The Plutarchy Cometh
(A brief caveat: this post has the potential to generate discussion, and that discussion runs the risk of being heated. I’m all for being emotionally invested, but the standard rules of “don’t be a dick” apply. Further, a disclaimer: I am not mad if you don’t agree with what I say. Obviously, I think I’m right because, well, duh, I’m me and I am pro-me as much as possible. But I do not demand that you agree with me as long as you don’t demand I agree with you. Civil discourse, pretty please.)
If the middle class is a big balloon, it’s like someone untied the balloon knot and know the thing is slowly but surely leaking air, sputtering around the room like a cartoon dirigible.
This is a pretty cool link right here, featuring eight graphs that detail… well, let’s just say that the title of the page is, “It’s The Inequality, Stupid.”
I just feel like we’re living in truly absurd times. Times that, were you to read about them in a book of fiction, you would say, “Oh! This is satire,” or, “I’m sorry, I don’t really believe this is possible. Pbbbt.”
We live in times when Republicans (and, true, non-Republicans) exalt Ronald Reagan and then, in the same breath, bemoan the many tax hikes they have suffered. Except, what tax hikes? And, hello, Reagan had his own share of tax hikes, people.
Here’s the thing about tax hikes: nobody likes them. Nobody likes having to pay more money for things. But let’s reframe the discussion a little. Let’s say you want your children to go to a great school, so you shell out the money and put them into a great program at a great school and they’re on track to become smart little motherfuckers. Tuition, however, isn’t cheap. So, the school board — which comprises parents who send kids to this very school — approve a cut in tuition to make it more affordable. Sure. Okay. And year after year, they continue to uphold that tuition cut because — duh — they like paying lower tuition. Except, problem: the school can no longer continue to afford the high-end teachers, or the trips, or the classroom computers, so everything drifts downward in terms of quality, which means the education there also drifts downward. (You might call this a “trickle down” effect, if you’re a fan of irony.) The kids that come out of the school are no longer smart little motherfuckers because the school is now on par — or below — with public schools. The desire for cheap tuition outweighed the desire for smart little motherfuckers. Even though those who sent the kids there could afford the original tuition.
If the metaphor seems muddy, let me clear the waters so it is crisp as consomme: the oooh-la-la private school is America, a country once lauded for being a champion on the world stage. We won every motherfucking spelling bee, what up. But now, the “school board” is voting with their own selfish interests, choosing to keep tax cuts which means, in short, we aren’t able to pay for stuff. Roads. Teachers. Arts programs. Cops. Workers. Everything costs money. And we don’t want to pay for it. More importantly, the wealthy don’t want to pay for it because, duh, they’re wealthy. They don’t give a fuck about roads because, I dunno, they have secret hovercrafts or some shit. They can afford top-shelf schooling. They don’t care about what the country has now or can do, they only care about what’s in their Zurich accounts.
And let’s follow that chain — campaign finance and lobbying confirms that money talks in our political system. Which means that those with money can make things happen. Which means that the wealthy can take greater advantage of the political system through various loopholes and exploits. Which means that they’re constantly going to vote in their own favor, whiiiiich meaaaaans we are moving swiftly toward an oligarchy, or, more specifically, a plutarchy, where the rich rule. Do I have that right? So, all those blah blah patriotic blah blah “Democracy!” blah blah trumpeter assholes are saying one thing but voting for another thing entirely which is a crass dismantling of democratic ideals. The Tea Party, which continues to advocate that it’s for the common man (in many cases not just the common man but actually the lowest common denominator man — the modern American Neanderthal), is actually funded by big money dick-cankers like the Koch Brothers who actually want to reduce the common man’s bargaining power which in turn gives more power to the government. That’s not small government, you shitheads.
(Er, not you shitheads, my fine feathered readers.)
I see the question bandied about: why do Americans continuously vote against their own well-being? We vote against healthcare for everybody which seems like a total no-brainer (yay healthy people, healthy country!). We vote against teachers. We vote against improving our infrastructure. We vote “for” smaller government by stupidly voting for big government. We vote against our own income bracket and for the income brackets way above our meager heads. Why?
Because we believe a lie.
We believe that “get rich quick” should be cross-stitched on every flag flying at every American home. We believe that we are one day going to be rich, and so this illusion keeps us from voting against the rich — in fact, it convinces us to vote for them in big ways. “What’s that? A bill that says that rich people should be allowed to murder poor people in the streets with sabers? Well, sure! I mean, no, no, I know, I’m not rich right now, but soon as my Wacky Plumbing Widget hits the big-time, I too will be able to slay the poor with my saber! Ha ha ha! Stupid poor people! Okay, I’m going to go buy more Ramen now.”
You see a lot of blustery hoodoo about raising taxes on the rich and not those below them. There is this sense that such a move would be unfair — as if “fairness” figures into this game at all — and further as if this would be a socialist move. Let’s talk about that a little.
First, socialism exists across many echelons of our government. Social security smells of socialism. It’s right there in the name. Socialism is also a much nicer program than “let’s give all the power to the super-rich and hope they decide to support all us bottom-feeders and pray that trickle-down doesn’t mean the trickle of urine spattering upon our heads.” (AKA, “Golden Shower Economics.”)
Second, let’s get shut of the idea that a single tax rate across the board creates an equal economic condition for all. Let’s say that I have ten dollars, and you have a million dollars. Let’s say that the tax rate is 10% (because yay for easy math!). The gubmint take a dollar from me, leaving me with nine. Uncle Sam takes $100,000 from you, leaving you with $900,000. Equal tax rate, fair across the board. Ah, but. Now that I don’t have a dollar, an unholy host of things now fall outside the “Shit I Can Actually Afford” purview. My ten dollar co-pay? Can’t afford it. A ten dollar McDonald’s meal for my family? Can’t afford it. New pair of super-discounted sneakers? Bzzt, nope. On the other hand, you’ve still got nine hundred thousand dollars. Sure, some things might have slipped from your economic grasp like, say, a jetboat made of other jetboats, or a floating island where you force hobos to compete in your own version of The Hunger Games, but you can still afford all the essentials. You can afford most luxuries, actually. Plus, money at that level suffers a Gremlins-like phenomenon: it multiplies a lot faster because you have more of it to multiply. Your money makes money. My money goes towards not dying.
Do you see, then, how the system is already unfair?
Power is consolidating in the hands of the rich. It doesn’t trickle-down because companies have left this country so it “trickles” in rivulets and runnulets away from American citizens. And yet we continue to reward this behavior, like giving a treat to a pit bull who keeps biting our hand time and time again.
And meanwhile, we continue to watch as the Republicans — who, by the way, at their core have compelling notions of personal moral and fiscal responsibility — devolve into a party of mustache-twirling villains. You can tell they’re villains because anytime Michelle Obama comes out with a smiling, friendly initiative the GOP swiftly moves to cut it down just on principle. “Kids shouldn’t have diabetes? Yes they should! Screw you, First Lady! Diabetes is a choice. I won’t let your big government take that away from my kids!”
It’s almost comical how swiftly the Republicans act like the American people are the enemy, constantly trashing initiatives that serve the best interest of the common man. I feel like a crazy person yelling about Soylent Green. “We’re eating each other!” America gets fatter and stupider and meaner and weirder and we just watch the shadow puppets dance on the wall, convinced that one day someone will hand the marionette strings to us and so we continue to vote in favor of the puppet-makers and puppet-masters.
Meanwhile the Democrats continue their “not-in-the-face” policy while the Republicans continue their “oh-hell-yes-in-the-face” policy. Are we losing our minds over here?
How the hell do we get this train back on the tracks?