But recently a new group has been denouncing class warfare and claiming to be the victims of it. Who are they? The rich. Yes, rich people (mostly Republicans) are now claiming to be on the receiving end of class warfare. How can this be, you ask? Since the capitalists own the means of production, they have the leverage and resources available to them to wage war in a way the workers cannot. Add to that the fact that the position you hold within the hierarchy, and the way you're socially constructed because of it, determines the extent to which you are allowed to participate in public discourse, or taken seriously when you do, and it seems it would be impossible for the poor to wage class warfare on the rich. They simply haven't got the tools. Ah, but according to the rich Republicans and their lackeys, they do. They have Barack Obama, who is fixing to "raise taxes" on the rich. Of course, technically this isn't a tax hike, since he's just choosing not to sustain the tax breaks that Bush gave to his buddies to begin with. But allowing tax rates to return to pre-Bush levels is class warfare, according to this argument.
A few years ago in an interview with Ben Stein, Warren Buffett used the term "class warfare" in regard to taxation in America too, but he concluded that his class, the rich, were winning. As Stein describes it
Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.
Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. The people in his office were mostly secretaries and clerks, though not all.
It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t
use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires.
“How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”
...“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Now that these tax policies are being reversed, it's almost amusing to watch wealthy Republicans scramble to protect themselves and cast themselves as the victims. Appropriating the terminology and ideology of the oppressed groups in order to maintain your power is a classic move by powerful groups whose dominance is being challenged in any way, and the discourse surrounding taxation right now is a perfect example of this.