President Obama’s tax initiative, commonly known as the “Buffet Rule,” may be far more revolutionary than you think. Of course, it has stirred a great amount of controversy. The super rich resent being punished for making smart decisions and losing a lot of money as a result. The middle and lower classes resent laboring for a better economy without any visible benefit at all. As it turns out, this is an age-old story. The role of the higher ups in any company is to maximize profit, naturally. Their objective is not to provide better living conditions across the board, nor to create jobs or stimulate economic growth. Following rational self-interest, the boss tries to put as much money in his or her pocket as humanly possible. It is therefore logical that workers are paid the minimum that is still enough to ensure that they provide the necessary services to keep business alive. The right of the super rich to keep the money that they gain from the toil of their "inferiors" has always been legally and politically protected.
It has been this way since our founding. Indentured servants toiled on farms to produce all of the goods from which land owning investors then reaped the profits. Women worked in textile mills for pennies a day in intolerable conditions so that those in charge might line their pockets with the profits. Railroad workers lost fingers, limbs, and lives and could not feed their families on their wages while J.P. Morgan made billions. Steel workers toiled, not for themselves, but for Andrew Carnegie.
The examples go on and on. The U.S. government praised these millionaire and billionaire tycoons as innovators and economic drivers while those striving for more economic equality were condemned as socialists. These individuals held the land, the money, and consequentially, and the power. Government was there to keep the classes exactly as they were and appeased those subjugated with the far off notion of “The American Dream” that one day, there would be a brighter future for them and their families because of the opportunities our country provides. For the vast majority, this would never come to pass. The creation of the American welfare state through Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” legislation was passed simply to quell the many strikes that took place in the 1930s and create the buffer of a middle-class in order to further secure the domination of U.S. society by the super rich.
Wealthy interests have always dominated the policies of all three branches of government. Potentially until now.
The mere possibility of a U.S. president making corporate big wigs pay more suggests that the voices of the lower classes are finally breaking through the hierarchy in place since our founding.
Traditionally, politicians could guarantee re-election by ignoring the poor and appeasing the rich for many reasons including low voter turnout among the poor and uneducated and campaign contributions. A visible future where this may no longer be the case represents a potential turning point in American history. Polititians may finally be forced to reflect the needs of society as a whole, not just the wealthy. Perhaps in this information age, voters are connected enough to unite against the previously unassailable influence of wealthy individuals through increased communication and the proliferation of knowledge.
At this point, one can only speculate. However, one thing is certain: Our options remain to progress democratically or to stay where we have been for 400 years.