When Did the Great American Class War Begin?

One of the best things said at either political convention so far came&nbsp Tuesday night from First Lady Michelle Obama.

The comment had nothing to do with government or domestic policy. It wasn’t about some great unmentioned strategy that is supposedly waiting for us in her husband theoretical&nbsp second term.

It was about attitude:

“Like so many American families, our families weren’t asking for much.

They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success or care that others had much more than they did… in fact, they admired it.”

That line struck a real chord with me.

That’s how I grew up. That’s how most people I know grew up. We didn’t hate the rich. I don’t hate anyone. I certainly don’t wish the rich didn’t have as much as they have; if anything, I wish more people who aren’t rich have as much.

But I don’t begrudge the rich because of it. I have no desire to vilify “the one percent” just because I’m part of the 99%. Because it’s quite possible to live happily — and, I suspect, even happier — among the 99%.

When did this class warfare of ours begin, exactly? When did so many Democrats begin pushing so hard for all of us to resent everyone who has wealth? When did so many Republicans draw their own line in the sand by suggesting that too many are just lazy and don’t want to get off their butts and find a job?

When, exactly, did what we have in our wallets become more important than what we possess in our hearts and souls?

Can we go back to a time when that wasn’t the case?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.


  • I think for the vast majority of us, that hasn’t really changed.  I don’t equate success with monetary wealth and I don’t think the majority of us do. Perhaps the ones who disagree with us are just louder. 

  • I can see where you might think Democrats are “pushing so hard for all of us to resent everyone who has wealth.”  That’s a major GOP talking point these days along with the totally out-of-context “You didn’t build that!” and the racist pants-on-fire claim that Obama has done away with the work requirements of welfare.  It’s also ridiculous.
    I might be envious of a rich person, but I certainly don’t begrudge someone who’s worked hard and built a business that provides a useful product or service.  I especially don’t vilify a rich person who gives back, who uses his/her wealth to make the world a better place — as in Bill and Melinda Gates’s attempt to curb malaria in Africa. 
    The rich people that I resent, vilify, hate are pricks like Mitt Romney.  To borrow an old line, born on third base and spent his entire life thinking he hit a triple.  A vulture capitalist who contributes nothing to society, just rips the profitable part out of companies and tosses the rest — including workers– aside.  A person who games the system in every way possible to avoid giving anything back, then acts like he’s doing us a favor for paying a 13% tax rate for the only year’s return he deigns to release.  A politician who reaches the top and pulls the ladder up behind him, making it harder for anyone else to make the same climb.
    Anyway, now that that’s off my chest, to address your original question:  When did the great American class war begin?  Class warfare has always been with us, going all the way back to the Founders who decided that only the landed gentry should have the right to vote.  The current iteration probably started, as DianeCT pointed out, with Reagan’s voodoo, trickle down, supply side BS characterized by massive tax cuts for the rich and cuts to programs that help the poor.  But it’s all water under the bridge now.  To quote Warren Buffett, “There’s been class warfare for the last 20 years, and my class has won.”

  • For me it is not so much class warfare, but more economics.
    When you look historically at the major depressions starting from the late 1800s they all happened when there was a greater disparity between the rich and the middle class. In the 1890s the gap widens just before the depression of 1893, the same thing happened in the depression of the 1930s. The Roaring 90s and the Roaring 20s both were followed by a depression. Now we see the same thing happening, the income gap is the widest that it has ever been.
    Some economic theories say that when you have income disparity that the middle class stops buying. There are only so many TV, cars and refrigerators that the upper class can buy compared to the middle class. Other theories see a multiplier effect when you pay a man to dig a ditch and he pays the grocer, who then goes out to buy the food from the farmer. While the money that the upper class invests some economists say that it actually has a negative growth factor that the money is taken out of circulation.
    The Trickle Down Theory just doesn’t work, if it worked then we should be in a cycle of strong economic growth with the Bush tax cuts. If you look at the 50s, 60s and 70s we had our strongest economic growth in our history and the upper tax rates during those three decades were 60%, 70% and 80% and in 1960 it was almost 90% for the top bracket.
    I do believe in a balanced budget, but it has to be done with prudent tax cuts and increased taxes. Not by using an axe.

  • I was always brought up with the mindset that you should look to people who have what you want and do what they do. No where in there was the attitude that they shouldn’t have it.

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