Racism and class divides

Racism and class divides

January 19th, 2012 in Opinion Times

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are leading the charge by Republican presidential primary candidates who claim, falsely, that President Obama has spurred class warfare. Romney claims Obama has done so by calling for a more equitable tax structure between the 99 percent of Americans and the nation's megamillionaires and billionaires. Gingrich taints his own class-warfare subterfuge with racism by invoking the rising number of African-Americans receiving food stamps. Given their own harshly divisive comments and behaviors which actually do foment financial and racial divides, their hypocrisy and pandering is stunning.

It is Romney the megamillionaire venture capitalist, not Obama, who will not reveal his income tax statements, and who benefits so greatly from the 15 percent tax rate on dividends and investments that wrongly hyper-inflates the fortunes of this nation's super-rich top tenth of one percent. That "carrying rate" on investments and interest, which covers most of Romney's wealth, is nearly double the effective rate of income taxes on secretaries and factory workers.

Calling attention to the exponential gains that accrue to the ultra-wealthy from such tax inequity over time does not promote class-warfare. It's a reasonable call for a sounder fiscal policy to correct a widening wealth gap between the super-rich and the rest of America that is now greater than any time in the last 80 years.

Gingrich's race-baiting is far more despicable than Romney's backward defense of tax inequity. Gingrich is going around South Carolina working the political race-card -- and drawing wild applause -- by hawking the lie that Obama is "the greatest food-stamp president in American history." He further claims Obama and his fellow liberals don't mind if (black) people don't work because they want to "maximize dependence" on the government.

His vile, inflammatory racism is repugnant, and wildly wrong on the facts surrounding food stamps, which go to far more whites than to black families. Gingrich's taunt is also linked with his continuing, racially divisive suggestion that America's most impoverished black families had rather receive public assistance than work. He says that's why he supports giving young black youths jobs as apprentice "school janitors" -- a position he has cited several times -- so they can develop a work ethic.

Food-stamp use has increased to a record number since the Great Recession of 2007-09 unfolded, but not because Obama has promoted it. Rising food stamp use is the result of an ever-increasing population, coupled with unusually high unemployment due to the worst financial meltdown on Wall Street since the Great Depression 80 years ago. That financial implosion began on George W. Bush's watch due to lax financial regulation and wildly speculative gambling on investment IOUs -- credit default swaps -- and it wiped out thousands of businesses and more than 8 million jobs.

Joblessness and food stamp use, to be sure, are also aggravated by the nation's rising wealth gap against declining wages for workers (adjusted for inflation) -- many working families qualify for food stamps; and by the steadily increasing wave of wave of companies moving jobs overseas to take advantage of cheaper labor.

Though blacks at the bottom of the job ladder have suffered a far higher percentage of job losses than whites, however, it is white families, not the families of blacks and Hispanics, who now receive by far the largest share of food stamps.

Romney's and Gingrich's falsehoods spread the distortions and views that promote and prolong the social injustices -- unfair wages and taxes, job losses and racial discord -- that should be at the heart of the nation's political debate. They make politics worse and political solutions more improbable. Romney and Gingrich should be held accountable for the damage they willfully inflict.