. . . so went the motto of the labor movement during the first real boom of labor organizing, around the turn of the last century. It’s an intuitive idea — without work, there is no food, no power, no industry, no construction. Without labor, all the money in the world is little but colored paper. As Joe Hill wrote in a more radical time,
If the workers take a notion,
They can stop all speeding trains;
Every ship upon the ocean
They can tie with mighty chains;
Every wheel in the creation,
Every mine and every mill,
Fleets and armies of the nation,
Will at their command stand still.
Which is, of course, true, although it’s certainly the case that working people in the US have never the kind of solidarity envisioned by Hill. I quote Hill’s verses simply to illustrate the elementary principle that it is only though human toil that wealth exists.
But as Harold Meyerson brilliantly explains, the Bushies never let facts get in the way of some good winger ideology:
Though his reelection campaign brilliantly marketed President Bush’s anti-intellectualism, the truth is that his administration has trusted more to pure theory than virtually any modern president’s. The Iraq war is a triumph of ideology over the facts on the ground (it’s certainly not a triumph of anything else). And, as it’s currently shaping up, Bush’s second term looks to be even more theory-driven than his first.
Theory certainly is driving the administration’s tax policies. In his first term, Bush took an ax to the taxes on dividends and mega-estates. In his second term, according to a story by The Post’s Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, the president is looking at eliminating taxes on dividends and capital gains and creating generous tax shelters for all investment income. The theory here is that investment, not labor, is the real creator of wealth — so the taxes on investment income will be scrapped, while those on wages will keep rolling along.
It’s not theory that’s driving the Bushies. It’s that they are using theory as a philosophical cover for the immense and ongoing transfer of wealth from the middle class to the ultra-wealthy which is happening right now. Marxists call this divide the working class (who have only their labor to sell) vs. the bourgeoise (who own the means of production.) Thus, an M.D. who makes $200,000 a year is working class, because he doesn’t own the means of production. Increased taxes on the middle class, tax cuts for the super-rich, the ongoing looting of pension funds, the drive to “privatize” Social Security, bloated CEO salaries while workers get laid-off, etc.; these are all means of transferring wealth from the workers to the exploiters. That’s the Bush agenda.
And in the name of this theory, Bush seems willing to sacrifice much of the social compact that made America, in the second half of the 20th century, the first majority middle-class nation in human history.
As John Edwards — the message man of the 2004 primaries — so eloquently put it, Bush and his cronies favor wealth over work. And now they’re primed to enshrine their philosophy in law, even as it tears apart the American middle class.