The Plutarchy Cometh

Cash and Bullets

(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?


  • Active rebellion? At the risk of alerting the thought police I seem to recall something about Jefferson advocating remaking the system every decade or so.
    Or we could just wait for societal collapse and hope not to die as the advantages of the rich are mitigated somewhat (though the smart rich will of course have guns and food stockpiled in remote areas while you and I become wandering nomads, cannibalism optional).
    Personally my favorite pet theory is eliminating the two party system. You see whichever side you land on there are inevitably those so invested in the party line that they cannot deviate from it or even rationally consider what they claim to stand for. You get the same thing in multi party systems but power is so divided that compromise is necessary to get anything done.
    Or we could go back to a somewhat simpler system with less oversight. Feudalism could be fun. I mean, at least it’s direct.
    And to address your initial metaphor: You have no idea how right you are with that in the reality of private schools. It is maddening.
    If you need more money from people you could always con them. Imagine a nationwide bake sale. Or sell some snazzy government backed idea at a ridiculously inflated price. It looks like a luxury, not a tax so we will pay it to get roads or whatever.

    Personally I’m angling for the infrastructure collapse and opportunism during the fallout. Get ready now people just in case the zombies are an allegory for American life.

  • *Applause* *Standing Ovation*

    Unfortunately I can’t say anything else because this stuff gets me worked up and I’d have to spend the rest of the day chanting “Serenity now”. I should do a post on my blog called “What Caethes Thinks About Politics & Economics” and just have a link to this post.

    I saw those graphs last night and I’m glad other people are taking notice. Thanks for the post.

  • Great post.

    It’ll have to get worse before it gets better. It’s not because we’re stupid, it’s not because we’re sellouts, it’s because we’re stoic. We are a nation of suck-it-up-and-don’t-let-the-cracks-show. The more we hurt, especially when it comes to economics, the quieter we get. No one wants to be the whiner, and if anyone does, one of us will point out to that person how much worse it could be, how much worse it is in other places.

    Funny that imagining how much better it could be doesn’t have the same power.

    This stoicism is so ingrained, especially for the non-middle class for whom this economic downturn is just same-shit-different-generation, that it’ll take a tremendous amount of suffering or a tremendous amount of vision to move people to demand change.

    And vision is hard to come by when all your leaders have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

  • And that’s not even making mention of how much the current class of good ol’ boys hates women, our bodies, our rights, or our health. *disgruntled feminist grumble*

    I like to think of this all as an elaborate Ponzi scheme. Takes some of the sting off.

  • The more I learn, hear, and see about what is going on the more nauseating it gets. A character named “Mad Stan” should not sound like he has a stable, sane, and rationale platform to be preaching from. And yeah, that is an exaggeration, but not by as much as it should be.

    For those not in the know, Mad Stan was/is a character from the Batman Beyond universe. He’d a mad bomber, with the catch phrase: In this world gone mad, there’s only one sane solution: blow it all up!

    with the idea being to blow it all up, and start from scratch to fix the problems. Not just devolve it into anarchy.

  • Like you, I try to avoid getting too deeply mired in the muck of politics and economics, but I seem to be getting a little muddier these days.

    I think the reasons for people voting against their own well-being go a bit deeper than hoping to “get rich quick.” The Republican party and specifically the Tea party are hitting all the buzzwords of a grass roots movement. They are FOR “family values” and make sure they incorporate the fundamentalist religious element into their core systems. This gives them a sense of legitimacy and gets their target demographic to support them with an almost religious fervor. They’re also AGAINST gun control. This cements that they’re the party who is acting in DEFENSE of the COMMON MAN/WOMAN. Here in the south, this is inescapable. The Tea Party in this area feels a lot like a secessionist movement, complete with gun rack equipped pickup trucks with rebel flags in the back windows and bumper stickers proclaiming that “The South Will Rise Again.” Except this time, the secessionists are not seceeding. They are trying to take over the union and mold it to their vision. They want to undo all of the progress we’ve made on workers’ rights and civil rights. And in my corner of Amurica, they are the vast majority.

    In so many ways, I feel that this country is moving in reverse. Unless something huge changes, and soon, I feel we are headed for the cycle of revolution. Last time we were in that cycle (the 1960’s, which the Tea Party seems to want to take a mulligan on), we managed not to tear the country apart. Let’s see if that happens this time.

  • To answer your question: We don’t. The tracks are gone, man, and all we can do at this point is hold onto our yambag and hope for the best.

    There had to have been a turning point somewhere – a point of no return. History will likely be able to point it out, but I fear it’s somewhere a lot further back in the annals of our social history than we want to believe. We created a country/society where individualism was heralded as the End-All and Be-All – personal freedoms, etc etc etc. But in that Pursuit of those Personal Freedoms, we turn a blind eye to everything around us and focus only on our ultimate prize (something that someone else has that we assume will make our lives better).

    Understand, though, that I am all for personal freedoms. They allow me to flog my bishop to horrific pornography while choking myself with the American flag to raise those jollies just A LITTLE BIT more. The freedoms to choose, pursue happiness, own property, and all of those wonderful ideals are fantastic, but we’re too young, too self-centered, and too egotistical to use those freedoms wisely.

    So where’s the balance? I don’t know. I don’t think there is one, really. Like I said, we’ve gone too far down that road of Greed that branched off from Personal Freedom. We’re speeding down that road and unfortunately that road spirals down into abject chaos. Every so often you’ll hear a voice over the din of the locust-like feeding off of each other that tries to point out that we can’t continue this; that we have to stop, look around at the mess we’ve created, and try to help one another a bit, but all we do is scoff at and mock that voice. We beat that voice down, crush it under the heals of our newest Nikes (or we shoot them, hang them, crucify them – name your favorite way of silencing dissent).

    We’re heading into a shit-storm and there’s no turning back. We’re seeing what’s happening in Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Detroit (economic melt-downs, direct attacks on the wages of those that run the state apparatus, etc), and that’s just the beginning. Hey man, Marx was right:

    “All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

  • I’d like to disagree with you. Well…I mean I DO disagree with you but…dude how am I supposed to respond to that? You covered virtually every political cliche in the book. You should have called this “Painting with Shotguns: Political Edition.”
    I guess I’ll content myself with this little critique: you’re analogy with the rich man and the poor man is flawed because you’ve failed to take into account the complexities of the market.
    For instance: I work for Walmart (really I do.) I have no particular love for Walmart, but I don’t want to see their taxes go up. Why? Because if Walmart starts losing money to taxes their going to try to make that money up in the profit margin somewhere else, and chances are they’re going to focus on employment costs first. That means one of two things will happen: either I will lose MY job, or I’ll end up doing the work of the three other guys that lost THEIR jobs. If they can’t make up the shortfall with employment cost, then they’ll try to make it up by marking up the prices of their goods. And guess where I do a lot of my shopping? No matter which way you slice it, if Walmart loses, I lose. And so do thousands of “poor” people just like me.
    The rich man and the poor man live in the same economy. They do not simply HAVE money, they must MAKE money, which means it should be equally in both of their best interests to create a thriving and productive economy.
    No one is saying, that an equal tax rate creates equal economic conditions (well, no one I’ve heard it saying that.) Equal economic conditions would mean that everyone everywhere made EXACTLY the same amount of money. That’s not the world I want to live in.
    I REALLY want to keep going, but I won’t. I’ll simply close by saying thank you for having the courage to share your political opinion so clearly and directly. Needless to say, I do not agree with you, but I appreciate you providing us with the opportunity for discourse.

    • @Albert:

      I’ll cop to that — my argument is overly simplistic. It fails to account for nuances and complexities, no doubt. And for that, it may be a failed argument, I dunno.

      I’ll take small issue with two of the things you said, however —

      First is that, income tax and corporate or business tax don’t need to go up in equal measure. I’m for improving the tax conditions of business that keep their business in this country and do well to be a part of the local and national economy. But that’s a separate issue — to me, at least — than taxing citizens on income.

      Second is that, I don’t know that the rich and poor live in the same economy. I mean, they do *overall* — but living in the same economy indicates that what happens at each end affects the other opposite end. Because of outsourcing (moving beyond our own economy), what happens to the poor here doesn’t affect the rich like it has in the past and like it should. At least, in my perhaps myopic opinion. If we all lived in the same economy, there’d be some sense of equilibrium, of checks-and-balances. It no longer feels like that’s true, though maybe I’m naive and it’s never been true at all.

      — c.

  • To quote my favorite 90’s college comedy, This is hard. Let’s give up.

    But seriously, America is paving the road backwards. Instead of sacrificing individually for the social good, we try to engineer policy to sacrifice socially for individual good. Nobody wants to give any ground to benefit the system as a whole and we wind up with a gradually crumbling public infrastructure. But hey, we all have an HD TV now, isn’t that worth it?

  • @Albert: Thanks for being the voice of reasonable dissent. While I agree with Chuck wholeheartedly, you make strong points we psuedo-Marxists must consider when trying to propose our solutions.

    That said, I would respond to your denial of people voting against their interests with some anecdotal evidence. I come from a county in Ohio that contains three school districts, each with a reasonable tax base. The citizens of that county lament growing class sizes in their schools and the lack of new computers, but school tax levies are voted down more often than not. These people are voting against the best interest of their children in order to save a few bucks.

    If you’ll forgive me for flogging this example just a bit more, I’ll expand it to include my mother. She was a public grade school teacher in a rural area for decades before retiring a few years ago. She spent money out of her own pocket to buy supplies and constantly complained (and was right to) about the lack of resources the district could provide. But because she is staunchly Republican, and therefore doesn’t agree with her former union’s support of Democrats, she welcomes the proposed Ohio bill that will restrict teacher collective bargaining. She is supporting a bill that will make it even harder for teachers to demand resources from the government.

    This is the very definition of voting against your own interests, and I see shades of it in many conservative positions.

  • I ought to have something useful to say other than HOT DAMN YOU FUCKING NAILED IT RIGHT ON DUDE. But, uh, I don’t.

    ^^^This post. +LOTS.

    Sadly, I also agree with Spidler. There is no back to turn to. This may be a good time to start those Mandarin lessons you’ve been thinking of.

  • It’s usually best to try and discuss a single or perhaps a small handfull of political issues if you really want to get much actual debating done, but unfortunate this post and several of the following comments come down to ‘How dare the rich make money and not give it to people who don’t have it, and why can’t the government make everything right’.

    I’m middle class, the teachers rioting in the state capitols right now don’t represent me. They’re being paid with money taken, by force, from the taxpayers of their states, and those taxpayers, their employers, are telling them through their representatives that they want them to do with less, and really not all that much less. But instead the representatives the unions voted for fled town to disrupt the democratic process and all the teachers quit doing their jobs (that they’re still being paid for) in order to try and intimidate the legislators and in turn the voters. ‘Give us what we want or we won’t teach your kids!’ So I had to laugh at some of the tweets I’ve seen talking about the dismantling of the democratic process, usually coming from supporters of the striking teachers, when all efforts being made to thwart the will of the electorate is being done by the strikers and the union political machinery!

    Those charts, from Mother Jones of all places, hardly a source of reasoned discource, basically just show me that, yes, wealthy people have a lot of money and less wealthy people don’t. One of the most glaring assumptions is that those wealthy people are always the -same- wealthy people. Did you ever stop to consider that some guy making $35,000 in 1990 might be making $100,000 or even considerably more in 2000? Those bands of wealth aren’t static. I’m not saying that there’s a whole lot of people suddenly becoming billionaires, but there is constant upward income migration across almost all levels. It’s helpful for a place like Mother Jones to promote the idea that people are stuck in the economic class that they’re born into because they generally like to foment class warfare on their pages. I’m surrounded by people who over the course of a decade or two went from making very little to quite a lot, and those charts act like that doesn’t happen. There will -always- be extremely wealthy people and there will be fewer of them, thus they will have control over a vast amount of resources, but the idea that them having more wealth means other people have less wealth is an egregious falsehood, and that’s what those charts try to promote.

    I’ll just throw in a few more things here, since otherwise this discussion is going to become extremely unwieldy with everyone trying to debate every single political issue of the day in one big thread. Regarding health care, and how people could vote against government-mandated health programs? It’s because we don’t think it will work and have seen plenty of evidence that it doesn’t. I pay for my health benefits out of my own pocket. I don’t rely on my neighbors (my fellow taxpayers) to fund them nor do I get it as an additional benefit from where I work. No one has been able to convince me in the slightest that somehow the government can magically provide me with better healthcare if instead of paying for my own, I make my neighbors pitch in. I want health care to be provided for those who truly can’t afford it, just like I want a lot of things provided for those who truly can’t afford it, but that doesn’t mean I want all those things provided for everyone all the time.

    I think I’ll stop here and let the walls of righteous flame wash over me for a few.

  • As a resident of Madison, Wisconsin and someone who has seen the protests first-hand, I can tell you that this is ripping our state in half and it will have long-term consequences. The biggest problem right now is the sheer lack of education as to what this issue is about. Lots of speculation and half-truths on both sides, but the mainstream media did not address the issue until after our democratic senators left.

    The Democratic senators left to prevent a quorum, which is perfectly legal for them to do so. In other words, if they stayed the bill would have passed because they are in the minority. Abe Lincoln was the first to do that; it’s a form of filibuster. Second, to say that these are riots is not true. I’ve seen a riot. Rodney King? Not pretty. People here are cleaning up after themselves, singing songs, etc. The energy is entirely positive and is the complete opposite of a riot. Third? These protests aren’t about the money. They’ve conceded to having those benefits cut. They don’t want their rights, which have been legal in Wisconsin since 1959, taken away. This doesn’t just affect teachers: nurses, garbage men, sanitation workers, snowplow drivers, etc.

    The biggest problem with this entire situation is that our governor traditionally represents all his constituents–not just his party. Even members of the Republican party have said as much.

  • Albert makes a good point if you ignore one part of the corporate reality: Fire ONE Walmart top executive and you can keep 100 hourly wage earners. Hold off on bonuses for ALL Walmart top executives for one year and you can keep 1,000 hourly employees. 1 or 100, which is the greater good here?

    The issue has never been about taxes, that’s a smoke screen since the majority of major US corporations pay ZERO taxes. They have very expensive accounting firms to make sure of this. And very expensive politicians as a back up in case the accountants find a flaw in their scam.

    The issue is good ol’ fashioned greed. Always has been and always will be. The health of the giant corporations is not the health of the US economy. The US economy runs on small to mid-size businesses (the middle class of corporations, if you will). Mega-corporations provide nothing substantial to the US economy except a MASSIVE volume of low wage jobs (until they ship them over seas).

    Every argument against raising corporate taxes is flawed once you actually get math involved. Why? Because a business can’t run on air. It has to have PEOPLE running it. Not enough people, then customers get pissed. Customers get pissed, profits go down. Business knows this, but choose to make cuts at the bottom, instead of the top, and blame it on taxes, taxes, taxes.

    Will there be time needed for adjustments? Will things hurt for a bit? Yes, yes they will. But they hurt right now. They hurt bad.


  • @Mattaui – With regard to your healthcare commentary, that’s a nice straw man you built there: “No one has been able to convince me in the slightest that somehow the government can magically provide me with better healthcare if instead of paying for my own, I make my neighbors pitch in.” Your comments grossly mischaracterize what the healthcare law does. It doesn’t “magically provide” you with anything. If you buy your own health insurance, you won’t be affected (except perhaps that your overall healthcare costs will go down over the long haul). I don’t want to hijack the thread into a debate about healthcare, but if you are implying that the healthcare system pre-PPACA was working, you are in an awfully small majority. If you are implying that you would have preferred a different solution, I’d be curious to hear what that is. Obviously, a massive overhaul of a major part of our economy is not going to please everyone in its entirety. The question is whether or not it is an improvement, which I think it objectively is. And, of course, it can be improved and undoubtedly will be over time.

    My problem with the Republican party in its current form is the tactical nihilism.

  • Great post.

    I’m in Madison and can’t escape from this either. And like Monica said, there is a lot of misinformation out there about what is happening in Wisconsin. The union members have already agreed to pay for their benefits. They want collective bargaining. I think they should have that. If you’re not familiar with Wisconsin labor history, or union history in general, read up on it. It’s fascinating, and it will give you a little background and insight.

    There is so much more that Scott Walker is attempting to do though. The media likes to focus on the sensational and that is the public unions, students, and their supporters protesting. Not rioting, it’s the nicest, calmest thing you’ve ever seen. We know how to do this here.

    I realize that it’s an awful lot to read. People are skimmers and the first thing mentioned is unionized labor and what is being cut. How about the cuts to Health and Human Services? There are quite a few children, senior citizens, and disabled individuals that are going to lose essential services. Interestingly enough, Badger Care covers underemployed people and the largest number of them are employed by Wal Mart. They’re going to lose their benefits as well.

    Walker wants to cut close to 1 billion dollars in educational funding. Wow. We have pretty good schools in Wisconsin. As a parent of a child who will be starting kindergarten in the fall, this troubles me. We produce children that have the second highest graduation rate in the country. What’s going to happen now?

    This bill includes language that would allow the Wisconsin Department of Administration to “sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state.” OOOkay. Tell me that’s not going to benefit the Koch brothers, who seem to own Walker.

    So no, this is not about teachers being overpaid. This is not about government workers being paid more than you. Wisconsin residents are lucky enough to have had phenomenal teachers. We read the bill. All of it. That’s why we’re protesting. The MSM is just taking bits and pieces and sharing it with the rest of you.

    That is all.

    Thanks again for the great post. Power to the people.

  • Chuck, I think the problem is that we need to find a new train. Not a new everything, but maybe a new locomotive that actually runs on the tracks as they were originally laid out. Problem is that our infrastructure is worth crap compared to much of the developing world and the idea of revolution is always taken to an extreme. Great points on all counts.

    • @David:

      Actually, all silliness and metaphor aside, I suspect a new transit system could do wonders for the economy. Even at the local level.

      I live in an area where we’re still pretty far from NYC, but we have a lot of people who commute to/fro. There is year after year talk of getting a train from here to NYC, and damn if that wouldn’t be awesome. But support always seems to wither on the vine.

      — c.

  • No matter how you twist nd turn it, corporations don’t pay taxes, no matter what the corporate tax rate. Their customers do.

    If you sock WalMart with a $1M tax, they don’t just go, “Aw, shucks,” and open some magic bank vault to get out a million in cash. They preserve the bottom line by laying off $1M worth of greeters and shelf-stockers, raising the aggregate prices of their goods by $1M, or a combination of both. “Corporate taxes” are always a tax on the consumer.

  • @Justin I appreciate your response, though I really don’t think I’ve constructed a ‘straw man’ by bringing up the fact that I don’t see how a huge government mandate that most certainly does involve levying additional taxes, payments and regulations is going to do nearly anyone any good. It boggles my mind that this is presented as a cost saving measure. How is heaping costs and requirements upon private insurers going to make them lower my premiums? All I have to do is review the PPACA’s provisions and I see a whole lot of ‘Insurers must…’ followed by very expensive propositions that didn’t exist prior to the law. It feels very much like a decision was made that Something Must Be Done and thus everything and the kitchen sink was thrown in without regard to what good it would really do.

    Believe me, I deal with highly regulated industries every day, and I’ll be gosh darned, but I’ve yet to see how new layers of government regulation saved anyone any money, since they end up having to pay me to help them comply with them, and that’s but a tiny fraction of their compliance costs.

  • I started writing up a comment about how this is not a simple problem or a quick fix.

    It very quickly devolved into a rambling diatribe about collective versus self-reliance, the American myth of The Rugged Individual, the philosophy of personal responsibility, how we need to build the wealth of the poor and middle class, which means better jobs, which means more incentives to keep jobs here rather than overseas, making new markets, yada-yada-yada.

    Which all just sort of hammered home to me that this is not a simple problem or a quick fix.

    So here’s the gist. If we don’t take care of each other we’re fucked. If we don’t balance taking care of each other with personal responsibility we’re fucked. If we don’t do something about this “get rich quick / I got mine, fuck you people” mentality that’s become increasingly pervasive (though we’ve always had it) in both business and among individuals we’re fucked.

    Oddly enough I actually think we can do it.

  • You write awesome politik. I’ll throw my 2¢ in too even though it’s not worth that much.
    As a Canadian it seems like the best and the worst of America comes from it’s philosophy towards politics. Maybe philosophy isn’t the right word… it’s all about labels, and everyone just reads the labels rather than using their brains to figure out what they mean.

    It’s like Asprin and Advil. Everyone knows what they are, but a lot of people don’t know what they do. How many people know that if a person has an ulcer that taking Asprin can kill them? Hopefully that person with ulcers does, but so many people just cite preferences like these drugs are a brand of beer. It’s like that with politics too. The word: Socialism! That’s BAD! Commies were socialist and we kicked their asses in the cold war! Don’t you remember fucking history? Capitalism beat their asses because it’s better.

    But if we look at functionality… a lot of Socialism is based on the idea that the government runs the businesses. Which sounds ok because the government is supposed to look out for the people… except when you go to the extreme and the government doesn’t need to answer to anybody. Then you have the government and the corporation stepping on the people for it’s own gain. Lame.

    So Capitalism. That’s cooler because the market will regulate it’s self, supply and demand. You vote with your wallet! We keep the guvment out of business’ way and we’ll be fine. Except when things go to extremes and businesses have so much money they can control how the people spend it, and they can buy off the government… at that point you have Business controlling government and the business doesn’t need to answer to anyone’s wallet.

    Functionally the same.

    America right now is deeply into a capitalist imbalance right now. No, that’s not an official term, I made that up. But in the oil industry I see it very obviously. Up here in Canukistan oil companies are regulated by the government, to make work safe, to keep the environment clean, to maintain standards of quality, and to pay fair market value for the resources they’re siphoning out of our land. As a result, Oil companies aren’t considered evil, vile gross things that rape the land and then wipe their dicks clean on the soft down of newborn ducklings. Sure there’s some exploitation and things can always be done better, but in the eyes of the people up here the environmental impact is acceptable in proportion to the benefits we’re seeing.

    But when I look south of the border I’m fascinated. It’s like looking in a history book… or a fantasy RPG where life is cheap and weaklings break their backs for THE MAN. In the mainland USA, tools and techniques are still in common use that were banned up here decades before I got into the industry. It makes for some great and unbelievable stories. Frightening and exciting ones. To us up here the US oil industry sounds like some outfit out of the interior of Africa where the bodies of the fallen get shuffled into a pile off to the side while work continues.

    And it shows. Environmental activists have had to go to war against the oil companies, and they have philosophies that hate all oil. Not a single oil refinery has been built in the USA in 30 years. Hundreds have closed, not one opened… odd yes? That’s because there’s no regulation and no one wants a dirty filthy oil refinery messing up the little slice of heaven where they go fishing on the weekend. That’s not so good for the American worker really, but compromises aren’t being reached because the Oil companies own the government so the special interest groups have no 3rd party to mediate the struggle. Thus, an impasse.

    It’s these ideas that are hard and fast. Government regulation = BAD. But oil in our streams = ALSO BAD. So we’ll just send those dirty oil guys down to Venezuela where they can make messes on the brown people where it won’t be as noticeable.

    Overall, I think it’s our job to support the causes we believe-in, and not be complacent. Join special interest groups, look at what the government is doing, and consider that when the news reports something, wonder what it is that isn’t going reported. Look a little deeper, and maybe re-examine pre-conceived notions. Canadians don’t do that stuff very often. We’re probably more complacent in a lot of ways than you guys. Maybe we’re just slower, so while you guys go from great-to-horrible to Glorious Revolution, we can go slower in a smaller circle of good-to-bad to copy-those-guys-and-fix-it. America has a lot of things going for it, and I think they’ll be the focal point of exciting changes in the years to come.

  • @Mattaui A national healthcare system isn’t supposed to ‘magically provide you with better healthcare’ it’s supposed to stop people dieing.

    In fact free (at point of delivery, if you want to get picky) healthcare system can deliver considerably worse healthcare and still save lives, simply because it is free, simply because people will go to see a doctor if they’re worried about their health rather than blindly hoping to get better. Most diseases are much easier (and cheaper) to treat early on, but even quite well off people will think twice about getting checked out if it’s going to cost them that weekend away they were thinking of taking (for example). You may of course argue that all those extra people seeing a doctor will cost more, but actually it works out cheaper overall, again because of how much easier it is to treat something that’s caught early.

    Also, you may not like the idea of paying for someone else’s healthcare, but NOT doing so actually costs YOU more, and you’re more likely to get sick as well, which is less than fun I’m sure you’ll agree. Why? well because you’re not an island, disease is communicable, and the longer people have it the more opportunity they have to pass it on to other people, which means that there are more sick people to pass it on to everyone else and the more chances there are that the next person to catch it will be you and then you’ll have to go and pay your doctor your money to sort it out and be ill as well. Also (and this applies to non-communicable illness as well) you are not financially an island, the longer people take to get something treated the longer it is likely to take them to get well and that translates into amount off time off sick from work and so on and so forth and that (as well as being financial hell for them) is a financial problem for their employers, because someone has to cover that work and that’s probably going to cost the company more and so on. Wealth doesn’t trickle down, poverty trickles up.

    Oh and finally, I’m British, this means I live in a country that HAS free healthcare, and while, being British and thus culturally obligated to complain, I could talk for hours about how the NHS isn’t as well run or or efficient or whatever as I would like I would never ever say that it doesn’t work at all. Indeed (and I think most brits are with me on this) try to take away my free healthcare and I will gut you with a rusty spoon.

  • I agree wholeheartedly, Chuck. But then, I’m Canadian. If you were the preacher, I’d be the choir.

    Still, it’s nice to see Americans who realise how hopelessly anti-American so many policies the Republicans especially (though I’m not a huge fan of the Dems either) want to put into place. Fucking over the common man is fucking over the future of your country, yet so many common men don’t seem to understand. They buy trickle-down economics and vote on social and moral agendas instead of really looking at how the so-called “socialist” policies will benefit them. It boggles my mind.

    Also boggles my mind: people who think socialism = communism. But I’m pretty sure I could scream until I’m blue in the face and people who think that wouldn’t change their minds.

  • Nodding along. Your points on the myth of fast money and golden shower economics are very perceptive. I think you are correct that at least a few more issues entangle those problems. Most importantly, distribution of wealth and inheritance are the two pillars of the caste that support financial monarchies. Therefore, the concentration of power remains over generations. In addition, socialism relies on becoming less materialistic and less capitalistic. Impacting wealth and social services seems to require a fundamental change to American life. The shift is really a shift in views.

    We need to shift the focus towards truly valuing life. This shift changes how we approach social services, wages, the environment, everything. But maybe we’re approaching the problem too honorably. We could take a pointer from Bush II and make unpopular political moves when the public’s minds are overloaded by emotions and razzle dazzle. Should we stoop so low?

  • I remember an article from, er, 4 years ago in one of the Polish weeklies entitled “How much are you getting back”, which analysed how 5 archetypal families from 5 tax brackets profited from taxes: how much they put in and how much they were getting back (either in services or direct payments, like social security benefits).

    It actually showed that while many of our newly grown laissez-fare economists (sidenote: each and every one of them under 30) gripe about the Polish nanny state, most families actually benefit from the system. The poor were getting healthcare, the middle class were getting the free colleges and the rich were a tiny bit in the red, but they were still ahead of everybody else, simply because they were… well, rich.

    Now, that is not to say the system is not fucked, because it pretty much goddamn is: waiting lists at public hospitals are ginormous, your retirement money is squandered and then paid to you in tiny, fun-sized chunks… it’s just that it’s not an endemic fault of a socialised system, but because we’re Poles and we are only slightly less retarded than cats when it comes to running a country.

    To be honest, the laissez-fare economists and our newly resurgent right wing are using a rhethoric more and more similar to your Republican party. It’s kind of weird, especially since our own little 9/11 in Smolensk.

  • My frustrations equals yours Chuck… and a number of your commenters. But the shear overwhelming ridiculousness of it astounds me. It gets harder and harder to believe in the ideals of this country when there is so much frustrating static. Static substituted for reasoned debate – I would add.

    I could rant and rave quite a bit in agreement and disagreement with what you said – but ultimately I won’t believe any politician is serious about improving our economy until they recognize the need for further healthcare, social security and most of all military reform. Otherwise its all deck chairs……

  • We have to pay taxes.

    The public gets too much skewed information – from both sides; we don’t know what to believe or who to trust. It seems like we’re screwed.

    I believe that the rich pay for lobbyists and politicians – how do we stop that? We can’t take their money or tell them how to spend it. We need to punish the people taking the money

    Across the board tax, you’re right that the poor need their money more, but the rich giving more money don’t (shouldn’t anyway) benefit from government handouts their money is used for to help the poor, right? Not to mention most? Wealthy citizens donate $, don’t they? That could just be a rumor…

    Ever see the movie, “Dave” I love it when Charles Grodin, average accountant, comes in and balances the budget. Why can’t we get a group of non-political accountants who have zero ties to anyone in Washington and see what they can do with the mess? Get some new feedback? That’s not gonna happen in the real world, is it?

    And why can’t the senators and congressmen take a pay decrease for a change? I’d vote for that but they vote for their own raises – that’s not accountability

    Voting doesn’t seem to be enough. There’s no one worth voting for. Out with the old, in with more of the same? And no one wants to do the dirty job.

    Analogy – a good teacher will teach regardless of salary; lower government salaries and see what happens and who really cares about leading the people

    Because those in power don’t want to give it up

    Really liked Mattaui’s comments and most of Jake Bible’s

    Healthcare wasn’t working before but I don’t trust the government to fix it without their own agendas involved

    I hope it isn’t going to take a major catastrophe for us to pull together – like the stock market crash or world war 3!

  • I don’t think rich people want bad roads; I don’t think they want schools to get so bad that they can’t find anyone decent to hire. Rich people have to deal with people who are not rich; that gets a lot easier when you’re not having nightmares about your babysitter going postal because the Free Market says screw you.

    There are problems going on here that taxing the rich isn’t going to help; I think they can see that and are gathering their resources, because if paying more money isn’t going to help, then choosing not to pay more money may be the more practical decision.

    1) Money transfers so fast now that any illusions we’ve had of it representing actual wealth should be long gone. The expense of transferring money is almost zero. Thus, high interest rates are a bubble, and earning money by letting it sit is a pale dream of what it once was.
    2) Many goods and services can be transfered at the speed of light now, due to the power of the Internet, without regard to nationality. Thus, moving goods around and brokering services also becomes a less useful and profitable task (see: newspapers).
    3) The goods and services that can’t be transfered at the speed of light can still be shipped more quickly and cheaply than ever before. Thus, China can send us all the shit we want to buy, cheaper than we can make it here. Those profits are gone.

    Thus, as a freelance writer, my rates are being lowered by providers from countries where the cost of living is 1/100th of what it is here.

    I’m not going to scream, “NOT FAIR GOV’T SHOULD REGULATE BAD BAD US JOBS!” Because I’m selling stuff to other countries, too. Fair’s fair.

    But as we adjust to the much larger, faster markets and exchanges of currency, we’re going to have massive problems, natch. This shit you’re seeing now? This is the world rebalancing from the ways it had shifted in colonial/industrial times. The US is NOT the manufacturing king anymore; we do NOT dominate the Western Hemisphere the way we used to–my New Beetle was built in Mexico, yo.

    Yes, I believe the rich need to be pushed to stop hoarding resources. No, I don’t believe the rich are to blame for our situation. No, I don’t believe anybody wants a class war, and blaming the rich won’t fix anything. It’s just a bunch of blah blah no solution.

    The economy is bad because we consume more things than we make, not because the rich aren’t paying taxes. How do we reverse this? At this point, we can only guess and make wagers. The people in the Industrial Age didn’t necessarily know how to deal with their problems using the tools and methods they had before that era; we don’t know what to do in the Great Big Small World we have now.

    So the solution is probably a complex combination of things that we need to do, but I would think that perhaps finding ways to ensure the rich are paying taxes rather than using loopholes, yet leaving tax breaks for situations that would tend to cause us to make more than we create would be two good places to start.

    If you can solve our current problems, by all means, be rich. If you’re just shifting illusory money around from bank to bank, fuck you.

  • No suprise, as a well-known socialist rabble-rouser, that I agree with you.

    I did want to point something out to the folks who are saying “if you raise taxes on Walmart, they’re going to fire people to recoup that money”—

    Yes, because they’re allowed to. If workers were unionized, they wouldn’t be able to do that so easily, and would have to take the money from the ridiculous top-end pay and bonuses of upper management, CEOs, CFOs, etc. Which is one of the reason why Walmart is so anti-union — and why corporate conservatives (like the Kochs here in Kansas) have spent so much time and effort breaking the backs of the unions in this country.

    I find it funny that conservatives in this country point to the 1950s as their preferred golden age of American post-war exceptionalism…

    The 1950s, when the top tax rate for the rich was more than 90%, and more than 35% of all workers in this country were unionized.

    Something to think about.

  • I have to comment anonymously because I’ll get in trouble with work if I don’t (Chuck, don’t rat me out).

    I work for the government. I have an idea how much money it spends (at least, our small department, which seems representative of most other departments I’ve visited or worked for). They spend ridiculous amounts of money on stupid things all the time.

    They say, “Someone has to pay for all these wonderful programs. Taxes must go up.” Part of that statement is true: someone does have to pay for those programs. The other parts though–taxes need to go up, the programs are all wonderful–is crap nonsense. The government needs to do some serious housecleaning and cost cutting.

    Examples of stuff I’ve seen at my job:
    – Employees who play solitaire all day long for two years before they retire.
    – Employees who steal government supplies and take them home (one even sold them on eBay).
    – Contractors sitting around for weeks with nothing to do because their contract specified they be on site, but the government has no work for them.
    – Reinventing the wheel. Buying commercial software is deemed too expensive, so they spend 100 times as much developing their own.

    And that’s just a few things. I won’t even go into the unnecessary levels of security or the uncapped vacation accrual or the amazing retirement plans.

    See, Washington is run by money. The wealthy aren’t just taking advantage of the system; they are the system. THE PLUTARCHY IS HERE. A career in politics requires a great deal of residual income to get started. Most people you meet in Washington come from “old money.” They have no clue about real life below their upper 5% echelon.

    Republicans want to cut social programs at the expense of the poor and middle class. Democrats want to raise taxes to fund amazing flagship programs, but the money is used to fund all the wasteful programs that are under the public radar.

    Above all, they are exempt from every program they put in place. Government employees do not have to buy insurance under the new health care plan. Congresspeople send their children to private schools. Department of Defense generals and administrators charter private planes to travel.

    Some politicians really want to help. And how do most wealthy people fix a problem? They throw money at it. They can’t possibly fix the problems 95% of the nation faces because they can’t even begin to comprehend them. They’ve never learned to budget or cut costs. When you bring home $500,000 per year base annual salary, why would you? So they are trying to buy us out of debt. They are trying to ensure their reelections by putting great (expensive) programs in place, which if you argue against you look like a schmuck. And they are ignoring or hiding or simply not comprehending (depending on who they are) the real problem of government overspending.

    The only solution I can see is a complete overhaul of the government. From within would be preferable, but it will probably have to be from without. I’m lucky enough to get paid with my own tax dollars (and a few of yours). Most people aren’t. Sooner or later, people will get tired of paying money into a system for little or no return.

  • Dang, Gareth beat me to it, but yeah. Unions are the key, as one of the key MoJo bloggers has been banging the Drum (sorry) about a lot lately. Unions have declined dramatically in America compared to other countries, and it’s been a chief cause of US income inequality and the rise of the plutocracy. How to fix it? Gee, that’s a harder question.

  • It’s all like reading a bad novel by (insert popular author here) that you can’t put down due to the conviction that you’re reading the worst book in the world, your desire to brag that you’ve read the worst book in the world, your sick fascination that anyone actually represented/published/marketed/displayed/bought it, and your conviction that it couldn’t possibly get any worse.

    And then it does. Repeatedly.

  • I start with history. The “Tea Party” doesn’t even know what the tea party was. The British were LOWERING taxes on their tea monopoly because people like John Hancock were smugglers and selling their blackmarket tea cheaper. In order to compete, the British had to lower taxes. So Hancock and other smugglers (read criminals) got the common man (read dummy) to riot and throw British tea into the harbor. So they could pay more for tea and keep the smugglers rich. I think that pretty much sums up the state of affairs.
    When 400 Americans earn as much as the entire bottom 50% of the entire country, and we can’t up their taxes 2%, we’re fucked.
    And they don’t give a shit. Really. Those who think rich people give a damn about ‘other people’ don’t understand they got rich by not giving a damn about anyone but themselves.
    But here’s the deal. When you’re on top of the pyramid and you keep pissing on your base, sooner or later, it erodes. People are watching Egypt and Libya like it’s far away. It’s a lot closer than you think Goldman-Sachs.
    And how many rich people went through Special Forces training? Or SEAL school?

  • Agree with the rest, but do you really have to insult pit bulls in the article? They’re very sweet-tempered dogs, and spreading the false idea of them being “mean” helps result in a lot of sweet dogs being euthanized because of what they look like.

  • When a person in the top 10% spends some his wealth to get the benefits of professionals like attorneys, accountants and lobbyists that’s capitalism and rugged individualism.

    When a group of people in the lower 90% pool their resources to get the benefits of professionals like attorneys, accountants and lobbyist that’s special interest and socialist destroying the American dream.

    Not sarcastically though, that top 10% is just a short-sighted as the rest of us. They just have a bigger safety net. We’re all going to have to think forward, or eventually we will all get dragged down.

  • While I agree with much of this, I strongly disagree on your argument against a flat tax. Yes, the person with $10 needs it more than the person with millions. But are you aware that as you move up in tax brackets, not only are you paying more, but you lose certain benefits? I discovered this just this year when my wife and I moved into a new tax bracket. Suddenly, we can no longer contribute to our Roth IRA without penalty (apparently, if you make “too much” you aren’t allowed to save for retirement like normal people,) and we lost our child credit.

    We aren’t rich. We’re not driving Jaguars and Porches. We have two used Hondas, a modest house, and though we have a nice income, a lot is going out thanks to school loans and a disaster a few years ago. We are slowly crawling out of a hole of debt, so we are, by no means, rich.

    We work hard for our money. I’m working harder now that I EVER worked slinging burgers, and the government is taking a lot more of our money. I now understand why REALLY rich people hide their money and search for loopholes. How is it fair to work hard and give up 35 – 50% of what you earn? High taxes encourage people to hide money, It encourages class division. It encourages anger, because I’m feeling it when I never felt it before. I’m working hard, I give to charity, do volunteer work…and I’m paying more than I ever have and getting fewer services for it.

    People assume that the wealthy get that way by sitting around and waiting for their money to breed. There are those kinds of people, no doubt. But the person who makes $250K/year isn’t one of those. We work hard. We give. But this year we can give less because the government is taking more. Let’s get a base flat tax with a less complicated tax code. No refunds for anyone, no deductions. Taxes should not be a way to level the classes.

  • First, I want to applaud you because you’ve been brave enough to post your beliefs for all the world to see. That, my friend, takes guts. If we could all have this similar, civilized discourse in this country so many things would change.

    My first piece of advice: take a very deep breath, hold for ten seconds, and slowly exhale. Repeat twice. Remember that all things, even government, are cyclical. We’ve been through this before, we’ll go through it again. Yep, I’m old enough to remember from Carter on up. A lot of us on here probably do. Try to be a little Zen about the circle of political life and strife; you’ll see it again, probably twice, in your lifetime. It does get better.

    As far as wealth distribution, I don’t think I can add anymore than what a few have said. I don’t believe in the tax system as it is; personally, I think it is a silly system which has become so all powerful that they have no fear of recourse. Have you seen the size of the Tax Code Rule Book? It would put the directory for the entire state of California to shame. I’m all for a nice Luxury Tax across the board, because that just makes more sense, and would probably bring more money in. Plus I wouldn’t have to take a college course in how to figure it out.

    Now, how to fix the current situation? Well, you’ve actually started by creating this post. People need to talk; we shouldn’t be afraid of discussing our viewpoints. That’s how we can actually educate ourselves and, if not change our minds, at least see what other thoughts are out there about certain topics.

    In that vein, I’ll tell you hubby and I sometimes sit around and play “If I Were King”, hashing out how we’d straighten out the country, had we the power. Term limits for Congress Critters, outlawing lobbyists, giving the states back their powers, hacking off about 3/4 of the Federal Government (we’ve actually looked at this and ran the numbers for this particular argument), instituting a luxury tax instead of taxing every darn thing (why is food even taxed?), letting the money follow the child when it comes to education (imagine the negotiation fights breaking out to get the best teachers, and the money and benefits to those who are excellent educators), making all hospitals nonprofit organizations with certain incentives to keep the level of care high, placing higher tariffs on products shipped in and giving tax breaks to companies who manufacture products within the US and who have a majority of American workers, bringing our troops back (in reality we’ll still maintain a “presence” in the other countries, as we always do) and using our National Guard to do just that…guard our national borders (this has nothing to do with illegal immigration and everything to do with the drug cartels).

    Yep, if we did all these things, we might get back on track quicker, but please don’t be discouraged. The American Spirit is not dead; we’ll struggle through this and we’ll make it through on the other end. I’d say give us another four to six years, and we’ll be heading towards a better equilibrium. Now, another deep breath…it really does work.

  • My congratulations to those in Wisconsin who’ve provided valuable insight. I work across from the statehouse in Ohio where similar events are occurring. The protests have been also peaceful and relatively nuanced. But the concerns behind them are very real.

  • Two words as to the fate of this runaway train:

    “Snooki Book”

    Also, “All doomed.”

    I’ll elaborate.

    The plutarchy is already here, and everybody’s cool with it. Nothing is getting done, but there are zilch alternatives. Why? Because that’s what the media tells us, and who are we to argue with them?

    The Democratic and Republican solutions to truly critical issues are practically the same. Obama’s proposed budget cuts are nearly identical in monetary value to those proposed by the GOP via Sessions. It doesn’t just stop there.

    Solution to the enormous time-and-blood sucks of Afghanistan and Iraq? Pretty much the same. Solution to the prison, drug and immigrant problems? Pretty much the same. Gitmo? Israel-Palestine? North Korea?

    But you wouldn’t know by looking at either side go at each other like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior on a week-long meth binge and a bad case of rabies. They spit hate and suspicion and urgency. They dick wave like McCarthy. And everything – every issue from DOMA to death row inmates – is at Threat Level Midnight Defcon 2 realms of emergency.

    And for all that invective, shockingly, not much dramatic gets done. It’s either stalemate or creep, creep, creeping compromise on relatively inexpensive issues.

    They stay on track with that economic inequity. We stay glued to the TV. And that’s just how the system likes it.

    Why? Snooki Book. That’s why.

    And what I mean by that is, politics have become entertainment. Yes, things are dire and yes, many people are getting dumber and fatter and sicker and locked up and shot down overseas. But the systemic solutions – the Great Societies and New Deals and Cold Wars – are just not being conceived of or enacted by mainstream politicians.

    Yet the media treats any candidate who’s NOT mainstream as if they were lobotomy victims trying to do long division. They snicker at them, asking Dennis Kuicinich about his UFOs and Ron Paul about marijuana. The candidates who merit infinite chin-stroking and podium time are party line Dems and Pubs. They may be strident, may sound visionary, but that’s a mask.

    It’s to keep us tuned in – keep us watching them foam and warn us about The Other Side as if the rival party was trying to nest killer bees in our mouths – while they do jack nothing.

    The alternative to these mass-market, over-hyped, empty-suit, status quo schmucks? Well, they’re hard to find. And don’t get much money. And a bit more boring. Much like – you guessed it – good, new literature.

    So most people go with Clinton or McCain, or Reid or Palin. They buy the Snooki Book – the cheap, popular, empty, exciting. They vote with their dollars by donations and by tuning in to MSNBC or FOX to watch someone yell about the end times.

    Meanwhile, the substantive and the reasoned and the cooperative, with solutions like Chuck or AB and his wife propose, go unheeded. Those poor, self-publishing bastards at Democracy Now or the Libertarian Party, they have their little fan followings, but they aren’t changing the world.

    They are, of course, changing our opinions. I read a lot of true believers with diverse ideas and common ground here. I’m not pessimistic about American people communicating, I’m pessimistic about the American system changing. If anything, it’s getting worse.

    Political slant is increasingly extreme on the media outlets. Centrism is out of vogue. Sensationalism attracts more viewers. And so the dialogue gets hotter and dumber while the solutions get staler and duller.

    So, I see one of two things happening.

    One, Keynesian economics prevail, and the system spends its way out of this mess. Whether it’s spending via government programs to the corporations, or by money directly to the corporations – by Dem or Rep, basically – it’s sure to keep spending more and more. Question is whether it’ll spend enough to turn around the economy before the 2+ million prison system, fucked up health care costs, porous borders, ruinous state fiscal crises and steadily decaying foreign power dynamic collapses on us and all our lattes, $9.99 steak dinners and Ford Focuses vanish.

    Two, there’s a coup by one party’s fringe, and things change fast. The Left would probably whip out a Green-based New Deal. The Right’s fringe, contrary to what we assume from Michelle Bachman’s babbling, would institute a “Holy Roman Empire” system of flat taxes and states’ rights, where life in Family Values bastions like the Midwest would be dramatically different from the “Irvine Corporation” lifestyles of the coastal regions. Neither sea change is intrinsically doomed or destined to succeed.

    But until #2 happens or #1 cheers everybody up, it’s going to be business as usual, just LOUDER all the time. They’ll keep selling us Snooki Books, because we – despite our better judgment evidenced by discussions like this and countless others across our Proud Nation – keep buying.

  • I’m on the front lines here in Wisconsin. And I can do the math.
    To anyone who has actually seen this union busting bill attempting to be passed here, it is clearly nothing but a means for giving nearly absolute unfettered power with no oversight to the Republican Governor and the Corporations for which he stands. It is not credible to claim a budget crisis while handing off a 140 million dollar tax credit to your supporters corporate interests. That is by definition the road to utter Plutocracy. While we all have a role to play, actually yes this IS the fault of the top 2% who have paid for politicians and lobbied against the people’s best interests in favor of their own. The last few decades have seen the greatest rise in disparity between what the average worker and corporate execs going from appx 24 times in the 50’s to as much as 500 times and generally at least 350 or more times currently. Even more disturbing that any of those profits/wages are hidden from taxation by the very loopholes they spent millions lobbying to get installed. The “Free” Market is a bullshit illusion that does not exist and we are sitting on the fence between revolution and repair of a broken system on one hand and total Plutocracy on the other. If you haven’t listened to Governor Scott Walker’s phone conversation when he thought he was talking to his “Boss” Billionaire David Koch you should.
    It reveals his true character and the true agenda and nature of the Republican party. For all the faults the Democrats may have, this scope of bold corruption and total lack of regard for the citizens of this nation (who aren’t part of their super rich dickheads club) is a peculiarly Right Wing strain of mental disease. For better or worse, most Democrats are plagued by at least a little bit of conscience, which is about the only thing holding the seams together right now. The lost wealth of the people of this nation has been diluted by debt in great part created to fund a war that only made the wealthiest wealthier and the poor poorer. Oil Companies and defense industry contractors are making more now than ever before while everyone else sucks the big egg. And worst of all Eisenhower warned us about this in 1961 and we still haven’t caught on.

  • @anonymouth.

    Everything you describe as examples of government waste also occur in the corporate world. The truth is that any organization larger than a few hundred people is going to have significant waste.

  • Just so you know…I’m actually a woman. lol I realized I hadn’t mentioned the Mars Trilogy (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) by Kim Stanley Robinson. Though it’s told in more of a documentary style, spread over hundreds of years, throughout the books (highlighted more in the second) you see what happens when mega corporations basically buy up the world’s governments, so that the Earth is ruled by corporations. It’s an interesting take on a possible future.

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