Much is said about class warfare in contemporary America, and there’s justifiable anger at the impoverishment of much of the middle and working classes. The Pew Research Center recently dubbed the 2000s a “lost decade” for middle-income earners — some 85% of Americans in that category feel it’s now more difficult to maintain their standard of living than at the beginning of the millennium, according to a Pew survey.
Blaming a disliked minority — rich business folks — has morphed into a predictable strategy for President Obama’s Democrats, stripped of incumbent success. But all the talk of “one percent” versus “the ninety nine percent” misses new splits developing within both the upper and middle classes.
There is no true solidarity among the rich since no one is yet threatening their status. The “one percent” are splitting their bets. In 2008 President Obama received more Wall Street money than any candidate in history, and he still relies on Wall Street bundlers for his sustenance. For all his class rhetoric, miscreant Wall Streeters, particularly big ones, have evaded big sanctions and the ignominy of jail time.
Obama enjoys great support from the financial interests that benefit from government debt and expansive public largesse. Well-connected people like Obama’s financial tsar on the GM bailout, Steven Rattner, who is also known as a vigorous defender of “too big to fail.”
The “patrician left” — a term that might have amused Marx — extends as well to Silicon Valley, where venture capitalists and techies have opened their wallets wider than ever before for the president. Microsoft and Google are two of Obama’s top three organizational sources of campaign contributions. Valley financiers are not always as selfless as they or their admirers imagine: Many have sought to feed at the Energy Department’s bounteous “green” energy trough and all face regulatory reviews by federal agencies.
The Republicans have turned increasingly to those patricians who depend on the more tangible economy. If you make your living from digging coal or exploring for oil wells, even if you don’t like him, Romney is you man. This saddles the GOP with the burden of being linked to one of America’s most hated interests: oil and gas companies. Almost as detested is the biggest source of Romney cash, large Wall Street banks. (In contrast, Democratic-leaning industries, such as Internet-related companies, enjoy relatively high public support.)