By Matthew Rothschild on September 20, 2011

So now Paul Ryan and the Republicans are crying about class warfare.

Give me a break.

They and their super-rich cronies have been waging class warfare mercilessly over the last four decades, and they’ve been taking no prisoners.

During this period, the top 0.1 percent of the country—those 152,000 people who make more than $5.6 million a year—have seen their income level jump up an astonishing 385 percent, according to the Washington Post.

But the bottom 90 percent—about 137 million people—have has seen their income fall by 1 percent during this period.

Check out this chart from the Washington Post article.

chart

In the last ten years alone, the median income for working-age households has fallen by more than 10 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Today, we have a record number of Americans living in poverty: 46 million people. Among these, shamefully, are 22 percent of the kids in this country.

All the while, the top 1 percent and the top 0.1 percent hog more and more of the nation’s income and wealth.

“The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year,” Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote in Vanity Fair earlier this year.

“In terms of wealth rather income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent….Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.”

And the top 1 percent have been paying less and less in taxes. The top marginal rate in the 1970s was 70 percent. Now it’s 35 percent.

“The wealthiest in this country have never had it so good,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders at FightingBobFest in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sept. 17. They have limitless greed, he said. “They want more and more and more and more, and they don’t care how many children they step on to get it.”

As Sanders put it, “Class warfare is being waged in America, and the wrong side is winning.”

There’s always been class warfare in the United States. Sometimes, it’s masked. Sometimes, it’s naked.

It’s naked today.

And it’s one-sided. The super-rich are very mobilized and heavily armed. Everyone else, with the exception of folks in Wisconsin, Ohio, and a few other places, is disarmed and very disorganized.

That’s got to change.

Let’s join the battle, nonviolently but militantly, and fight as hard as we can for some semblance of economic justice.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Bonnie Urfer, Jailed Anti-Nuclear Activist, Defiant."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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