America’s elites are waging class war on workers and small biz

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In America, class warfare is often disguised as culture war, and culture war is often cloaked by talk of race. But underneath it all, the class warfare is still there. Whether accidentally or intentionally, America’s upper classes seem to wind up harming the working class and small businesses, always in the name of some high-minded cause.

On immigration, for example, the go-to move is to call people who object to open borders racists and nativists. But what’s behind it? As Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein commented: “A tight job market pressures employers to boost wage offers . . . One equally surefire way to short-circuit this useful dynamic is to turn on the immigrant spigot every time some group’s wages go up.” Immigration as a way of keeping working-class wages down.

Likewise, efforts to defund police or de-police neighborhoods are treated as anti-racism, but their actual, predictable effect is to make poor and working-class neighborhoods much less safe, in order to make wealthy woke activists feel good about themselves. Similarly, Anthony Lukas’ classic book, “Common Ground,” told the story of how wealthy white activists placed most of the burden of desegregating Boston’s public schools on poor black and white families, while those behind the policies retreated to leafy suburbs, far from the problems they had created, or made worse.

Now a report in The New York Times captures a microcosm of the class war that race-talk obscures. A black student at Smith College reported being abused because she was black, saying she was treated as if she didn’t belong on campus by a white janitor and campus police officer. Her complaints produced a speedy apology from Smith (“We always try to show compassion for everyone involved,” said Smith President Kathleen McCartney) and mandatory sensitivity training for staff, as well as — ironically — the creation of all-black and minority dormitories. As part of the anti-bias training, the school’s blue-collar employees, the Times reports, “found themselves being asked by consultants hired by Smith about their childhood and family assumptions about race, which many viewed as psychologically intrusive.” 

Then an outside investigation determined that, basically, it never happened. The campus police officer, the janitor and a cafeteria worker had been falsely tarred as racists, but they were not the beneficiaries of apologies, “compassion for everyone involved” or anything else. 

“Check your privilege” is a common term around higher education, but the notion that white janitors, cafeteria workers and campus police are “privileged” in that environment is not simply absurd, but monstrous. As Smith janitor Mark Patenaude told the Times, “We used to joke, don’t let a rich student report you, because if you do, you’re gone.”

Privilege is the ability to get an employee of many years punished simply by making a complaint, even a false one.  

Universities, and especially the woke parts of universities, speak of race more than class. And as the Smith incident illustrates, they seldom extend the exquisite sensitivities displayed on matters of race to questions of class discrimination. They barely admit such questions exist.

And yet class war rages, even if people don’t want to talk about it. It’s not the Soviet-style class war, with “capitalists” on one side and “workers and peasants” on the other, but rather the educated “gentry class” (as demographer Joel Kotkin calls it) making life tough for the working class.

The gentry class is in firm control of most of the institutions in America, from big corporations, to media organizations, to, most especially, colleges and universities. The Democrats are the gentry class’ party, as the GOP increasingly becomes a diverse coalition of working-class and small-business people. And the gentry class is letting the working class have it.

Barack Obama boasted about driving coal mines into bankruptcy; Joe Biden tells miners they need to learn how to code. There’s talk of forgiving student-loan debt, which would effectively transfer wealth from high-school educated truck drivers to social workers with graduate degrees. Biden’s open-borders immigration policy will once again open the “immigrant spigot” to push working-class wages down. Piling ruin upon ruin.

And just as at Smith, they don’t care who’s hurt, so long as they can strike a pose. Is all this accidental? Or is it the product of hostility toward what Hillary Clinton called the “deplorables?” On the receiving end, does it really matter?

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a professor of law at the University of Tennessee and founder of the InstaPundit.com blog.

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