Why We Need To Talk About Inequality
Cynthia Tucker suggests that “class warfare” may be a battle that needs to be fought, in her column, “Class Inequalities Should Be Examined, Not Derided:”
“Since when do we in America accept this alien and discredited theory of social and class warfare? Since when do we in America endorse the politics of envy and division?” — Ronald Reagan, 1982
When Ronald Reagan spoke those words, the American economy was still a colossus astride the globe — its workers unchallenged by the Chinese, undaunted by the Japanese and South Koreans, barely aware of low-wage Mexicans. American factories still hummed with the hustle of well-paid workers assembling automobiles, stitching garments and making reams of silver halide film.
That was then. Over the intervening years, Korean and Japanese manufacturers downsized Detroit, Chinese laborers seduced Steve Jobs, and technological advances virtually killed Kodak. The loss of those jobs and the wages they provided is the central dilemma of our time.
As the U.S. manufacturing sector has withered, so has the prosperity that fueled the hopes and dreams of a large and stable working class. The factory jobs that boosted high school graduates (or even drop-outs) into middle-class lifestyles — complete with health insurance and comfortable pensions — are now on the endangered species list.
It’s no wonder, then, that the trite old phrase “class warfare,” which Republicans still wield, sounds so stale and outdated. Too many Americans are aware that they are the casualties of an economic cataclysm — if not an actual war. The old drumbeat of “class warfare” won’t dismiss their questions about a system that increasingly favors the fat cats.