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Fiscal Cliff is Still about Slavery, Not Money

Askia Muhammad | 11/28/2012, 12:24 p.m.

Politics, it is said, makes strange bedfellows. That is certainly true. But I wonder how the American political landscape would be configured if race hatred were not such an immovable object on the horizon. Many of America's daunting economic challenges could be overcome overnight.

Of course there are plutocrats in every society - that is those who believe in government by and for the wealthy. But the rich in this society - the super-rich, those with "Old Money" - have unwitting allies among the poor ... poor Whites that is.

Until 1968 when Republican Richard Nixon took power utilizing his "Southern Strategy," Christian, segregationist, White Democrats - so-called "Dixiecrats" - ruled the South telling White voters six "truths:" 1. the federal government's a threat; 2. federal courts don't understand the Constitution; 3. taxes are bad; 4. unions need to be eliminated; 5. you have a lousy hospital; 6. but at least you're White.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney banked on that philosophy to the hilt, and in dirt-poor Mississippi, for example, he got 90 percent of the White vote. What do poor Whites in Mississippi know about the body politic that I don't know?

Gov. Romney steadfastly opposed raising taxes on the top 2 percent of the society's wage earners, and the poor Whites who mostly reside in the bottom third of wage earners; in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina, swallowed the plutocrats' bait: hook, line, and sinker.

Absent Florida and Virginia, those are also the Confederate States of America. In 1861 they seceded from the Union and fought the bloodiest war in U.S. history because they wanted to protect slavery.

So today, why would people in these and other states vote against their own economic class best interests, if averting the so-called "fiscal cliff" and resolving the financial crises we face requires raising taxes on the super-rich? See six "truths" above.

Writer John Steinbeck described the financial "blind-spot" which afflicts so many Americans, White, Black, Brown, "...the poor see themselves, not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." So, many of us believe that if we win the lottery, become the American Idol, or a Number One Draft Pick (in any sport) our temporary embarrassment will end, and we will join the landed gentry. Not!

Today, even as America's wealth and power is owing in large measure to 300 years of free labor from millions and millions of Black slaves, and their willing service in the military, fighting in every war, White folks think that Black people are disproportionately moochers.

It's not that poor Southern White people fundamentally oppose higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans. No, it's that poor Southern White people fundamentally object to Black people receiving benefits from this society which Black people do not deserve!

Obamacare? Hate it because undeserving Black recipients will receive it.

Public education? Have always hated it, because it began as a way to teach freed slaves who, with "book learnin'" became "uppity," too smart for their own good.

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