America was, at one time, the land of opportunity when an industrious man or woman, with hard work and dedication, could move up the economic ladder and prosper to achieve a lifestyle that was better than their parents could have ever hoped for. Today, with over 15% of Americans living in poverty with little hope of ever achieving the vanishing middle class designation, the American dream has transformed into little more than a nightmare of futility for even the most optimistic American citizen.
Republicans have frantically attempted to assuage the Occupy Movement’s success at bringing the crippling income inequality narrative into the consciousness of the American people, and it appears that the GOP is losing the messaging war. They are losing the propaganda war not for lack of trying, but because the American people cannot be fooled by simple rhetoric when their lives have been negatively impacted by Republican policies over the past ten years minimally, and since Reagan was president overall. The Republican message that cutting taxes for the wealthy and reducing the size of government are crucial to ensure prosperity have proven false, and regardless of the frequency of their message, Americans’ experiencing declining wages and lack of jobs are learning firsthand that the grand Republican ideology is a failure of epic proportion.
The idea of Republicans supporting income inequality out of loyalty to the wealthy and their corporations was not initiated by President Obama or the Occupy Movement per se, but now that it is acknowledged by more Americans, Republicans are naturally blaming the left. Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis) proffered Republicans’ latest canard that President Obama and Democrats are guilty of inciting class warfare using “divisive rhetoric” and “the politics of division” by “impugning the motives of Republicans, setting up straw men and scapegoats, and engaging in intellectually lazy arguments instead of working with us on common-sense reforms,” and it may play well to the Heritage Foundation, neo-conservatives, and the Republican base, but to the American people, it is more Republican sophistry.
Ryan, speaking at the Heritage Foundation, defended income and wealth inequality by claiming that America is the epitome of a financial upwardly mobile society in a classic “American exceptionalism” rant. However, the audacity of accusing President Obama of divisiveness was going a bit too far even for Ryan. Republicans, with their media outlet Fox News, have assailed the president with false accusations of being a Socialist, Marxist, and not even a “real American” since he took office. But Ryan’s nonsense claim that America is an upwardly mobile society is the biggest fallacy of all. He said, “Class is not a fixed designation in this country. We are an upwardly mobile society with a lot of movement between income groups.” There is some validity to Ryan’s statement, but since the Bush-era, any movement between income groups has been middle class Americans’ downward slide into poverty as corporations moved jobs overseas to avoid paying taxes and to take advantage of extremely low wages in China, Korea, and India.
The downward mobility is also closely related to declining union jobs that enabled upward mobility and the vibrant middle class America built up after World War II. Republican-controlled states have, since January, demonized unions and their workers as responsible for the poor economy and state budget deficits to sway public opinion and damage Democrats electorally as well as giving more tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. Republicans are going to have more difficulty justifying and convincing Americans it is reasonable to give more tax breaks to the 1% of wealthy Americans as the 99% realize they will never make economic gains regardless how hard they work, or how many tax breaks the wealthy receive.
The Occupy Movement deserves credit for assailing Wall Street and bringing their malfeasance to the public’s attention. It was Wall Street and corporate bankers who tanked the world’s economy because the Bush-Republicans deregulated the financial industry and then bailed them out with taxpayer money and it is incumbent on Democrats to remind Americans that the economy would not be in the shape it is in without Republicans’ assistance. Indeed, Republicans are frantic to repeal the financial reform Democrats passed so corporate banking interests and Wall Street can revert to their Bush-era tactics of gaming the system to enrich themselves and their wealthy investors. Paul Ryan claimed President Obama should stop promoting his job creation plan and work with Republicans, but Republicans are on a path to repeat the Bush-era mistakes that put our economy in the shape it is in. If anything, the President should ramp up the pressure on Republicans and their policies that promote the income inequality the Occupy Movement opposes.
Republicans have controlled the House for ten months, and have made absolutely no effort to grow the economy or create jobs, but their spending cuts killed jobs and they have fought tirelessly to give more entitlements to corporations, the wealthy, and the oil industry; they have no intentions of changing course regardless the will of the American people or their continued downward spiral into poverty. Republicans can claim the wonders of America and the opportunity for upward mobility for all Americans, but for once, their rhetoric is being met with opposition from Americans who see no opportunity to make economic progress as long as the wealthiest 1% holds most of the wealth and all of the advantages.
It may well be that the Occupy Movement was instrumental in bringing income and wealth inequality into the public’s consciousness, but it is up to President Obama and Democrats to build on that momentum and hammer Republicans for their efforts to grow and perpetuate the gap between the 1% and the rest of America. Paul Ryan, the Heritage Foundation, and Republicans will continue to claim the President is encouraging class warfare by advocating for higher taxes on the wealthy, ”pushing a divisive message that pits one group of Americans against another on the basis of class,” and traveling around the country to promote his jobs plan, but they are losing the message war and making matters worse for themselves every time they claim America is an upwardly mobile society and that there are no class distinctions in America.
There is a definite distinction between the 1% and the rest of America, and the Occupy Movement has highlighted that distinction admirably. Republicans cannot win this stage of the war because now the entire country is aware of the devastating results of inordinately awarding so much wealth and the country’s resources to a miniscule percentage of society at the expense of 99% of Americans. The Occupy Movement has started the proverbial ball rolling and it is up to President Obama, Democrats, and the American people to pound Republicans for their complicities in ending upward mobility in America and sending millions of Americans into poverty.