…of course it was to teach her self sufficiency, not because he wanted a free lunch. I saw this graphic go flying by on the net yesterday…
And a lot of the time they’re drowning in it because of the greed and avarice of people who like to yap about how there aren’t any free lunches. Cheap labor, sure. The cheaper the better.
I know a little about how it is to be working poor. Not as much as many. Somehow I never went to bed hungry or without a roof over my head. And I didn’t have children to support. But there was a time back when I was in my late thirties that I lived in a friend’s basement and mowed lawns and did Manpower jobs to make ends meet. This was after the Savings and Loan crisis had cost me the small but steady income I’d had as an architectural model maker. Time was I couldn’t afford a car and sometimes not the bus either.
I had this geeky little mindset for fiddling around with electronic gismos. Mom always said I got it from her dad, a man who opened one of the first businesses in his area building and servicing radios back before World War II. But there was never enough money to send me to a nice college and I had to go to work right out of high school. I had one low wage job after another, mostly stock clerk and warehouse work, and no idea what to do with my life. I liked to paint and draw, and I had done some photography for a couple local newspapers. But you need time to pursue a career in either of those and I had to bring money into the household. Eventually I got a job working for a man who went to the same church mom did, and who ran his own business making architectural models. It was work that tweaked my artistic side and I loved it, but my new boss was a fundamentalist nutcase who wouldn’t leave his employees alone about religion and he had an explosive temper. One day right before Christmas I and most of his other employees bolted after one of his outbursts and I was on my own again.
But I liked doing that work and eventually established myself as a freelance model maker with several big customers and one former co-worker who brought me into the shop he’d established. During that time I bought a Commodore C64. I had little use for computers before then, not even as video game playing devices, but the price of the Commodore had come drastically down and when I discovered I could write pretty decent job proposals on a word processor and figure out my costs with a spreadsheet I snapped one up. That little computer turned into a sort of hobby with me as I taught myself how to write programs in its BASIC interpreter and began to tentatively explore the emerging online world of Computer Bulletin Boards, in hopes of finding a gay community I could socialize with there instead of in seedy pickup bars.
Eventually and I was able to build an IBM PC clone from parts I got at a HAM Fest and with its for-its-day vastly greater horsepower and tons of software tools available for it I really started getting pulled into that world. While my customers for my freelance architectural model making business were going belly up all around me I kept dinking around with my PC clone because computers interested me, and because they had become my social outlet. But I had no college degree and no money to go get one so I never seriously considered trying to earn a living with it. Eventually I found a community of fellow gay geeks online and began doing support work on a local gay community BBS system, using what I’d learned dinking around with my own computer. That eventually led to my getting a few one-off jobs writing software. One job was for a local gay community organization that wanted a membership database and form letter generator. I did it in dBase IV, a little Word Perfect macro programming and a little Microsoft Quick Basic. Then, through that same gay BBS, I got another one-off job. And another. And another. Just at a moment in time when having even any sort of IT experience you could put on a resume meant you could get a job at decent pay and you didn’t need to have the college degree that I didn’t.
The dot com boom lifted me out of poverty almost overnight and I managed to hang onto this new career path after it faded. Otherwise I have no idea what would have become of me. I was 38 years old the day I could finally afford to rent my own place, a little one bedroom apartment in a Baltimore suburb. And it was all because of some really lucky breaks. Yes, yes…clearly I have the aptitude for the work I do and a good work ethic or otherwise I wouldn’t now be making a six figure salary and working on the James Webb Space Telescope project. But don’t even start telling me that my income level today is because I am a highly motivated and intelligent person who worked hard to get ahead. I was all of that when I was living in a friend’s basement and mowing lawns to make ends meet. I was all of that when I was standing in an unemployment line because I needed that government handout to put food in my mouth. I had some damn lucky breaks. And…support…when I needed it badly…from my friends, and from my fellow citizens. That is why I’m making the living I am now.
So I get a little ticked off whenever I hear some winger yap, yap, yapping that the unemployed are just lazy and unemployment checks amount to freeloading. There were times in my life I took unemployment and gladly. And I needed that money not because I was lazy and didn’t want to work, but because my jobs had been yanked out from under me. Because Wall Street bet on red 25 when they should have bet on black 17. With other people’s money. Then they wag their fingers at the unemployed and tell them they’re lazy.
Not everyone gets the break I got. Poverty does not equal stupidity or laziness. People who work two grueling minimum wage jobs to make ends meet are not lazy, and particularly if they have children to support. There is a serious lack of opportunity out there and some of that is deliberately crafted to keep wages low and Wall Street profits high and it is obscene for those financiers and their sock puppets to be wagging their fingers at people they’ve basically trapped in low wage lives and the unemployment line and calling them irresponsible.
You want responsibility Mr. Romney? How about taking responsibility for costing people their jobs? How about taking responsibility for trashing the hopes and dreams of all the workers and their families after you Bain raided their companies, and/or shipped their jobs overseas? How about taking responsibility for the fact that the American Dream is smaller and further out of reach of so many hard working Americans because you needed a car elevator? All the luxury that surrounds you every day…it could have been a reflection of the wealth you brought into this world, not the wealth you took from it.
Am I better off now then I was four years ago? No doubt your kind thinks it’s the most important question of all but it’s the wrong question. It isn’t all about Me, it’s about US. As in U.S.. We’re electing a president of the United States. That calls for a different question. You had wealth, which means you already had power. Now you want more. Well of course, lots of people want more power. And…wealth. There’s just never enough is there? The question is, is your country is better off for your having used the power you already had.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has done yeoman’s work on tracking violent groups, notes that “Currently, there are 1,018 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others. And their numbers are growing.” The Center’s data show that hate groups have increased by 69 percent in the last decade. And the so-called “Patriot” groups have increased nearly 800 percent since Obama became president.
If the news media and political leaders were told there were a thousand violence-prone Muslim groups operating in the United States, can you imagine the reaction? Yet, apart from the glancing attention given incidents like the Sikh temple massacre, the national discourse about terrorism focuses almost exclusively on Muslims.
The same goes if they were white and on the radical left.
I remember immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing, nearly everyone figured Arab terrorists were responsible. Then it turned out a right wing lunatic did it. Right wing lunatics have continued to kill people in this country ever since and yet when the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a report on anti-government right wing violence it was denounced by the republicans as a political attack. As if the republican strategy of tearing the country apart for political advantage hasn’t itself been a political attack on the country they keep claiming to patriotically love.
The United States of America is fantastically more violent then any other industrialized nation and the tragedy is every time a domestic terrorist attack happens any hope of talking about why that is so quickly devolves into an argument about guns. Guns don’t matter. What matters is how much hatred there is now between Americans. What matters is one of the two major American political parties has for decades actively sought to incite that hatred for political gain. They have courted the racist vote. They have courted the misogynist vote. They have courted the votes of religious bigots, xenophobes and homophobes. And that has had consequences.
But we can’t talk about them. We can talk about how our enemies hate us, but we can’t talk about how we hate each other. Because that would be a politically motivated attack on the people who have made tearing the country apart in order to get the bigger half their election strategy for decades. For some reason that is a wrong thing.
by Bruce |
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July 31st, 2012
You Say “Succeed” Like It’s A Good Thing…
Every election cycle the republicans run on deregulation, lower taxes and more jobs. And when they get power then it’s all about the culture war and everything they do seems to cost people jobs and depress the economy more and more. You wonder if they even care about the economy.
Get a clue: a productive economy, technological progress, and general prosperity, are the most destabilizing things for authoritarian cultural norms and religious fundamentalism. Religious fundamentalism and right wing authoritarianism flourish in stagnant or declining economies.
I’m not saying it’s a plan, I’m saying it’s a reflex. They act like they don’t want Americans to prosper because they have an allergic reaction to prosperity anywhere below the top 1 percent. Prosperous happy people don’t obey orders and generally don’t take a lot of crap from authoritarian louts.
by Bruce |
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It Seems The More You Make The More Entitled To A Free Lunch You Are
Considering all the bellyaching going on around here about the just enacted Maryland state tax increase on wage earnings over 100k I figured I might have to sell the house and the Mercedes and go live on a steam grate. Preferably one that was close to work. Except those might all be full of students who coudn’t afford to pay back their student loans after they graduated and found out there isn’t any work. So I was bracing myself to finally lay eyes on the awful horrible details and trying to decide if I could get accustomed to the taste of dogfood. I was thinking maybe if I deep fried it and sprinkled it with a little Old Bay.
So finally I see the extra I’m being asked to chip in for running the state of Maryland. Under $300 more a year.
Wow…I just don’t know if I can spare another $300… Oh bullshit. I make six figures and I’m being asked to chip in an additional < $300 and I’m supposed to be outraged. Swear to god it’s a good thing I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family expecting to make the kind of money I’m making now or I might not know how good I have it and how hard everyone else is struggling and I might be making the same kind of jackass fool of myself other six figure earners in this state are making of themselves right now. $300! $300! Lawd have mercy I’ll be penniless! Penniless I tell you!
You there…peasant…fetch me my free lunch…
I appreciate that government should not spend tax money wastefully. I also appreciate that one taxpayer’s waste is another taxpayer’s necessary program. I do not appreciate a lot of jackass babbling about high taxes without any sort of follow-up about what it is you’d like to see cut. Don’t just give me this crap about taxes being too high. It costs money to run a state government. When the statehouse is taking in more money then it spends, and it has no debt it needs to pay back, then I’ll agree with you that taxes are too high. I don’t want to hear one more fucking word about high taxes. I don’t even want to hear that phrase ever again or I will simply tune you out because you aren’t being serious you just want to complain that you’re being asked to pay for services rendered. Tell me that government expenditures are too high. Tell me what the fuck you want to cut out of the budget. Tell me why anyone should think cutting it is a good idea. Or just shut the fuck up.
Pardon my liberal use of the f-word here. But I am getting really, really tired of this crap.
[Update…And Furthermore…!] Just so we’re all on the same page here, listen…if the government is running a deficit and you believe in a balanced budget then either government expenditures are too high or taxes are too low. Do not babble at me about high taxes. I can see arguments for deficit spending, particularly during an economic downturn, but regardless of where I or anyone stands on that matter, taxes cannot be too high if government isn’t taking in enough money to pay its bills. Spending might be too high. Fine. If you can get enough voter agreement to cut spending here and there, do that. I might be with you on it depending on what it is you want to cut. Do not cut taxes without first cutting spending and then tell me that you are a fiscal conservative, I’ll laugh in your face.
There is nothing more ordinary then human diversity. Some of us are blue eyed, some brown, some green. Some of us have blond hair, some black. Skin color, height, weight, proportion of leg to torso…ask anyone who observes and draws or photographs the human form how identical we are to one another. Some of us are left handed, some right. There are males, females, and also transgendered individuals. There are mathematicians, mechanics, chefs, doctors, painters, musicians, actors, soldiers, firefighters, teachers. There are people who just seem to light up a room whenever they walk into it no matter the gloom that was there before, and people who bring their own little grey cloud with them wherever they go. It is normal to be different. And very young children, generally, accept this in each other. As the song goes, You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught.
For decades now the homophobes have warned about the “normalization” of homosexuality. Dire consequences would follow. Very dire consequences. What everyone is beginning to see now, finally, is that when the homophobic static is gone, normalcy returns. Here in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun today has an article about how the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is playing in at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. The answer seems to be a catastrophic decent of society into pure unadulterated normalcy.
Gay cadets at the U.S. Military Academy and the Coast Guard Academy are forming clubs. Gay alumni at the Air Force Academy hosted their first football tailgate last fall, and gay alumni at the Air Force Academy and West Point held their annual dinners on campus for the first time.
It’s not all roses of course. Some worry about the effect coming out will have on their careers once they leave the academy. Others insist it will have little to no impact. But the effect here in Maryland, as elsewhere, of lifting the outcast status on gay people, that dangerous alien other label, has been mostly…business as usual. Or rather, business more usual then it previously could be when people had to be afraid. The sense you get is of peace descending, finally, after a long and brutal battle. We are all neighbors once more. Now that the fires of prejudice and hate are subsiding a sense of community becomes possible once again. Normalcy returns.
Most of us evangelicals in Canada, regardless of personal beliefs about homosexuality, can admit that since same-sex marriage has been legalised in Canada, our society has not gone to hell in a hand basket, nor has traditional marriage, or our families been under attack. Scare tactics and wild-eyed fear-based rhetoric rarely turns out to be true. In actual practice, our society has become “live and let live” which is actually a rather tolerant and comfortable place to be.
Behold the dire consequence. A reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog, responding to a question put to Maggie Gallagher about the harm to individuals and society where same-sex marriage has been legalized, noted that her reply was basically worry about the status of homophobes like herself…
Essentially, Maggie Gallagher is concerned about the affect of same-sex marriage on people like Maggie Gallagher. She cites no data or statistics or study which shows how any heterosexual marriages or children in families with same-sex parents have been damaged. She makes no claim that any such damages has occurred, only that people like her have been made social pariahs instead of the gay people who ought to be the pariahs. I’m sure there’s a social science term that describes what she is doing, but I guess I just find the complaint that “you’re making other people not like me” to be a rather petty and self-absorbed. Where, I wonder, is her concern about the affect on people other than Maggie Gallagher?
There’s the problem. To fear and loath your neighbor over some trivial difference just isn’t normal. To incite those fears and loathings in others is damaging to community and nation. Once the homophobic static is gone everyone just gets along with each other. The horrible outcome of the normalization of homosexuality is world where we are all neighbors once again and we just get on with life and things get back to…normal. The scapegoat, the hated other, no longer hate themselves, and are no longer hated. We are neighbors once again, each of us just going on about our business. And the only thing that warning anyone who will listen about the homosexual menace teaches them is what an creep you are.
by Bruce |
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May 10th, 2012
Freedom To Not Be Angry All The Time
I do political cartoons for my local gay paper, Baltimore OUTLoud. Being published regularly allowed me to gain membership in The Associate Of American Editorial Cartoonists…a dream come true. Cartooning was the first love and political cartooning, what was called the Ungentlemanly Art, is a form of expression that I’ve been attracted to since I was a teenager, growing up in the Washington D.C. suburbs with Herblock and Gib Crockett in my daily newspapers. In high school my cartoons were in the student newspaper and on the walls of a few select social studies classrooms.
Jacob Bronowski once said that great art doesn’t set out to preach, but to shine a light in which the outlines of good and evil are “are seen in fearful sharpness of outline.” The best political cartoons are like that. It’s very easy, and most fall into that rut of being preachy. But the best ones shine that light.
I try to do that with my cartoons. When I see myself getting too preachy on the drawing board I start over. But I get angry too and sometimes I just let the anger out and my viewers can take it or leave it. Like this one I did after California Proposition 8 passed…
That’s all done on the paper by the way, only the lettering is done in the computer. I still draw my cartoons with “traditional media” and scan it in, not so much because I am a throwback as I just work intuitively with those tools better then with a digitizer pad.
That angry metaphor of the severed ring finger works for me artistically, and at some deep level it gets out of me something that just needs getting out. I hate saying this about myself because it sounds so pretentious but I am an artist. The way I know that about myself isn’t that I like to draw or that I like it very much when my drawings get looked at, it’s if you put me on a desert island with no tools to make imagery with I would cut me some sticks and twigs and draw in the sand because I just have to get it out of me from time to time whether it makes any sense to anyone or not and even if nobody else ever sees it but me. I have to do this from time to time or I will go nuts. It’s just something I am. And maybe I’m not really that good at it either. Lots of times I will look at my stuff and think I really stink at it. But I know I can’t stop doing it. Drawing…painting…photography….it’s all about the image. It’s a language I need to communicate in…much of the time just to think my world and my life through.
For my political cartoons, unlike a lot of cartoonists, I don’t do many rough sketches first. I do the drawing first in my head, and when I can see it clearly in there, then I sit down at the drafting table. Yesterday I had one ready to go, concerning the vote against same-sex marriage in North Carolina. I’d been drawing it in my mind the moment I laid eyes on the advertisement Billy Graham placed in a bunch of North Carolina newspapers. Where there any chance of that amendment not passing, Graham effectively killed it with those ads and I was angry. And immediately when I saw the ad the image for a cartoon about the likely outcome of the vote came immediately to my mind. I thought about it for days and it changed very little in my visualization of it. I was angry. The image was angry.
Yesterday morning I read the news and even though I had been completely expecting the outcome, it hit me hard. Every fucking time one of these votes happens it feels like a kick in the stomach. And you know that’s exactly the purpose of having these votes…to make gay people hurt. Because if we don’t bleed they aren’t righteous. And I did hurt. I walked around all morning long carrying this lump of grief like a stone in my gut. Reading the streams on Facebook and Twitter I could see others did too. But I did notice something that lifted my spirits even so. This time…This Time…that stone in the gut was being carried by a lot of heterosexuals too. This was what I knew would eventually win this thing: when enough of our heterosexual neighbors began to see this struggle as theirs too…feel it in their gut the same way we feel it in ours. Even as I grieved I could see we were winning this thing. But it felt so painful…so very very painful. But I had my outlet. I was going to go home from work that day, and right to my drafting table, and out would come the cartoon I had visualized so clearly in my mind’s eye for days.
…and all of a sudden Billy Graham didn’t matter anymore. And something happened to me that made me realize how much anger I have been carrying with me all these years. I stopped being angry. It almost literally felt like a weight had been taken off me.
I don’t know if I’ll do that cartoon now. I might…it’s still something I think needs being said about him, about the people who put so much hard work into kicking their gay neighbors in the face. You can shine Bronowski’s fearful sharp light at evil, but you can also shine it at the good, and I am not so very angry anymore. Life is good. Hard sometimes, but good.
Time was the haters could make us hate ourselves as much as they hated us. Then that time was over, and they could no longer make us hate ourselves and that made them angry. It made them angry and so they had to make us angry too. And being angry all the time can be a stone around your neck too. Not as big a one as hating yourself, but big enough all the same to keep you from having a decent life. Perhaps anger, unlike self hate, is a necessary thing. Perhaps without that righteous anger we would not have worked so hard, and come so far, so fast. But the day is coming when we don’t have to be angry anymore.
by Bruce |
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May 8th, 2012
Planning A Cross-Country Road Trip Is So Much Easier For A Gay Guy When He’s Single
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment on Tuesday defining marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman, making it the 30th state to adopt such a ban.
Thirty states. Thirty states. Oh…and it’s more then simply a ban on same-sex marriage. That amendment was an all out attack on same-sex couples having any legal rights that heterosexuals are bound to respect.
I have reflected often on the fact that the only reason I feel free to explore my country, take the long cross-country drives I love, is that I am single. The saving grace of it is that the side of my family that approves of constitutionally kicking their gay neighbors in the teeth all live in states I couldn’t visit anyway were I happily coupled. Should that day ever come, it will save me a lot of excuse making. Tell you what…you come visit us. We’d love to have you over! And your marriages are valid here so don’t worry.
by Bruce |
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April 29th, 2012
Life In The Shining City On The Hill
Seen on Twitter: “Family of four sitting in the patio furniture section of Costco eating picnic lunch made up entirely of samples. #theamericandream”
I remember as a kid, listening to mom’s tales of the Great Depression. Little did I know those stories would prepare me for life in 21st century America…
by Bruce |
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January 28th, 2012
No Senator…Actually, You’re The Threat To Civilization.
A few days ago Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland, submitted a bill to the legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. Hate groups like NOM have been preparing for this day. So, in our own way I suppose, have my fellow gay and gay supportive Marylanders.
I do not look forward to the brutal, bitter, torrent of hate mongering that is to come. I sure don’t look forward to having to know, as the signs start popping up on front lawns and the bumper stickers appear, which of the neighbors on my block want to cut my ring finger off. My neighbors are generally a good sort of folk I’ve found in the years I’ve lived at Casa del Garrett. Generous and neighborly…at least to my face. But just because someone takes a somewhat liberal stance on a range of issues, does not mean they can see the people for the homosexuals. Take for example the president of our state senate, Mike Miller…
The Democratic President of the Senate in Maryland is urging “Evangelicals, Catholics, African Americans” to oppose an upcoming gay marriage bill, and to vote against one if it ever came to a public referendum. Senator Mike Miller on a radio program said that while he didn’t want to sound like Republican presidential hopefuls, “I’m a father married for 50 years, I got 5 children, I got 13 grandchildren, I’m a traditionalist.” Miller said he wouldn’t stand in the way of a vote, and if there is a vote, as expected, in the Senate, it would again pass. But Miller’s suggestion to minorities and the religious right to oppose an equal rights measure is patently offensive and divisive, and smacks of a Maggie Gallagher move.
Miller, in explaining his opposition, however, did sound like a Republican presidential candidate, saying, “I’m a historian and I look at civilizations, I study civilizations, I read history every night. And I see it’s an attack on the family, I think it’s an attack on traditional families. That’s the way I see it.”
Dig it. He doesn’t want to sound like a republican, but just so you know, homosexuals are a threat to families and to civilization. This is what we’re in for, for the next year or so if this bill becomes law and NOM fires up its mighty Wurlitzer to insure that Marylanders fear, loath and hate their gay and lesbian neighbors enough to deny them equal rights in marriage. But I have a question: has any nation or civilization ever collapsed because its people loved each other too much?
by Bruce |
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In the current issue of the center-right policy journal, National Affairs, former Bush domestic policy adviser Tevi Troy worries about the decline of Washington think tanks into partisan messaging operations.
Stop…stop…you’re killing me. Seriously, on what planet were most beltway think tanks, and especially AEI and Heritage, ever not partisan messaging operations?
Yes, yes, liberal “think tanks” exist, but how many global corporations and multi-billionaires are going to fund a think tank that starts from an ideologically liberal economic position? Right wing and conservative “think tanks” basically rule the beltway discourse and you always know what their conclusions will be, and which party will happily benefit from them. Their non-partisanship is a farce. They are think tanks like Intelligent Design is science.
There’s a rule of thumb about think tanks: If you already know what the conclusion is before you pick up the paper and read it, it is not a think tank. Rand is a think tank. Let me explain by this example from Wiki:
In 1958, Democratic Senator Stuart Symington accused the RAND Corporation of defeatism for studying how the United States might strategically surrender to an enemy power. This led to the passage of a prohibition on the spending of tax dollars on the study of defeat or surrender of any kind. However, the senator had apparently misunderstood, as the report was a survey of past cases in which the U.S. had demanded unconditional surrender of its enemies, asking whether or not this had been a more favorable outcome to U.S. interests than an earlier, negotiated surrender would have been.
See how that works. They asked a question they didn’t already know the answer to and set about to answer it. No ideology, just answers. AEI and Heritage, to name two, begin with the answer in the form of an ideological position (unconditional surrender is always the most favorable outcome) and try to figure out a way to message that for the benefits of republicans.
What these organizations do is tactical rhetoric, not thinking. Thinking is where you search for answers, not fashion attractive political battle flags. Thinking takes you into undiscovered places. That’s not allowed in organization like AEI, which Frum found out when he got the boot for not towing the line. These are party instruments, nothing more nothing less. They exist precisely to discourage thinking. You are told what to think. Or at any rate, what to say that you think.
Witness the decline in American governance. We can’t confront the real problems that exist because our institutions of government are mired in ideologies which demand fealty over everything else. Facts don’t matter, only the party matters, and free thinking is treason to the party. And so our ability as a nation to grow and prosper into the 21st century is limited to what the ideologies in power will allow, and that isn’t much. We were promised a shining city on a hill. What we got were factories closed, wages devastated, pensions lost, entire neighborhoods in foreclosure and state and local governments teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Yet the ideologies that promised us that shining city are never held to account. For all the think tanks in Washington, not a whole lot of thinking is actually going on.
by Bruce |
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December 4th, 2011
Who Is John Doe?
I suppose by now you’ve seen a few of these…
Behold Atlas, holding the world upon his shoulders…beset upon by socialist moochers, second-handers and looters…
…not. Let’s be real here…no welfare queen ever had a larger sense of entitlement then the tea partiers.
Its easy to point and laugh at signs like the one above…and this one…
But it isn’t just the crazies who’ve been taken in and lit up by the right wing noise machine. To one degree or another, the nation as a whole has accepted a disastrously false economic construct: that the economy is driven by businesses, banks and wealthy investors. Producers produce wealth, consumers consume it. Producers build factories, establish businesses, engage in commerce and thereby create jobs…almost as a side effect of their economic vitality. It’s their world, they built it, these Atlases of commerce. The rest of us just live in it. Without the Atlases the rest of us would have nothing.
Hence the bellyaching about going Galt. It’s like the constantly nagging and entitled parent or grandparent who keeps warning You’ll be sorry when I’m gone and after so many years of it you’ve begun planning a party to celebrate the event. There’s a scene in Atlas Shrugged where the worthless playboy Francisco d’Anconia (secretly an agent of the Galt’s Gulch strikers) talks with industrialist Hank Rearden, owner of Rearden Steel and inventor of Rearden Metal. They are at a party at Readen’s magnificent mansion. They stand at a window as a storm rages in the night outside…
“It’s a terrible night for any animal caught unprotected on that plain,” said Francisco d’Anconia. “This is when one should appreciate the meaning of being a man.”
Rearden did not answer for a moment; then he said, as if in answer to himself, a tone of wonder in his voice, “Funny…”
“You told me what I was thinking just a while ago…”
“…only I didn’t have the words for it.”
“Shall I tell you the rest of the words?”
“You stood here and watched the storm with the greatest pride one can ever feel – because you are able to have summer flowers and half-naked women in your house on a night like this, in demonstration of your victory over that storm. And if it weren’t for you, most of those who are here would be left helpless at the mercy of that wind in the middle of some such plain.”
…and just never you mind the people who designed and engineered that house, who mined its marble floors and brass and gold for its fixtures, who felled and milled the trees and laid the bricks and stones. See…they don’t even exist in the right winger frame of mind, let alone the world of Ayn Rand, except as looters, moochers and second-handers, leaching off the vitality of the world’s Atlases like vampires. But without all those looters, those second-handers, those moochers paying rents for their own modest apartments, or buying their own modest homes, purchasing their own little economy cars and appliances, patronizing various merchants, making the building of all those things economically viable, Hank Rearden’s foundries would have nothing to do and his magnificent mansion would have never been built and he’d be shit out of luck on that open plain too.
It is unquestionably true that without entrepreneurs and investors, you can’t have a dynamic and growing capitalist economy. But it’s equally true that without consumers, you can’t have entrepreneurs and investors. And the more we have happy customers with lots of disposable income, the better our businesses will do.
That’s why our current policies are so upside down. When the American middle class defends a tax system in which the lion’s share of benefits accrues to the richest, all in the name of job creation, all that happens is that the rich get richer.
And that’s what has been happening in the U.S. for the last 30 years.
Since 1980, the share of the nation’s income for fat cats like me in the top 0.1 percent has increased a shocking 400 percent, while the share for the bottom 50 percent of Americans has declined 33 percent. At the same time, effective tax rates on the superwealthy fell to 16.6 percent in 2007, from 42 percent at the peak of U.S. productivity in the early 1960s, and about 30 percent during the expansion of the 1990s. In my case, that means that this year, I paid an 11 percent rate on an eight-figure income.
One reason this policy is so wrong-headed is that there can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the average American, but we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff…
I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the tens of millions of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages…
We’ve had it backward for the last 30 years. Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit…
So let’s give a break to the true job creators. Let’s tax the rich like we once did and use that money to spur growth by putting purchasing power back in the hands of the middle class. And let’s remember that capitalists without customers are out of business…
The meme, the Randian dogma, the right wing spin the nation has bought into since Reagan sold us on it, that it is the rich industrialists who create jobs. No. Customers create jobs. The flow of money from employer to employee to employer again creates jobs. Building factories and office space where there is no demand for goods, simply because you suddenly have tons of money to do something with, is what happens in this thing they call a Bubble. Hey…let’s build a factory because we can! No demand, no sales. No sales: bankruptcy. The factory closes, the employees loose their paychecks, the money stops flowing, the motors…were…stopping…
We’ve seen how that works, time and time again in the past thirty years, yet the right wingers keep insisting if we just give more free money to the rich they’ll build factories, or offices space or something and then the rest of us will have jobs. But nobody sane builds a factory if it isn’t bloody likely to sell anything that it makes.
No. The super rich won’t build factories. Not if there is no money to be made doing that. And if they can plainly see there is an easier way to make money, they’ll do that instead. And for them these days, there is. It’s called Wall Street. So if the middle class is dying, how are the rich making money these days…?
A newly-released study from the Congressional Research Service bolsters claims that the nation’s largest banks profited off the Federal Reserve’s financial crisis-era programs by borrowing cash for next to nothing, then lending it back to the federal government at substantially higher rates.
The report reinforces long-held beliefs that the banking system in essence engaged in taxpayer-financed arbitrage: They got money for free, then lent it back to Uncle Sam while collecting juicy returns.
They make paper profits by moving money back and forth among each other, and then when that blows up in their faces, they take it from the taxpayers…the middle class and the poor. Obviously they’re fine with that system and don’t want it touched. But it is not sustainable and they are not just putting the economy at risk, but our very democracy.
You see, trickle down economics really does work…but only from the middle down. I grew up in the world Hanauer speaks of. I remember it well. I was raised by a single working mother back in a day when women made maybe 60 cents on the dollar a man made for doing the same work. I wore a lot of hand-me-down clothes mom got from the church, but I never went out the door in dirty clothes. We ate a simple, very bland English diet, but I never went to bed hungry. I got a decent education because back in the late 50s and early 60s we were in a cold war with the Soviet Union and public education was something the nation was keen to spend money on so we didn’t loose the technological race. There were good jobs (at least if you were white). And all those high paying union jobs went to families who spent that money on goods and services, not at the Wall Street casino. And that made it possible for poorer, service sector workers, even single mothers, to still earn a living wage and raise kids. I know this. I am one of those kids.
Yes, when government sucks money out of the economy in the form of oppressive taxes, that will stifle economic growth and kill the middle class too. But taxation isn’t the only worry and big government isn’t the only threat to the economy. You can kill the middle class by sucking their wages out in the form of taxes, but you can also kill it, as we are clearly seeing now, by slashing wages in order to maintain astronomical profits that do nothing more then grease the roulette wheels of Wall Street. Big business can be every bit the threat to the economy and to democracy that big government can be.
There need to be brakes put on both. For the sake of our cherished freedoms, and our children’s and their children’s. Libertarianism, with its dogma of unregulated unfettered capitalism utterly removes the brakes on big business. Anyone with eyes to see and a mind not completely corrupted by ideology can see in the decades after Reagan sold us that shining city on a hill what comes of that. If the totalitarian police state is one side of a coin, Libertarianism is the other. Heads, power collects in the hands of the few, the people become their slaves, the economy grinds to a halt and the country tailspins into economic collapse. Tails: see heads.
Democracy gave the common man and woman, gave humanity as a whole, a level of prosperity that would have astonished the peasants who labored under the kings of old. To live, it needs a robust and energetic economy. And to have that, you need a stable and prosperous middle class. Because those people take their money and they spend it on Things…on goods and services that other people earn money making…and that keeps the money circulating and the economy humming along.
John Galt isn’t the motor of the world. John and Jane Doe are.
1943, Female Welder at Work in a Steel Mill by Margaret Bourke-White
The paranoid nativists warn that we are too culturally chaotic to survive. They are right. America dies over and over again in a thousand different ways, like the cells in your skin. The real test of a culture is not whether it dies, but whether it regenerates itself. What frightens these folks is our nerve-racking dynamism; our accelerating pace of reinvention.
We are in fact living through the end of white America. That “end” will be just as catastrophic as the end of Puritan American, the end of Colonial America, the end of White, Male Landowner America, the end of New England Whaling America, the end of Slaveholding America, the end of Rural America, the end of Pre-Industrial America, the end of Jim Crow America, the end of Industrial America and all of the other endings America has experienced in her short history.
In other words, we can be confident that this ending will be yet another in a jarring series of gateways to an ever freer, richer, and more powerful future
The real test of a culture is not whether it dies, but whether it regenerates itself. Yes. Or as Dylan put it, he who isn’t busy being born is busy dying. What I have always loved about my country is that every day it is busy being born. My great sadness lately has been a nearly overwhelming feeling that the paranoid nativists had finally strangled that. The more conservatives I see standing up to them, the more hopeful I can allow myself to be that it will not happen. Thank you David Frum.
by Bruce |
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October 11th, 2011
My Country ‘Tis of Thee…
Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?
by Bruce |
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July 31st, 2011
Letter To Fred Haitt’s Pathetic Excuse For An Ombudsman…
Date: Sun, 31 Jul 2011 17:12:57 -0400
From: Bruce Garrett
Subject: The furor
Liberals and conservatives don’t talk to each other much anymore; they exist in parallel online universes, only crossing over to grab some explosive anti-matter from the other side to stoke the rage in their own blogosphere.
Followed almost immediately by…
Rubin was hired by Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Post, to be an opinion blogger who would appeal to conservatives and people who want to follow conservative politics. She does.
He hired her in other words, to do for the Post readership what you are bellyaching that blogs are doing to their readers. You’d think that the newspaper of record in the nation’s capital would set a higher standard for itself. You’d think.
Maybe your publication should consider the possible consequences of enabling political echo chamber vitriol itself. You are giving it a legitimacy the blogs could never hope to accomplish.
Haitt hired Rubin because he knew she’d stoke right wing vitriol. And he hired you because he knew you’d make excuses for that.
by Bruce |
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