The Working Class Is Being Asked to Suffer to Punish Putin | Opinion

President Biden has spent the week urging the American public to brace for the economic impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as gas prices skyrocket to an all time high of $4.25. After the administration moved to ban on Russian fuel, White House press secretary Jen Psaki started referring to "Putin's price hike." But blaming Putin presented something of a vibe shift from Biden's State of the Union Address, which warned of impending economic sacrifices that would need to be shouldered by the American people in order to aid Ukraine and put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden reiterated this sentiment when announcing the ban on Russian oil. "This is a step that we're taking to inflict further pain on Putin, but there will be costs as well here in the United States," the President said. "I said I would level with the American people from the beginning. And when I first spoke to this, I said defending freedom is going to cost. It's going to cost us as well in the United States."

But this isn't the first sacrifice the Biden administration has asked Americans to make. Biden's remarks come at a time when the American economy is already reeling from the hard setback of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet another crisis where personal and economic sacrifices were demanded by the state in favor of abstract "greater good." And much like the impact of lockdowns, the mandates and the closure of small businesses, the burden of the new sanctions placed on Russian fuel will also significantly fall on the middle and working class.

Much like with the COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates, average working people are more likely to bear the brunt when "sacrifices" for an abstract "greater good" are demanded by governments. They are also the ones simultaneously shamed and chastised for failing to enthusiastically embrace financial hardship imposed upon them by constituencies with more economic power and privilege.

Oil Prices
Above, gas prices are displayed at a gas station in San Diego, Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Gregory Bull/AP Photo

The impending sacrifices for the Ukraine/Russia conflict on behalf of the American public echo the same trends we witnessed during the pandemic, when heightened emotionalism and humanitarian catastrophe were weaponized by the establishment and liberal mainstream media to deter skepticism about the official narrative and portray detractors as selfish and potentially dangerous to national safety and interests.

We're seeing that now as liberal elite millionaires use their platforms to lecture working Americans for not sacrificing enough. Thus, on Monday, CBS "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert opened his monologue exhorting Americans to grin and bear higher gas prices as a moral duty to combat Putin's actions in Ukraine. "Today, the average gas price in America hit an all-time record high of over $4 per gallon. Okay, that stings, but a clear conscience is worth a buck or two," said Colbert, the highest paid late night host in television history with an annual salary of $15 million.

"I'm willing to pay," Colbert went on. "I'm willing to pay $4 a gallon. Hell, I'll pay $15 a gallon because I drive a Tesla."

Star Trek actor turned liberal establishment mouthpiece George Takai agreed. "Americans: We can endure higher prices for food and gas if it means putting the screws to Putin. Consider it a patriotic donation in the fight for freedom over tyranny," he tweeted.

Linking support for the war and a noble desire to endure economic hardship to patriotism, humanitarianism and "the greater good" serves a deceptive purpose, especially when deployed by those who are impacted the least by the rising costs of energy. Not only does it work to force consensus by implying detractors are unpatriotic and unsympathetic, but it also works as moral cover for those imposing downward mobility and economic hardship that average people will inevitably experience.

The steady rise in energy costs, coupled with the inflation caused by COVID-19 lockdowns is already having a devastating impact on struggling households—and it's about to get a lot worse. Market buzz forecasts oil prices could rise from $127 a barrel to between $150 and $180, increases which have the potential to impact the price of essential goods and travel.

Meanwhile, the average person is compelled to brave the economic impact by establishment edicts and moral extortion. Questioning why our governments would risk weakening our economy and making us poorer to "inflict pain on Putin" is perceived as an act of selfishness and lack of civic duty.

The climate that is emerging from the pandemic and subsequent Russia/Ukraine conflict reeks of class warfare, weaponizing heightened emotionalism to coerce citizens into accepting their economic plight without question.

What is so often characterized as a political divide is actually a class divide, and a war of nations raging abroad does not mean that class warfare ceases domestically. Our political and media elite are shrouded from the economic hardships that result from war by their privileged class position. And depicting the growing concern over the economic impact of rising tensions in Ukraine as selfish, unpatriotic and short sighted shifts moral responsibility away from those in charge on to average people.

When our media and politicians imply that sacrifices must be made for "the greater good," we have a moral responsibility to remain skeptical and vigilant, not only for ourselves but to protect our class interests and quality of life in a political environment where these interests are seen as expendable.

Angie Speaks is a cultural commentator and cohost of the Low Society Podcast.

The views in this article are the writer's own.