Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

The one percent problem: How the rich ensure they don’t pay their share

With President Obama caving the other day on continuing the tax break for the super-rich, it is a good time to ask whether the wealthiest 1 percent is hijacking our political system. This is worse than abandonment — it feels more to me like an attack on our system. Think this has nothing to do ...

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With President Obama caving the other day on continuing the tax break for the super-rich, it is a good time to ask whether the wealthiest 1 percent is hijacking our political system. This is worse than abandonment -- it feels more to me like an attack on our system.

Think this has nothing to do with national security? Au contraire, mon petit choux. It has to do with the long-term health of the system. I remember reading, I think in Thomas Carlyle, that one cause of the French Revolution was not high taxes (the British actually taxed their people more) but because the wealthy in France made sure they didn't pay their share, and so the state shifted a heavier tax burden on the middle and the poor.

When the rich withdraw from the concerns of the general public and the poor don't have access to decent educations, that is a problem for all Americans, especially fans of American exceptionalism. I have a lot of issues with Condoleezza Rice, who I don't think has been brought to account for her role in the biggest mistake in the history of U.S. foreign policy, the invasion of Iraq. But I do agree with what she said last Friday at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City about public education in this country: "When I can look at your zip code and tell whether or not you're going to get a good education, something is really wrong."

With President Obama caving the other day on continuing the tax break for the super-rich, it is a good time to ask whether the wealthiest 1 percent is hijacking our political system. This is worse than abandonment — it feels more to me like an attack on our system.

Think this has nothing to do with national security? Au contraire, mon petit choux. It has to do with the long-term health of the system. I remember reading, I think in Thomas Carlyle, that one cause of the French Revolution was not high taxes (the British actually taxed their people more) but because the wealthy in France made sure they didn’t pay their share, and so the state shifted a heavier tax burden on the middle and the poor.

When the rich withdraw from the concerns of the general public and the poor don’t have access to decent educations, that is a problem for all Americans, especially fans of American exceptionalism. I have a lot of issues with Condoleezza Rice, who I don’t think has been brought to account for her role in the biggest mistake in the history of U.S. foreign policy, the invasion of Iraq. But I do agree with what she said last Friday at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York City about public education in this country: “When I can look at your zip code and tell whether or not you’re going to get a good education, something is really wrong.”

I’m not calling for a class war. I’m wondering whether one has been underway for many years.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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