Monday, March 28, 2011

More answers....

I think I'm almost done...these ones are political, so I'm going to put them after a page break. (I also use some language.)

Kevin Hayden asks:

Why is it that Republicans have the distinct odor of a mutant pygmy goat taint swaddled in limburger cheese?

Also, considering the broad availability of joyful times crushing serfs, why do a few of them persist in having extraordinarily mundane sex? Is it for the lovely parting gifts?

Well...I'll just assume those questions are meant from a metaphorical standpoint. I mean, how could anyone be familiar with the distinct odor of a mutant pygmy goat taint swaddled in limburger cheese?

Roger asks:

The Repubs are saying the the unions are crushing the middle class by their stand in WI and elsewhere. I suggest that the middle class has been attacked all right - for years by the wealthy. What say you?

Also, your take on Obama's reversal on defending DOMA.

I take Obama's reversal on defending DOMA as another incremental change toward an ultimate goal. In general, as a liberal I find Obama frustrating. On the one hand, he's clearly the most liberal President our country has elected since Lyndon Johnson (although, quite frankly, I think an argument can be made that the most liberal President since Johnson was actually Richard Nixon, a thought that depresses me on any number of levels). But on the other, he just doesn't get there often enough to make me happy. He seems to genuinely believe in making the small, incremental changes over the big strokes, but sometimes the big strokes are necessary, and Obama just doesn't seem temperamentally aligned to the big idea.

And really, I wish someone on the Democratic side would stand up and say, "Hey, you know what, DC political culture? Fuck bipartisanship. Especially since 'bipartisan' is now functionally defined as 'Democrats giving Republicans what they want.'"

As for the war on the middle and lower class...I've really tried to maintain a belief over the years that the Right in this country -- and I include the Libertarian free-market worshiping lunatics in with the Right -- genuinely believes that pursuing all manner of free-market nonsense will eventually lead to better lives for the middle and lower classes. Recent years, though, have led me to the inescapable conclusion that they don't give a shit. Not one teeny, tiny bit. What the Right cares about is making sure that the ultimate direction of money flow in this country is upward, upward, upward.

Just one example: it was in the news this weekend that General Electric piled up profits of over three billion dollars, whilst paying no corporate taxes at all. The Wife and I paid more in taxes last year than General Electric. And now I read this:

After not paying any taxes and making huge profits, ThinkProgress has learned that General Electric is expected to ask its nearly 15,000 unionized employees in the United States to make major concessions.

This year, 14 unions representing more than 15,000 workers will negotiate a new master contract with General Electric. Among the major concessions GE has signaled that it will ask of union workers is the elimination of a defined contribution benefit pension for new employees, a move the company has already implemented for its non-union salaried employees. Likewise, GE is signaling to the union that it will ask for the elimination of current health insurance plans in favor of lower quality health saving accounts, a move the company has already implemented for non-union salaried employees as well.

"Your money must end up in our coffers." That's what the rich, the wealthy, and the corporate in this country are saying to the rest of us, over and over and over and over again, and then we line up and elect a bunch of idiots who have taken a tea bag as their political symbol (but don't call them "Teabaggers"!) and who promise to put policies in place that will only make it easier for this to happen.

And I listen to middle class people saying things that make clear that they are OK with this. I hear people complain about foreign aid. I hear others complain that their union-member spouses make a very large wage, but they don't complain that they themselves do not. No matter how much I point out how many countries out there manage to have health care that is both better and cheaper than what we have, the most common response is some "We don't want the government involved."

I'm not sure what's scarier to me: that the lower classes are getting continually screwed by the upper class and the political figures that do their bidding, or that the screwing is so often consensual.

Here's Bob Herbert, in his last column for the New York Times.

So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.

Americans behave as if this is somehow normal or acceptable. It shouldn’t be, and didn’t used to be. Through much of the post-World War II era, income distribution was far more equitable, with the top 10 percent of families accounting for just a third of average income growth, and the bottom 90 percent receiving two-thirds. That seems like ancient history now.

The opening sentence of that last graf is the most damning for me: We actually think that this is acceptable. We've decided that it's only right. We've bought into the notion that if we end up in a bad spot, it's our fault. We've internalized this idea that everyone who has ever had success did it by themselves, and that if we didn't pull ourselves up far enough by our own bootstraps, well, we have only ourselves to blame and we have no right to expect anything from our moneyed overlords.

Right now I can't even say that we're better than this, because I look at the blase attitude about it all that surrounds me, and I think, maybe we're not.

(By the way, I only post these thoughts because I was asked to do so as part of Ask Me Anything!. I am not the least bit interested in debating any of this, so comments are closed.)