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After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared at the Met Gala on Monday evening in a dress with the slogan “Tax the Rich”, her critics exploded with indignation. The complaint (mostly, but not exclusively, from the right) attacked AOC’s “fraud”, “hypocrisy” and “empty political slogans”.
What exactly is the problem with this? Why should a politician who supports higher taxes for the wealthy avoid engaging with them?
It seems that, to the extent critics have been able express the contradiction between their beliefs, and their behavior, it looks like this: AOC believes rich people should be killed or exiled, but they live happily under them. “Our ass radicals dress up the revolution,” Ben Shapiro, a cool kid philosopher, complains. “Real revolutionaries eat the rich. They don’t eat with the rich but then show their brilliance by wearing a shirt that reads, “Eat with the rich.”
But of course AOC is not and does not claim to be a “real revolutionary”. While she is an advocate to a dramatically more egalitarian economy policy, she is not an advocate for the executions of rich people. Her agenda does NOT reflect moral criticism of rich people, but rather a mundane observation that wealthy people can live with less money to support the needs of those in poverty.
The idea that progressive taxation is the Democratic Party’s reason for focusing on personal moral condemnation of rich people is almost exclusively a right-wing invention duck. Conservatives first accuse liberals that they hate and want to punish the wealthy, then they accuse them hypocrisy of violating beliefs they didn’t have.
This little scene in the theatre of political outrage’s absurdity is that AOC’s position on taxing rich people is not an answer we can guess by projecting fantasies onto them. AOC is an elected official who has written and quantifiable policy proposals. She is also a key figure in the ongoing debate over what the next tax increase for the wealthy will be.
AOC’s glamorous evening activities with the rich are order of magnitude less significant than their intention to tax wealth. The superficiality of the focus on symbolicism and cultural associations and not the actual fiscal transfer is what is really wrong. It is bizarre to see AOC accused of being a fake class fighter in the midst of a class war in Washington that has trillions of dollars.
It is worth considering how we got to this point. It seems that the cause is a popular trope in political commentary, which identifies Republicans as the party representing the working class and the Democrats as those who are wealthy. Millions upon millions of words have been spilled to investigate the thoughts of the Lumpenproletariat-Trump base in their truck stops. It seems like a daily occurrence that one or more columnists attack the Democrats as “The billionaires’ party” (in this instance Kevin Williamson from the National Review on Sunday). While the left laments the Democrats’ alienation from the people, the right celebrates it.
This is not surprising. Education has made western politics more polarized. Because education and income are closely linked, this has pushed wealthy voters to one side, while the non-wealthy have moved to the other. You can see that both education and income are not the only factors that make you more republican. However, poverty is more democratic. High-income voters who have not completed college are a very Republican electorate. This phenomenon is not unique. It is a trend.
This trend has led to Democrats gaining cultural power. The dominance of science and technology has been a dominant position for many decades. It now extends to entertainment, media, business, and other areas. Conservatives don’t work with referees only when they feel marginalized. It can be difficult to maintain right belief in places like New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.
The parties’ long-standing class orientations are not changing despite changes in the electorate. While Democrats continue to vote for income redistribution downwards, Republicans are voting for upwards. The political media’s focus on marginal changes in the compositions of the parties has led to a loss of touch with their true purpose.
Their class orientation – the most important things they do with their power – hasn’t changed. Democrats are pushing for a bill whose intent and effect would be to achieve a historic downward transfer of resources. Upper-middle class voters, whom the party has attracted in greater number, would face a combined rate of tax around 60 percent in high-tax countries. People with limited means would be able to benefit from the tax expenses.
It’s not Met Gala attendees that will be taking advantage the enhanced Medicaid in red states or the free community college. These conservative tribunes dismiss these programs as unaffordable or undesirable.
Redistribution is the most polarized dynamic in American politics. Republicans will abandon their views on spending, deficits and central government control but will not change their opposition to taxing rich people.
The bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was passed by both parties, further demonstrated that Republicans aren’t steadfastly opposed to taxes. They have repeatedly proposed to finance bridges and roads with regressive use charges. Democrats opposed this and insisted that taxes only be collected from those who earn $ 400,000 or higher, which Republicans refused to honor. They drowned out the division by deciding on several bogus funding sources. However, the dispute revealed how clear the partisan divide is along class lines: Republicans will only accept regressive taxes while Democrats will only accept progressive taxes.
Despite Donald Trump’s declassed behavior, political appeal to un educated voters, neither his government nor his political allies ever challenged the party’s plutocratic occupation. His administration’s domestic policy focused on a large tax cut for the wealthy and business owners, and an unsuccessful attempt to exempt the middle class from health insurance to pay for another tax cut.
Although the Republican Party has spoken a lot of populism, nothing like their fanatical opposition towards redistribution is serious. JD Vance will vote for any inheritance or capital gains tax cuts that Republicans propose if he is elected to the Senate.
A casual knowledge of the political landscape would dispel the Marxist notion that the Democratic Party’s increasing support from wealthy voters would indicate a right-wing shift within its economic program. It’s bizarre to see a polarized debate over whether hundreds of millions of dollars will be left in the hands the rich or used to fund benefits for those who are less fortunate.
You would think that the class lines of the Washington debate in Joe Biden’s Washington were clear enough for those who still hold on to their image of fancy Democrats or seedy Republicans to not be able to ignore them. The human capacity to overlook the obvious is so strong that many people cannot see who is trying tax the rich even though they are staring straight at them in bright red letters.
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Jonathan Chait, New York columnist, provides analysis and commentary on the most recent political news.
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