Victor Davis Hanson: Postmodern Class Warfare
Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
When President Obama’s approval rating hit 40 percent, he fumed at “billionaires and millionaires,” “fat-cat bankers,” and “corporate-jet owners.” In his sloppy targeting, Obama doesn’t care much that a billionaire has 1,000 times more than a millionaire — or that his new tax proposals will take a lot more from those making $200,000 than from the few making $1 million.
Instead, the president is in a populist frenzy to rev up his base against “them,” who supposedly “are not paying their fair share.” The president’s argument apparently is not that the top 5 percent haven’t paid enough in taxes. Indeed, they pay almost 60 percent of all income taxes collected, while nearly 50 percent of households pay no income taxes. Obama seems angry that the top 5 percent will still have more money after taxes than do others, and so they should pay a redistributive government still more taxes.
But 21st-century class warfare is a weird thing.
Take the technology that gives most what only the few once could afford. Most Americans now expect as a birthright iPhones, iPods, laptops, DVDs, and big-screen televisions, thanks to cheap overseas fabrication and fierce price-cutting global competition. The typical welfare recipient now owns a sophisticated cellphone; a fat-cat corporate CEO not long ago did not.
For the president, riding on a private jet from New York to Los Angeles is supposed to be a privilege. But a poor person on a discount nonstop ticket can still get there as safely and almost as quickly for about one-thousandth of the cost in fuel and overhead. Once they land minutes apart at LAX, was the Gulfstream passenger all that blessed, the guy in steerage with headphones and a TV screen all that deprived?...
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