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November 15, 2006

Webb on Class Struggle

In an opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal, Jim Webb warns about the perils of ignoring the ever-widening divided between America's top tier and the rest of us.  His first sentence sets the tone:

The most important - and unfortunately the least debated - issue is politics today is our society's drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century.

This is not an article that can be summed up in a few paragraphs.  It is chock full of critical statistics, like this one:

The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

Then he talks about what will likely happen if we ignore the warning signs, how we got so far into the situation without addressing it properly, and the opportunity we have now to confront and correct it.

More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The "Wal-Marting" of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

The politics of the Karl Rove era were designed to distract and divide the very people who would ordinarily be rebelling against the deterioration of their way of life. Working Americans have been repeatedly seduced at the polls by emotional issues such as the predictable mantra of "God, guns, gays, abortion and the flag" while their way of life shifted ineluctably beneath their feet. But this election cycle showed an electorate that intends to hold government leaders accountable for allowing every American a fair opportunity to succeed.

With this new Congress, and heading into an important presidential election in 2008, American workers have a chance to be heard in ways that have eluded them for more than a decade. Nothing is more important for the health of our society than to grant them the validity of their concerns. And our government leaders have no greater duty than to confront the growing unfairness in this age of globalization.

Markos points us to the article, saying pretty much what I had said a few days ago about just how surprised those folks who called Webb "conservative" are going to be.   

Then, in an update on the article, Kos reports on what a friend in the labor movement says about Webb after reading the article:

This is the bluntest appeal on behalf of working class Americans, combined with a scathing critique of the inequities of American society, I've heard from any Senator in years, maybe since the death of Wellstone. Edwards/Webb, Obama/Webb, Richardson/Webb in '08--this guy is a MAJOR key to bring back white men to the Democratic party. I wish we had a dozen of him!

Personally, I think that we'll be hearing calls for him to run for President within months, as we learn more about him, about his fearlessness and about how prepared he really is.  Here's what I said:

I now think he is one of the best people this country could have as President.  He is new on the national political scene at that level.  But that doesn't mean he isn't prepared.  He may in fact be more prepared than anyone else because he has done so much outside the political realm, all of which have honed his ability to think well about our nation.  He has excelled as a military man, earning the Navy Cross for bravery; been a lawyer which has including stints in Congress as legal counsel; consulted to governments (ours and others); served as Secretary of the Navy; and been an award-winning journalist, and best-selling writer of both non-fiction and fiction.

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 15, 2006 at 09:05 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink

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