Monday, January 17


So who's the elite anyway?

It's obvious that what they're really complaining about is not "elite media," but that old Republican bogeyman, the "liberal media." It's not as though the GOP really has anything against elites, no matter how much caterwauling about elites we hear from conservative candidates.

Consider one craving from the right wing: repeal of the "death tax," more properly the "federal estate tax," since it taxes not death but assets passed to a new generation. It applies to only the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. In other words, repeal is a measure to "protect the fortunes of the elite," not some measure to better the lot of the other 98 percent of America.

Recently, President George W. Bush (a simple anti-elitist man of the people, of course) started promoting "tort reform," especially in cases of medical malpractice and product liability. There's just way too much money being paid out to poor people who have been maimed and impoverished, and that's bad for American commerce.

There's doubtless some truth to that, since physicians and corporations pass the costs of their malfeasance along to their customers. But who hands out those multimillion-dollar awards? It's not some elite conclave of evil "trial lawyers." Those decisions are made by juries - average American citizens. It's about as non-elite a process as you can imagine - and yet the critics of this aspect of our judicial system are often the same people who denounce "elites."

As the great-grandson of a Populist, I have nothing against bashing the ruling elites in this country. It's an honorable American political tradition that goes back, at least, to Thomas Jefferson and his rallying of western farmers against the Federalist coastal elites of the day.

But I do wish that the word were used correctly - as it is, instead of bashing the elites, Americans fall right into their elitist plans.

Quillen could have added to his list of "elitist plans" multiple tax cuts for the wealthy; attempts to phase out Social Security, for most Americans the only assured income for their retirement years; federal budgets that include lots of perks, pork and parties for the connected and well-to-do, but inadequate funding for mandated public school initiatives and armor for our fighting men and women; etc., etc., ad nauseum.

To think that Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Bennett and a zillion Republican strategists and conservative pundits have made FORTUNES from this disingenuousness is so disgusting in its hypocrisy that I literally scream every time I hear one of them say it. Their charge that Democrats wage "class warfare" while they continue to draw lines of separation between us is abhorrent. But maybe even worse, since language not only reflects who we are but can even drive it, is their successful campaign to change terms for what has traditionally been considered worthy of praise into pejoratives -- e.g., elite (cream of the crop) into "think they're better than us and out of touch with ordinary Americans." It's the whole Orwellian "up is down" thing, and they're awfully, awfully good at it.


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