The American Civil War Redux: A Middle Class Divided

The thing about an epiphany is that it shouldn’t come as a surprise. It happens when we finally feel — a deep-in-our-marrow feel — what we know to be true. It is a collision of heart and mind.

Both my wife and I are teachers who live next door to Madison, WI. I’m a two-time “Nader Spoiler.” I spent last Wednesday night sleeping in the state capital. That information should provide most of the back story needed to understand my recent “collision.”

Being compelled to break my week-long boycott of Wisconsin businesses to feed two hungry cats, I stopped by the local Piggly Wiggly. I was the only customer since it was just moments after they’d opened. Walking up the pet food aisle toward the checkout, I overheard two middle aged female clerks talking to one another across the distance of their respective work stations. It was obvious they supported Walker’s attempt to “balance” the state budget on the backs of public-sector workers.

Referring to the prank phone call of the day before, when Governor Walker was caught “fellatio in flagranti” [metaphorically] with a man who he thought was his boss — billionaire David Koch — one of the clerks said, “Governor Walker only said what’s he’s said all along. If they [meaning folks like me] didn’t believe him, that’s their fault.” MOMENT OF IMPACT!

I’ve long known that our “democratic” system is little more than the Oz-like curtain behind which plutarchic wizards manipulate the levers of real power — the power of the purse. My epiphany was the marrow-shaking concussion of the opening salvo in the second American civil war, a smoke-and-mirrors “rebellion” generaled by the obscenely rich and soldiered by non-union workers who’ve been convinced the enemy is union workers who “enjoy” marginally more economic security. It is a war meant to devastate the middle class and turn the American worker into the American serf.

In our country’s first civil war the obscenely rich southern land barons, whose wealth was tethered to the lash-scarred backs of their slaves, convinced poor southern dirt farmers who owned a few acres and a mule to fight to save a slave-based aristocracy with little “trickle down” — over 258,000 Confederate men died, give or take. Then as now, the obscenely rich had no intention of sharing the wealth had their side won.

It was obvious who was the boss and who was the lackey in Scott Walker’s recent phone conversation with “David Koch.” The Koch brothers and the wealth they wield are responsible for the propaganda that convinced the Piggly Wiggly clerks and scores of union — dare I say teachers? — and non-union middle class workers to vote Walker into office. Keep in mind, he lied and prevaricated and promised “change” as politicians are wont to do. Predictably, the casual voter had no clue as to Walker’s stealth agenda.

In 2008, Forbes magazine identified the Koch brothers as the captains of the second largest privately held company in the United States, with an annual income of $98 billion. They were number one in 2006. Their empire was built on oil and gas futures by their father, Fred G. Koch.

Fred was also a founding member of the John Birch Society, an ultra-right wing organization which opposes communism (read: unions), opposes collectivism (read: sharing the wealth) and opposes socialism (read: any government program benefiting the masses). They also want to limit the power of the government (read: environmental quality, worker safety regulations, etc.). The JBS headquarters is now located in Grand Chute, WI, while the Kochs just opened a lobby shop within view of Scott Walker’s office window.

It is not union negotiated pay scales or benefits or retirement packages for middle class workers that bankrupted our country. Lest we forget, it was the obscenely wealthy criminals on Wall Street — AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley — who intentionally bankrupted millions of union and non-union workers and destroyed possibly trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth. Only one man, Bernie Madoff, went to jail. His only crime was that he bilked a relatively few of the rich and famous not the middle class masses. No one else has been held responsible for this crime of unimagined worldwide consequence — well, other than the unionized middle class.

The point is, if the obscenely rich can break the unions, the only bulwark between a nominally democratic form of government and an outright plutocratic oligarchy, the middle class will become the serf class. We will become little more than “sharecroppers” with no hope of succor or redress other than what the obscenely rich think necessary to keep us on our feet and behind the plow.

I am not the enemy of the Piggly Wiggly clerks. I ask them not to wish too hard for the misfortune of unionized public workers. If we get shot down in this battle, they will become the victims of “friendly” fire.

Robert Weitzel is a contributing editor to Media With a Conscience. His essays regularly appear in The Capital Times in Madison, WI. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Robert, or visit Robert's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. commoner3 said on February 28th, 2011 at 3:28pm #

    I agree 100% wiht this article. It is a sad true commentary about the political ignorance and naivete of many of the middle class.
    Today, I participated in an internet poll whether I support Walker or the union,
    when I answered the poll, I got the “results”, which I am not sure, whether it is honest or fabricated. These “results”, claimed that 83% or the respondents supported Walker. If these “results” are true, then the middle class is doomed.!

  2. Vic Anderson said on February 28th, 2011 at 3:35pm #

    Civil War Redix: ‘… Walker into office. Keep in mind, he lied and prevaricated and
    promised “change” as politicians are wont to do. Predictably, the
    casual voter had no clue as to Walker’s stealth agenda.’ – Same as
    Obamanible’s Bush SHADOW agenda of equivocating, Lying and RENEGING
    to BetrayUS ALL!

  3. Don Hawkins said on March 1st, 2011 at 3:49am #

    The message in both cases seems to be “trust central government – what could possibly go wrong?”. This, coming from people who rage against the state, looks odd. But the authoritarian right has confused us with its choice of language. Many of those who claim to oppose big government relish centralised power. The less accountable it is, the better they like it.

    What they hate is state spending, for the obvious reason that this is the means by which money is distributed from the rich to the poor. They want governments which both control the lower orders and ensure that they receive as little money as possible from richer taxpayers. There is no inconsistency in these positions – but there are few votes to be gained from spelling them out. The two referenda have forced these phoney radicals to show their hands. That’s a result for democracy, even before the votes have been cast. Monbiot