Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the Republicans' campaign against "class warfare" concerns their ability to maintain serious facial expressions when they propound this preposterous joke. As a notorious example, Fox News propagandist Bill O'Reilly feigned seriousness while solemnly declaring that Lincoln would have been appalled by class warfare in contemporary politics. Here's what Republicans mean by "class warfare." If you argue that a policeman should be taxed at a lower rate than a hedge-fund manager making $4.9 billion (John Paulson's 2010 take, $40,000 per minute) you are guilty of perpetrating class warfare. (If Paulson's secretary made $120,000 in 2010, her federal 25-percent tax rate was 67 percent higher than Paulson's 15 percent.) Since class warfare is Karl Marx's thesis in Das Kapital, approval of it obviously makes you a Marxist.

The anti-class-warfare campaign ironically makes Adam Smith, founder of free-market economic philosophy, a Marxist. Smith defended progressive tax rates in his landmark book, "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations." Here are Smith's words justifying higher tax rates for the rich: "It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than that proportion." Note 1: That's a clear advocacy for progressive, not flat taxes favored overwhelmingly by Republicans (currently, because of the drastic reduction in capital-gains tax rate, taxpayers with $1-million-plus annual income pay at a lower average rate than taxpayers with $100,000 income. At the upper levels, our current tax system is regressive).

Smith also opposed vast differences in wealth and income distribution. He praised a fellow economist's proposal: "To remedy inequality of riches as much as possible, by relieving the poor and burdening the rich." Note 2: Smith would obviously have denounced the Republican pledge to maintain the lowest tax rates on the rich in nearly 80 years.

Elsewhere in his classic work, Smith expressed contempt for capitalists, almost as virulent as Marx's. Here's a sample: "The interest of the dealers in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects opposite to that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the public, but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can only enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow citizens."

Note 3: Obviously it's asking too much of Republicans that they read Smith. The billionaires who finance them are interested only in perpetuating Ambrose Bierce's century-old definition of politics: "The conduct of public affairs for private profit."

C.W. Griffin

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