Class warfare or economic justice?

by Maureen Fiedler

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At last, the Obama of 2008 has returned! On Monday, he gave a rousing speech in which he presented a plan for long-term deficit reduction.

As part of that, he advocated higher taxes on the wealthy, and he said he would veto measures that essentially charged the deficit to lower- and middle-income people and did not raise taxes on millionaires, or get rid of some of the most egregious loopholes.

The Republicans immediately cried, "class warfare!"

This is a phrase that has peppered American political speech for several decades now. But, I wonder, whenever I hear it, who is supposedly waging "class warfare" on whom?

In an age when poverty is increasing at an alarming rate, when the "wealth gap" between the rich and the poor is widening, and when the middle class is struggling to keep afloat -- it would seem that "class warfare" is being waged by corporate interests and their allies in Congress against those at the middle or bottom of the ladder.

What Obama articulated yesterday was not "class warfare." It was basic Christian social teaching.

It's not that his plan is a perfect embodiment of justice. But the principles he cited were about justice and fairness as the basis for economic policy.

Economic justice is not about charity; it is about structures of government, laws, policies, business, etc. that promote an equitable distribution of wealth, and even more important: an equitable distribution of opportunity.

The political rhetoric -- so common today -- that minimizes the role of government is ignorant of this basic principle of social teaching in Catholicism and in other faith traditions.

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