Tonight’s debate continues the Fight of the Century

Unfortunately, it’s the fight of the last century—and what does Joe Biden mean by “the middle class”? Photo: KTVU (Biden) & Fulton Co GOP (Ryan)

On a personality level, tonight’s vice-presidential debate has been widely reported as between the policy wonk (Ryan) and the party hack (Joe Biden). OK, I didn’t have to add the names, right? It should be pretty obvious.

As usual, the framing of the issues by the mainstream media isn’t about the issues at all: it’s about personalities or a “horse race” or some other analogy that diverts attention away from the real issues. Just as in last week’s debate, this one will continue the fight of the century between free market capitalism and a centrally-planned economy. Unfortunately, it’s the fight of the last century and free market capitalism won hands down.

The Soviet Union, champion of state planning, imploded while free market economies flourished. At the beginning of the 21st century we’re seeing the implosion of the not-quite-so-planned economies of Western Europe while the Democrats in the U.S.A. rush to take us down that same path. It makes little sense, but today’s Progressives are eager to move this country back to the statist agendas of Wilson, Roosevelt, and Johnson.

Barack Obama made a defense of the government student loan takeover in the first debate that I think most people missed and that illustrates the mindset. He praised the move first on the grounds that they were “eliminating the middle-man” in the loans process and removing the profits that the lenders would otherwise make. There’s the bias against the capitalist system. He also made the outrageous claim that is was better because students could go directly to the federal government for their college loans rather than having to ask their parents for a loan!

There, in a nutshell, is the attitude that the government is going to take care of you—and it is even preferable to being taken care of by your parents. I don’t know any family who doesn’t want to send their kids to college and many plan for college funds from the time the child is born. To say the government is a preferable source is a complete negation of the American Dream that we want our kids to be better off than we are, that even the poorest immigrant families want their kids to rise to at least the middle class.

In 2008 we heard Joe Biden say that the middle class was damaged and they (his team) were going to “restore the middle class.” In the last four years middle class annual incomes have actually declined on average by $4000. Joe Biden said the middle class has been devastated. Perhaps he forgets who was in charge.

Who is the “middle class” anyway? When Biden used the term in 2008 I suspected he was talking in code. In the usual Marxist understanding of class, there is always a conflict between two classes: the oppressors and the oppressed. In the capitalist system, the oppressors are the rich capitalists and the oppressed are the working class—the proletariat. In reality, there exists a middle class—the bourgeoisie—whose interests should lie with the proletariat against the capitalists, but who have been deluded by the capitalists into thinking they should side with them instead.

I doubt most of this country’s progressives understand this rationale for the kind of class warfare we see coming from the Democrat party. In America, unlike Europe where Marxism began, we don’t have strict classes. “Rags to riches” is one of our favorite theme stories. The reverse—riches to rags—is also possible, a cautionary tale. The rules of Marxist class warfare just don’t work here the way they’re supposed to.

Working class in practice means unions. Middle class used to mean professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers, and entrepreneurs. It used to be blue collar and white collar from the shirts each typically wore. In reality, though, those were never hard and fast distinctions. The real distinction was income.

Middle class in America really means middle income. Democrats have always played on our aspirations to become middle class while at the same time attacking middle-class values. It is middle-income families that have been hit hard by the policies of redistribution and higher taxation. . It is middle-income families that have been hit hard by the increasing costs of government regulation and control. Trickle-down government results in trickle-up poverty. It will be interesting to see how Biden attempts to spin that tonight.

Meanwhile, I expect Paul Ryan to continue to explain how a greater reliance on free market principles will start to turn things around. If the first rule of getting yourself out of a hole is to stop digging, then the second rule is to build yourself a ladder. That ladder is Paul Ryan’s budget. At least, it is a step in the right direction. Building on his ideas, subsequent budgets by the Tea Party Debt Commission, Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee and others go even further, faster. Instead of party-line conformity there will be robust debate and positive action.

That’s what we will see a preview of tonight: Biden’s tired party line advocacy versus a spirited defense of American ingenuity and creativity.

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Rich Stowell

Rich Stowell


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Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.

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