One of the most unfortunate features of our illustrious capitalist system based on ownership of the industries and services by the few for the private profit of the few – while most of the remaining 99% work hard to give this elite handful their tremendous privileges – is the sometimes startling degree of hatred and vitriol that the 99% has for fellow members of the working class, especially the poorest among them. This attitude, of course, is part of an underlying ideology spoon-fed to the 99% in both the state and privately controlled (cough cough) “education” system that prevents us from uniting to create a new system based on fully egalitarian economic relations. If most of the working class detest members of their own class, and points fingers at each other for being the main cause of the manifold economic issues in this country, then the fully class-conscious capitalist class are able to maintain their privileged position as robber barons and exploiters of the labor class with continuing impunity.
“The disposition to admire, and even to almost worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or at least to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”
— Adam Smith, THE THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS (1759)
As a good personal example, I recall several months ago how a valued, long-time friend of mine decided to post a common rant on her Facebook wall about how enraged she is at the many poor people who (according to her views) make a fortune on welfare, while she has to work to earn what passes for her own wages. Of course, she received the multitude of “likes” and thumbs-ups you would expect from her friends, all of whom are fellow members of the 99%.
When I reminded her in that thread how it’s the wealthy members of the capitalist class who are actually the ones who collect vast amounts of government largesse in the forms of minimal taxation, huge corporate subsidies, and hefty bail-outs from the public coffer whenever the executives and bankers among their number routinely come close to destroying the economy – including generous bonuses instead of any type of financial loss or jail time – my friend conceded, almost as an after-thought, “Yes, I know, hun, I can’t stand people like them either.”
Very generous of this friend of mine to acknowledge that in passing, after my reminder. Note, however, how her first instinct when venting over her situation is to attack poor people barely getting by on social programs, as opposed to the far larger chunk of taxpayer money given every year to the members of the 1%, none of whom are in any way remotely needy, and many times in the wake of having enacted destructive, often outright illegal economic practices that are the actual sources of almost every fiscally-based problem my friend and all others of the 99% have to deal with. And the poor people are regularly penalized in harsh ways if they so much as make the slightest lie on their applications for social services!
This deeply ingrained attitude and misplaced ire directly explains why the working class continues to lack any unity, while the wealthy capitalists have full unity of purpose with both each other and their paid-for bureaucrats sitting in Congress, the Oval Office, and the Supreme Court.
Yes, with a few terse reminders, we can kinda-sorta get our fellow indignant workers to acknowledge that the capitalists can, at times, kinda-sorta suck up a bit of the public funds at our expense. But that rarely seems to be where the finger-pointing first directs itself. It’s as if they seriously believe, and routinely see, the jobless poor on social services riding around in jeweled limos or flying to the welfare office on their private jets, and then using their “substantial” few-hundred-dollar-a-month checks to fly their families on fancy Caribbean vacations for two months of leisure without having to lift a finger to work… unlike the poor among us with jobs who may be lucky enough to earn $300.00 a week and a few meager benefits (if they are full-time and not self-employed) .
They know full well how difficult it is even for a two-adult household with both being employed to make a living. Yet they ignore the fact that most of the poor people who need degrees of public aid like food stamps and Section 8 are actually working poor. Further, they truly believe these fellow 99-percenters who are on the dole – whether employed or not – actually live a princely existence on a mere $300 a month. They know how difficult it is to raise a family on the niggardly income they earn even when working more than one job, yet they seriously believe that the lesser amount of money unemployed women get from social services for having children allows them to live and raise their kids in style, and that this actually encourages huge amounts of poor women not to work and have as many kids as possible… as if what they get in welfare funds and food stamps for each additional child wouldn’t be negated by the great amount of expense it takes to keep each of these children well fed and in decent clothes.
The all-too many working poor who believe these nonsense social myths seriously seem to believe that “welfare queens” are prospering by having a horde of very-expensive-to-raise kids, as if they are raising trust fund babies. Do most of these poor people on the dole live in glittering gated communities with huge swimming pools, and Metro bus passes carved out of shiny gold bullion? Because the grimy project area tenements containing apartments with frequently malfunctioning bath tubs and sinks they routinely get stuck in certainly don’t resemble what one would expect from people accused of raising generations who prosper from the dole.
Also notice how these misguided workers regularly decry the existence of welfare for the poor, or constantly demand it be further limited from what they claim is a kingly sum, without demanding that the government instead spend these taxpayer dollars on creating jobs in the public sector. What they do not seem to realize is that a certain percentage of involuntarily unemployed people is beneficial to the ruling capitalist class, because they act as a potentially reserve force of labor that enables the capitalists to keep wages low. This is why the government has zero interest in achieving anything near full employment, while spreading the common social mythology that the main reason there are so many poor people on the dole is because they are “too lazy” to want to work. Yanno, as if the truly wealthy soaking up the sunlight on the Caribbean beaches for two months, while their one thousand laborers in America and five thousand employees outsourced from India slave 40 hours a week to earn all that cash for them, somehow encourages an industrious work ethic in either these plutocrats or their kids who are destined to be idle trust fund recipients.
This anger directed at their own class, including the poorest members, serves as a terrific red herring that deters working class antipathy and finger-pointing away from the wealthy capitalists who are truly living the proverbial Life of Riley (actually, the lives of Richie Rich) without having to lift a finger to work, because their millions of annual dollars of income are derived from a combination of capital gains (i.e., investments on the stock market); the wealth earned from their legion of laborers; and genuinely large government hand-outs (in the form of massive tax breaks, huge bail-outs for their screw-ups, and generous subsidies).
Less than a fraction of that is spent on social services for the poor, including those who have many kids, none of whom are going to be raised in pristine conditions, and at no fault of their own. Yet it’s these latter people and their kids whom the angry working members of the labor class blame for leeching off the public coffer, and for whom are demanded strict limits on what they receive from what’s left of the government safety net for the poor.
As long as members of the working class wallow in the ignorance of these social myths which encourage finger-pointing at their own class as the primary cause of their problems, the actual leeches will continue to prosper at the expense of 99% of us while we all fight and compete amongst each other for the crumbs that remain. Moreover, as long as we continue to admire the wealthy and remain loyal to the system that creates all of this inequality now that we have reached a level of technological development where scarcity of goods no longer exists, our justified anger over our situation will continue to be misdirected at our neighbors rather than our exploiters.
I hope that friend of mine – and the many others in the 99% who think like her – feel better after venting against their own class.