recession and the Republicans will be blamed. The House Republicans know that they’re putting their jobs and political lives on the line, but I imagine they are “just following orders:” like good soldiers always do.

The reluctance of Republicans in general to extend this tax cut unless we pay for it with cuts in benefits to other poor or middle class people demonstrates clearly that class war is the appropriate term to describe not only the current Republican agenda, but the agenda of conservatives for the past 30 years.

One of the most powerful tools of warfare has always been to cut off the enemy’s supply lines. Information and facts are perhaps the most vital supplies in this violent class war (unless you consider it nonviolent to cause deaths from inadequate medical care or children going to bed hungry).  Speaker of the House John Boehner tried to cut that valuable resource the other day when he had someone from his office order C-SPAN to stop videotaping the live battle on the House Floor after he and other Republicans walked out of the chamber. At the time, Maryland Democratic Representative Stenny Hoyer was lambasting the House Republicans for walking away from their responsibility to the unemployed, the middle class, the poor and those on Medicare.

This obnoxious censorship demonstrates that the Republicans are willing to do anything to preserve and exacerbate the current inequality of wealth in this country.

The war analogy illuminates many conservative actions over the past three decades, and especially since the ascendancy of Bush II:

  • Pulling C-SPAN’s plug was a minor skirmish, but Republicans have been trying to reduce supplies of another precious resource—votes—for the past few years by proposing bills in virtually all states to make it harder both to register to vote and to vote.
  • Warfare often shows a complete disregard for innocent bystanders, and who can be more innocent than the millions of children who have seen funds cut for public schools, early childhood education and children’s healthcare?
  • Victors in war claim booty, and the booty in the case of the 30-year war against the middle class and poor is increased corporate profits from gutted regulations and government contracts that privatize traditional government services such as data processing, schools, prisons and military support services, replacing good-paying government jobs with low-paying private sector jobs.
  • What else is the constant denigration of unions and unionized public workers than guerilla warfare? Taking pot shots at unions, impeding their ability to organize and feeding the public a steady stream of anti-union cant can all be compared to the attack-and-run strategies of guerilla warfare. And just as Viet Cong guerilla war divided the U.S. ruling elite and just as American guerilla war divided British ruling elite, so the right wing has managed to divide the middle class against itself with its constant sniping at unions.

We can only hope that the House Republican’s reenactment of the Battle of Thermopylae has the same effect that the original battle did: Although the Greek army held off the Persians for a few days, the Persians overran much of Greece and captured Athens, that ancient democracy for rich white men. Let’s hope the Republicans lose both the battle and the war, although I wouldn’t compare America’s other 99% to the Persians. No, after 30 years of unmitigated class warfare, we’re more like shell-shocked victims of massive bombing.

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