I’m special. I’ve known this for some time. It was my mother who first brought this to my attention. But now apparently Barack Obama knows it, too.
Why am I so special? Well, for Mom and me there are a million reasons, but the junior senator from Illinois doesn’t even know me. So there’s really only one reason he thinks I’m special: Class Warfare.
U.S. Senator Barack Obama, scheduled this week to officially grasp the Democrats’ presidential nomination, airs a television ad that says his administration of government will “put the middle class first.”
I guess I should feel honored. I’m middle class after all. First is better than last. Or even second.
But I feel something else altogether.
A friend, also a card-carrying member of the middle class, offered only fear: “Look what the government did for the poor, when it was the favored class.” He has a valid point.
Still, it isn’t fear I feel; rather it is revulsion. What Obama is saying is unseemly. It is condescending. It is fundamentally un-American.
Many liberal Democrats, including Obama, believe that old Marxist proposition that capitalist society is divided into distinct classes — you remember all that stuff about the proletariat and the bourgeoisie and the lumpens, et al. And no doubt you recall the classless utopia once established back in the USSR.
In America, we often talk about “the poor” and “the middle class” and “the rich.” Politicians use the phrase “the working class” a lot. It’s easy enough to divide folks by arbitrary classes, but none of this seems very meaningful.
Do the math. The federal government reports that 12.5 percent of Americans are below the official poverty line. Obama’s policies and statements strongly suggest he sees “the rich” as those with annual household incomes of $250,000 or more. That’s a whopping 2 percent of the population. Add it up and less than 15 percent of Americans are rich or poor.
That puts 85 percent of Americans in the middle class. That’s 259,208,396 people. And perhaps more — a national poll by the Pew Research Center found 91 percent of Americans self-identify as middle class (including those claiming they were upper middle and lower middle, as well as middle middle).
So as perks go, it’s nice that Obama wants to cater to us middle class Americans, but being “put first” isn’t nearly as good a deal if you have 85 percent of the country “put first” with you. If there’s a line to stand in at some government bureau and the rich and poor folks have to give up their place in line — big deal! You’re still fighting for the spot with 259,208,395 other good middle class people.
Of course, special privileges might not be Obama’s only aim. Maybe he also wants to redistribute wealth. Again, does he think we’re stupid? I mean, even grabbing all the wealth of those 2 percent who are rich, we’d have to divvy it up among 259 million accomplices. At that point, the whole gang approach becomes too unwieldy.
Obama’s new pitch won’t work, and, if he can count, he must know it won’t work. The middle class is simply too big to bestow special favors upon. The middle class would have to be taxed to redistribute to itself. At that point, Marxist-Leninism loses all its heady appeal.
Sure, in some cases, we’d credit Obama for something, because it is the thought that counts. But not here. Because I don’t like the notion of pitting Americans against other Americans for political gain.
More than any civilization on earth, even with all of America’s terrible failures, we have been, as Tom Paine wished, “an asylum for Mankind.” In America, a person’s world isn’t limited by some arbitrary classification.
Freedom has and will serve as the great equalizer. We cherish the mobility of people between whatever classes one can concoct. A poor, underprivileged American kid can grow up and get rich. Conversely, many wealthy or middle calls Americans know what it is to be poor. Almost 60 percent of Americans will meet the classification of “poor” at some time in their lives.
Free men and woman have opportunities to build their own futures. And not at the expense of “the rich” or any other group. We needn’t “a leg up” from government. And any government big enough to give one class an advantage over another is way too big to be safe to any class. Or any individual.
Freedom appeals across all classes. It unites, while class struggles divide. It’s an idea I’d like to hear a lot more often from politicians.
Now that would be special.