Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
When a man steps on a cockroach, no one gives it a second thought.
Certainly not the cockroach. He’s in no shape to think after being stepped on ” and probably didn’t do much actual thinking before that incomprehensible shoe came out of the vast unknowable firmament and settled everything with a simple Ker-splat!
And probably not the man either, although perhaps he has a brief moment of quiet pride at his lightning-quick reflexes. “Got him! Damn, I’m fast.”
In any case, no big deal. It’s the way of the world. Man steps on cockroach. That ain’t news.
But, if a cockroach were to step on a man … whoa! That would be big news, major news. And you had better believe that humankind would mobilize for an all-out war to get rid of those vile roaches once and for all.
Particularly ones big enough to step on human beings.
OK, here’s a quick review of what we’ve covered so far:
1. Man steps on roach: That’s the natural order.
2. Roach steps on man: Natural order violated, chaos ensues.
Great. Now we can move on to the question of class warfare.
And we suddenly discover that it’s the same darn thing as man vs. cockroach.
At times like these, with the economy reeling and people rightly worried about their jobs ” and rightly outraged at executives pulling down multimillion-dollar bonuses after they run their companies into the ground ” we begin to hear the “voices of reason” warning against “class warfare.”
Forgive me if I take a moment to note that those “voices of reason” always seem to be extremely well-fed voices of reason. (And, yes, before you even bother to point it out, I will cheerfully admit that I too am well-fed.)
But setting feeding habits aside, here’s the thing: Class warfare is always going on. Always. But almost always it’s a war that the rich have declared against the poor.
The only time the well-fed voices of reason get upset is when the poor fight back. That’s when the cockroach steps on a man. Or, more realistically, when the cockroach dreams of stepping on a man. Then ” look out, mama! ” there’s a war going on.
Oh dear! Does that sound like Andy the Radical speaking? Or worse ” horrors! ” Andy the Red?
Well, maybe, but before we start launching those insults, bear in mind that I may or may not consider them insults. I’m old enough to have fond memories of the days when I was young enough to actually be a bit radical.
But, more to the point, let me note where I first stumbled across this idea.
It came from Warren Buffett.
If you’re rich enough and conservative enough to call me a radical/socialist/communist, then you know quite well who Warren Buffett is.
And, for those who don’t know Mr. Buffett, I’ll note that he’s an investor who has been nip-and-tuck with Bill Gates for the title of America’s Richest Man for a number of years. Back last fall when Forbes magazine published its annual list of the 400 Richest Americans, Buffett was in second place with a net worth of a mere $50 billion.
I’m sure that figure has dropped by several billion, but, no matter, Warren Buffett’s not a radical except in the sense that he’s radically rich.
But he’s also very clear on the topic of class warfare.
As reported in The New York Times by Ben Stein (also very far from a radical) Buffett said, “There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Buffett drew that conclusion from the fact that he paid income taxes that amounted to a much, much smaller percentage of his income than anyone else in his office.
Billionaire Warren Buffett pays less in taxes than his secretary.
“How can this be fair?” he asked. “How can this be right?”
The question answers itself: It isn’t fair and it isn’t right.
And to support that, let me add the words of a well-known long-haired, bearded radical who said, in the Book of Luke, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”
Does the fancy language throw you? OK, try this: If you get a lot, you should give a lot in return.
In fact, you are required to give a lot in return.
But now, when jobs are disappearing and people are hurting, when roads and bridges and schools are crumbling, when unemployment insurance is running out and health-care costs are soaring, we get “responsible, serious” people, we get U.S. senators, calling for tax cuts.
Tax cuts, needless to say, that are skewed to the already rich.
In short, if you’ve got a lot, you should get even more in return.
And that, my friends, is class warfare.
No two ways about it.
How does this all play out in the current debate over saving the U.S. economy?
How about one quick ‘n’ easy example.
That reliable conservative war-horse, National Review Online, presented its list of “the most outrageous items in the stimulus package.”
That list included, “$380 million to set up a rainy-day fund for a nutrition program that serves low-income women and children.” The article admitted the program was “laudable … perhaps,” but then asked, “Where’s the economic stimulus?”
Just to be clear, that money is intended for the “Women, Infants and Children” program, which provides funds for poor families to buy food for their children.
Where’s the stimulus? Well, it’s in spending $380 million on food! And it’s in saving lives and allowing the poor to grow up healthy so they can contribute to the nation.
That’s short- and long-term stimulus. Money now for food stores and farmers. Healthy citizens long-term for our nation.
And as for that patronizing “rainy-day fund,” well, kids, it’s raining right now. In fact, it’s pouring.
That all seems easy enough, doesn’t it? Unless, of course, you think it makes more economic sense to let poor children starve. I’m not sure there’s a stimulus effect in that ” but I’m betting the folks at NRO can find one.
No problem, I’m sure.
Easy as … well, stepping on a cockroach.
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