Tags: class, inequality, marx/marxism, theory, american dream, class conflict, ideology, 00 to 05 mins
Access: The Colbert Report
Summary: This segment of "The Word" from the Colbert Report focuses on class warfare. It examines John Edwards' 2006 presidential run in which he wanted to wage a war on poverty in order to restore the “dream that is America.” His platform proposed to reduce poverty by 30% in ten years and totally in thirty. Colbert makes a bold claim that the Bush administration worked too hard to “create” poor people. He cites that “the amount of people living under the poverty line had increased by 4.1 million,” while Congress has voted against raising the minimum wage 9 years running and given themselves a raise in recent months. He argues that we need the poor because they provide inspiration for the rest of us to work hard in order to succeed, just like the American Dream created hundreds of years ago. This illustrates the ideological functions of the American dream. Specifically, it suggests that there are ample opportunities to get ahead in life, so if someone is struggling economically, then they are at fault. This way of understanding American society ignores the dramatic structural inequalities, and helps to keep the working class from resisting the class system and keeps the wealthy in control. The clip also illustrates Marx's concept of class struggle, in which the class interests of the capitalist class and working class are inherently opposed, thereby making class conflict inevitable. The class interests of business owners who oppose raising the minimum wage, or the wealthy members of Congress who voted to give themselves a raise, are diametrically opposed to the interests of the working class, who would clearly benefit from an increase in the minimum wage and other economic opportunities. Furthermore, it is the capitalist class which controls the means of production (and government), and therefore are in a better position to benefit themselves. Instead of raising wages or implementing better conditions, they work to maximize their own profits and salaries, thereby hurting everyone else.
Submitted By: Dan Weintraub
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