A few weeks ago I spotted a really dazzling example of stupidity – and cynical exploitation of same – in the LRB. David Runciman was writing about the American campaign to repeal death duties (‘estate tax’), which succeeded despite the fact that the change only really benefited the top 1%. Ah, but…
A poll conducted by Time/CNN on the estate tax issue in 2000 revealed that 39 per cent of Americans believe that they are either in the wealthiest 1 per cent or will be there ‘soon’.
There it is. If you think you already are obscenely rich – or that you’re going to be obscenely rich some day soon – you aren’t likely to identify with all those little people down there. People who aren’t obscenely rich and probably never will be. People like you yourself. In the immortal words of Kermit, stupid, stupid, stupid.
But there’s more to this than stupidity – quite a lot more. There’s the politics of aspiration (got to keep selling the Dream, or the people will vote for somebody who will); behind that, there’s the politics of division and atomisation (treat the workers mean, keep the workers keen); and behind that there’s the 1% themselves, pursuing business as usual by swinging a ‘democratic’ government behind their interests. The layers fit together only too well.
Still, only in America, eh?
Charles Kennedy yesterday sought to capitalise on the feelgood factor from the Cheadle byelection victory, calling on his colleagues to be “bold, positive and united”.
Mr Kennedy said the party was not afraid of redistribution, but added: “High taxes are not a moral good in themselves. We were correct to point out at the general election that only 1% of all taxpayers would be affected by our proposals on top-rate taxation. But we must not lose sight of those who aspire to achieve income levels which will bring them into the top rate taxation band in time to come.”
Do they really believe this – do they really think we won’t vote for them if they don’t sustain our ‘aspirational’ illusions by lying to us? After May 7, surely not – the party’s great successes were against Labour, and much of its political capital derived from the appearance of being a little more honest than Labour, willing to tell a little more of the truth. The simplest explanation is the most depressing: that the Lib Dems have finally taken the blue pill and rejoined the neo-liberal consensus.
“Yellow Tories”? Not quite. ‘Tory’ has to mean ‘worse than Labour’, to my mind – ‘worse than New Labour’, even – and I can’t see that the Lib Dems are quite that bad. But by God, it’s getting to be a close thing.
Meaders can have the last word:
“Left-wing”? This shower?