The late Yugoslavian intellectual, Milovan Djilas, was in the vanguard of revealing that the communist Parties of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were not only totalitarian but had become a new ruling class. Members of that Party had become skilled at monopolizing power and enjoying the bounty of the nigh stagnant economy. The dysfunctional nature of the economy and the bankruptcy of the politics led to the collapse of the system. Mikhail Gorbachev made attempts to reform the system but the rot was irreversible.
In contemporary American society, a new class has emerged and is typified by the former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welsh. In hearing the news that unemployment had fallen to 7.8 percent of the labor force, he argued on twitter that the numbers were an attempt by Obama’s campaign staff team to cook the numbers. Like the Communist Parties of old, the ruling class in America presume they are entitled to rule.
The Jack Welshes of America were instrumental in building a financial expansion predicated on a housing bubble, outsourcing of jobs and financial speculation that crashed thunderously in September, 2008. That new class prior to the 2008 Great Recession had managed to push the country rightward, ensuring that the productivity increases accrued to the owners of the production and working class wages remained stagnant. They were in the process of building a new class hegemony where the super-rich dictated to a subservient middle class. Like in the Reagan administration, the design was to cut taxes and reduce the capacity of the government to fund social programs. That was how the Bush tax cuts devoured the Clinton surplus and to starve the United States treasury of sorely needed resources. The insatiable super-rich class financed the elected officials and used the Supreme Court in Citizens United to consolidate that class hegemony.
The election of Barack Obama derailed that political monopoly of the super-rich. The financial collapse had created sufficient space for the Democratic Party to put together a coalition of a new generation of whites more comfortable with diversity and less wedded to white privilege, white working class women, Latinos alienated by a Republican Party vehemently opposed to any form of immigration reconciliation and an African American populace based on their historical experience cannot be easily hoodwinked by right wing demagoguery. That coalition came out in great numbers in the Presidential election of 2008 and not only restored Democratic Party control of the White House but the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. For the first two years of the Obama administration, progressive legislation like the stimulus package, equal pay for work for women and the Affordable Care Act were enacted.
With such a massive dislocation of the American economy and subsequently the world economy, the economic recovery would inevitably be painstaking. The housing crash in particular was severe and that sector of the economy is still struggling to rebound. But what has been a major factor in the slow recovery has been the contradictory nature of the debate. The Tea Party that has taken over the Republican Party and was successful in undoing some of the progressive gains by mounting a hysterical attack on the Affordable Care Act and raising the specter of the ballooning debt that had been caused by the Bush tax cuts and the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where no budgetary provisions were made to finance those military initiatives. The new crying call of the right wing was to slash spending in the midst of the Great Recession which occurred on the federal level and on the state level. The contradictory nature of such public policy led to two steps forward and one step backward. The lay-off of public sector workers on the state level led to a loss of over 600,000 jobs that exacerbated the unemployment numbers.
President Obama has governed with one foot in the backward tent and the other in the progressive tent. That is how he came across in the first Presidential debate. Mitt Romney was able to steal the show because he was passionate, aggressive and ahistorical. The Party that brought about the recession was trying hard to extricate themselves from having broken the economy and because President Obama was now at the scene of the crime, he was charged with the making of the mess.
Despite his poor performance in the first Presidential debate, Barack Obama’s coalition should muster the 270 electoral votes to win the 2012 election. He has mentioned that you cannot change Washington from the inside. Obama needs to develop and articulate programs that will reverse the pauperization of the middle class.
Strengthening the middle class cannot be an abstraction. It has to come through the adoption of a progressive income tax that takes us beyond the Bush tax cuts and expanding the manufacturing base of the American economy. Profit sharing in the white collar industries should be adopted so that workers can get their fair share of the spoils. A surcharge on the super-rich should be imposed to pay down the debt.
Romney’s belated discovery of the middle class is pure demagoguery, a vain attempt to re-establish the political hegemony lost as a result of the Great Recession in 2008. The super-rich class is not about the advancement of American civilization. It is about class hegemony. Romney epitomizes the super-rich and the presumption that they have the right to rule majority in a democratic society. The election of 2012 is a test of the gullibility of the American electorate.