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What a right-wing Webb we weave

November 15, 2006


We’ve all been assured, most recently by the sagacious Joe Klein in his Time cover story, that the Democratic party won by shifting sharply rightward. Exhibit A are five or so pro-life candidates in the mix, and exhibit B are the new Second Amendment senators Tester of Montana and Webb of Virginia.

The fourth estate would be astonished to learn how many of us old-line Hubert Horatio Hornblower liberals have come to appreciate, over the last six years, the value of not letting the gummint know where all the guns are. But now I’m feeling like rilly rilly betrayed, because Jim Webb has gone over to the enemy and -gasp!- started publishing op-eds in the Wall Street Journal. A tiny taste of his liberal bashing:

The most important–and unfortunately the least debated–issue in politics today is our society’s steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America’s top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars…This ever-widening divide is too often ignored or downplayed by its beneficiaries. A sense of entitlement has set in among elites, bordering on hubris. When I raised this issue with corporate leaders during the recent political campaign, I was met repeatedly with denials, and, from some, an overt lack of concern for those who are falling behind. A troubling arrogance is in the air among the nation’s most fortunate.

Markos snarks delightedly over Webb’s defection today. He doesn’t quote what I found the most interesting of Webb’s paragraphs, in which Jim addresses specifically the readership of the WSJ opinion page, whom he knows from experience have only been nodding off while he quoted the statistics of inequality, and limned its depradations on those unimportant losers who don’t have the WSJ propped up next to their tea caddy in the morning.

America’s elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other “First World” nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that “unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash” in America that would take us away from what they view to be the “biggest economic stimulus in world history.”More troubling is this: If it remains unchecked, this bifurcation of opportunities and advantages along class lines has the potential to bring a period of political unrest. Up to now, most American workers have simply been worried about their job prospects. Once they understand that there are (and were) clear alternatives to the policies that have dislocated careers and altered futures, they will demand more accountability from the leaders who have failed to protect their interests. The “Wal-Marting” of cheap consumer products brought in from places like China, and the easy money from low-interest home mortgage refinancing, have softened the blows in recent years. But the balance point is tipping in both cases, away from the consumer and away from our national interest.

The middle class is the goose that laid the golden egg of American prosperity. The moneyed elites, including the media (whose reporters are not liberal but libertarian), have been deliberately, and successfully, destroying the middle class. But ultimately, the karmic truth is that they do so at their own peril.

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