Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Latest Canary

So, among the top ten banned books this year is Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich, which reports the results of her experiments of trying to work for and live on minimum wage jobs. (Nother link.) Why would such a book be BANNED? (As pointed out elsewhere, the books aren't banned so much as someone challenged their appropriateness for a school bookshelf.)

Well, besides apparently containing some negative views on Christianity, it promotes '"economic fallacies" and "socialist ideas",' and a 'biased portrayal of capitalism.' Wade around in that for a while … banned because people don't like what it says about economic viewpoints and realities in America.

To me, this is the latest canary in a coal mine on how far out of whack our national "debate" about economic problems, "class warfare," and the right's propaganda about the poor are. (Note: no reason to qualify portions of the right as wingnuts and teabaggers, as it's the whole Republican base anymore, judging from the recent legislative sessions.)

To paint the basic facts and details about trying to live on minimum-wage as somehow controversial and political, something to be suppressed and hidden, is gobsmacking to me. It also strikes me as a rather dark if not evil purposeful ignorance. Disagreeing with what it might mean is another issue, but to try to suppress it?

Since I don't often subject myself to the Republican propaganda machine on purpose, if I'd heard the term "class warfare" before now, I really hadn't paid it much heed as the concept strikes me as eminently silly in America. But, it's getting such big play on the right that Jon Stewart dedicated a whole series of shows that hilariously subsumed the World of Warcraft logo: "World of Class Warfare." (If you follow only one link in this post, this is the one; the stuff you'll find is tres funny.)

The most absurd brainturd they tried to float was that if the poor have things like refrigerators and televisions, they're not poor! The blinkered depravity of someone who would have this viewpoint betrays such a vast lack of understanding of the larger world and humanity that it's nearly cartoonish in its banality. It's as if Thurston Howell from Gilligan's Island has become the primary pundit for these clowns.

As usual with the tighty righties, they employ the bullshit term "class warfare" to coin what they want to pretend is something they're victims of, but in fact is their effort to smear and marginalize those they disagree with (in the right's usual tactic of framing something as the opposite of what it is).

Their larger target is, of course, tearing down FDR's New Deal. FDR himself knew what bastards some of the people are: "Roosevelt again and again said the privileged classes are not your friends, they don't reflect your interests but we do." They're so rabid about the New Deal that they've produced their own cartoon version of history, where FDR didn't exist.

I've never understood this because the tangible results of the New Deal - a healthy middle class, a higher standing of living for everyone and the resultant general level of happiness and civility - appear so obviously valuable on their face that why would you want any else unless you were, well, fucking evil.

I've often wondered if the point to turn us into Mexico, because if it is, we're there!!!! (I've said for years, probably every party I've been to when I'm past 2 beers, that the real goal of the right was to turn us into Mexico in a cynical bid to halt illegal immigration from Mexico.)

Sometimes writing something out like this help me think it through, analogous to the weird effect when you articulate something out loud to someone else, it often crystallizes it for you. I now realize that what I've never heard from the right is their articulation of the world they DO want, other than lip service to freedom. So, I'm going to begin asking: "So, imagine we're living a world with no regulation on corporations and financial institutions, no labor unions, no minimum wage, no medicare, medicaid, no food stamps, no unemployment insurance, no government provided health care whatsoever, no food banks, no public safety net, nothing. What do you imagine that world would be like?"

While drafting this post, I ran some of these thoughts past my wife, and she pointed out the most obvious but wise thing I've heard: Congress doesn't eat its own dog food. It has no skin in the game. Every single person in the House or Senate is a millionaire, and they all have free healthcare and a pension they know will be there when they leave. Perhaps if they were in the same situation most Americans do, they'd listen.

Finally, I love this post by Lemony Snicket:
Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance

1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.

2. “Fortune” is a word for having a lot of money and for having a lot of luck, but that does not mean the word has two definitions.

3. Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.

4. People who say money doesn’t matter are like people who say cake doesn’t matter—it’s probably because they’ve already had a few slices.

5. There may not be a reason to share your cake. It is, after all, yours. You probably baked it yourself, in an oven of your own construction with ingredients you harvested yourself. It may be possible to keep your entire cake while explaining to any nearby hungry people just how reasonable you are.

6. Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they’ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative.

7. Someone feeling wronged is like someone feeling thirsty. Don’t tell them they aren’t. Sit with them and have a drink.

8. Don’t ask yourself if something is fair. Ask someone else—a stranger in the street, for example.

9. People gathering in the streets feeling wronged tend to be loud, as it is difficult to make oneself heard on the other side of an impressive edifice.

10. It is not always the job of people shouting outside impressive buildings to solve problems. It is often the job of the people inside, who have paper, pens, desks, and an impressive view.

11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.*

12. If you have a large crowd shouting outside your building, there might not be room for a safety net if you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.

13. 99 percent is a very large percentage. For instance, easily 99 percent of people want a roof over their heads, food on their tables, and the occasional slice of cake for dessert. Surely an arrangement can be made with that niggling 1 percent who disagree.

*Btw, it has come out that those people inside the impressive buildings are sitting in observation bunkers (paid for by taxes) with the police, which answers the question I've read a few times in the news: How come they're tear-gassing and shooting the OWS movement when they left the Tea Baggers alone?

Here are some links on other elements of this general problem that I couldn't squeeze into this already lengthy screed:
- The Tea Party is really just the pissed-off white south rising again.
- Republicans actively work to destroy Democratic presidents, and even Obama says right out loud that their primary goal is to defeat him, the people be damned.
- Republicans even think they can threaten the Fed.
- A great tell-all from a Republican operative who has left the cult.
- How banks cause hunger.

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