Whenever The Oklahoman publishes a particularly illogical editorial attacking some nebulous yet nefarious group, such as the “class-envy crowd,” you can usually bet the commentary will become self-reflexive criticism.
The editorial will become about The Oklahoman itself and its reductionist right-wing rhetoric, not about something or someone else.
Such was the case with a recent editorial (“Tax policy rarely devoid of wedge-driving arguments,” March 13, 2011) that criticized the arguments against implementing a state income tax cut on Jan. 1 that primarily benefits the rich.
Here’s an important sentence:
The cut scheduled to begin next Jan. 1 will be used as fodder to advance class-envy arguments that were tiresome 10 years ago and are even more so today.
The editorial goes on to argue, “The Oklahoma Policy Institute is supplying data that will be exploited by the class-envy crowd.”
But what are these class-envy arguments and who is this class-envy crowd? Well, I bet there are a lot people working at The Oklahoman who would like to make more money. Does that make them part of the envy crowd? What about the people who have lost their jobs at The Oklahoman recently due to the newspaper’s overall financial decline? Do these people have class envy, too, or do they understand rich people deserve to get richer during the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression as they’re losing their livelihoods?
The class-envy language in the manner The Oklahoman uses it should rankle the vast, vast majority of residents here. It’s used to put us in our place, to make us shut-up and to accept our lives without question.
And speaking of tiresome arguments, how many times has the newspaper’s editorial page actually used the term “class-envy crowd” or some version of it? What about the editorial’s main position that wealthy people deserve tax cuts because they pay the most in taxes? It breaks down to this for The Oklahoman: Wealthy people have all the money and they deserve to pay less in taxes as a percentage of their income so they can have even more money. If anyone complains about it, well, then that’s just class envy. That argument is about as tiresome as you can get and the right-wing will not stop using it until there’s systemic change in the political discourse.
What’s not tiresome are the facts that have been presented by OPI, a state think tank that offers acute budget analysis. As I’ve pointed out in earlier posts, OPI crunched the numbers on the income tax cut from 5.5 to 5.25 that takes effect Jan. 1 and found the state’s wealthiest citizens will benefit disproportionately when compared to everyone else. The median cut is $24 a year. The richest 1 percent in the state will receive nearly $2,000.
The cut is coming at a time when some state employees are suffering through furloughs (essentially a salary reduction) and other state employees, including teachers, face layoffs and benefit reductions. The cut will take millions of dollars away from a state budget that faces a $500 million shortfall.
The Oklahoman will use its own tiresome hyperbole about the so-called class-envy crowd to protect the interests of wealthy people and big corporations here, but the intellectual fodder tells us this upcoming tax cut is fiscally irresponsible and should be delayed given the specific circumstances. It will cause human suffering only to benefit a small percentage of rich people, who have also benefitted disproportionately from federal and state tax cuts in recent years. That’s not class-envy. That’s the truth about the growing wealth disparity here and elsewhere between the rich and everyone else.