Class Warfare

Bryan Nichols

“I wanna be free to live, able to have what I need to live; bring the power back to the streets, where the people live.”

—Dead Prez

This weekend I saw Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” for the first time. For those of you who haven’t seen the film since it was released in 1926, Lang offers a dystopic view of a future society in which the powered class lives in towers and lounges in “pleasure gardens” and the working class toils in subterranean machine mills. The conflict centers around the ruthless ruler’s idealistic son and his desire to be with a working-class woman named Maria, who also happens to be a workers’ rights advocate.Without going into the plot too much, the whole story comes to an end when Maria and the leader’s son bring the two sides together, as Maria says, “For the brain and the hands to communicate, the heart must mediate.”As the movie was silent, I was able to spend most of it comparing the Metropolis to our own current American society. I pretty much decided that most of what Lang had to say was a bunch of crap.Think about it. Is the ruling, moneyed class particularly comparable to any sort of brain? You can ask our president, George W. Even if it is, do you think the American aristocracy has any interest in talking with the “hands,” in sharing power with the workers who drive this country? I doubt it.Maybe part of me can’t blame them. If I were sitting around in my pleasure garden counting the money and politicians in my pockets I might be a happy guy too. The other part of me wonders why Americans put up with it. Why do we let the wealthy rule when it could be so different? How did we let them elect one of their own to power?Some might say my socialist rant seems slightly out of place. I disagree. King W. just unveiled his new 1.6 trillion dollar tax-cut plan, which, depending on who you talk to, allots anywhere from 40 to more than 50 percent of the cut to the richest Americans. As if they’re the ones hurt in a recession.Call the tax cut good. Call it bad. Call it “sublibidable.” I call it the plan of an aristocrat to help his own. I call it a return to the original “fuzzy math,” supply-side economics that plunged this country so deep into debt. I call it a plan that hurts the Americans Bush says he wants to help.Is this fair? Maybe the rich need a break on taxes after all. The stock market has taken a dive, after all. But I don’t buy it. According to Steven Brouwer’s book “Sharing the Pie,” the richest 10 percent of Americans own 82 percent of all financial assets. That leaves only 18 percent for the other 90 percent of us. This disparity ballooned in the ’80s because of Reagan. Bush wants to continue in Reagan’s image. This should frighten us all.The problem is that most people seem to be eating up Bush’s plan. I’m not sure the American people realize how harmful it truly is. I honestly think that people just like the words. Mmmm, tax cut. Sounds good, right? But what happens if the tax cut hurts the people who are already in pain?Certain people don’t want to stop at Bush’s $1.6 trillion either. Some congressional Republicans want to include a lowering of the capital gains tax, a move heavily skewed in favor of the rich. The story is the same with the repeal of the estate tax.Why is any of this important at all? Everyone gets lower taxes in Bush’s plan — what’s so bad? Here’s what: This is America. Money is power. The poor may get a tax cut, but the rich get more. As the disparity between the rich and not rich grows, so does the disparity in the power of each class. I have a feeling this is why, in a half hour of Fox News yesterday, I heard no fewer than three conservatives accuse opponents of the tax cut of “inciting some sort of class warfare.” Once you’ve been found out, it’s easiest to accuse your opponents of what you’ve been doing all along.So, now that the upper-class has its generals leading the class warfare on Capitol Hill, the rest of us need to realize that Bush’s tax plan is merely a big thank you to his rich friends who managed to get him chosen. It may help everyone immediately, but in the long run, it only lowers our already-tenuous grasp on some sort of power.How do we take the power back? Well, if the bottom 90 percent voted in the same proportions as the top 10 percent, we could have progressive tax plans all over the place. We could show the American aristocracy that we won’t stand for exploitation any more. We could show everyone that power isn’t in money, it’s in numbers.Bryan Nichols is a senior in genetics from Burnsville, Minn.