Calhoun’s Cannons for Sept 7, 2012
Three days of the Republican convention. Three days of the Democratic convention. And I have just one question: What the hell happened to this country?
Really. How did the ethos of work hard, help your neighbor raise his barn and he’ll help with yours, build for the future so your kids will have it better than you, get transmuted into the ethos of Ayn Rand: Money equals success, taxes are theft, go raise your own damned barn, and the next generation can look out for themselves?
When did we stop being a nation of hard-headed pragmatists – pay your bills, grow your business, invest in the future – and turn into air-heads willing to believe voodoo economics, the “trickle-down” fake theories of David Stockman who later admitted that he made it all up? In a consumer/capitalist society, trickles go upward, not down. Henry Ford figured that out years ago. He paid an unheard-of living wage so his workers had enough money to buy his product. No salaries, no buyers; no buyers, no factory; no factory, no Henry Ford.
When did companies move out of what economists call “the virtuous circle of growth?” Back in the day, Frank W. Abrams, chairman of Standard Oil of New Jersey, wrote, “The job of management is to maintain an equitable and working balance among the claims of the various directly affected interests groups . . .” i.e. stockholders, employees, the community, the public, the nation as a whole.
The Virtuous Circle resulted in and sustained the middle class, encouraged ongoing prosperity for the maximum number of people, ensured stability, kept Ayn Randian greed in check. How quaint it seems now. In its stead, we have Gordon Gekko, the rapacious Bainer whose overriding goal is to maximize profits for a small number of stakeholders, push all value to the first-quarter bottom line, loot the company and scamper for the Cayman Islands, with all that rapacious, short-sighted behavior rewarded by hefty bonuses and favorable back-room-written tax laws.
How could anyone think that such behavior wouldn’t lead to bubbles and theft and corruption and crash? Did the average American somehow think that he would be exempt from the destruction that was heading his way? Is that why he kept voting into office wholly-owned Corporate Pols who would promise him pie then vote into law policies that would actually deliver dead flies to the working and middle class?
Was it because the Kool Aide the Ayn Randers were delivering was a slow acting poison? A drug that dulled the mind so nobody noticed until it was too late? Or was it because The Big Lie always works?
And when did we become a country that decided Big Lies were acceptable? Lie about war, lie about Wall Street, lie about anything, since winning and holding power at any cost was the only thing that counted. And if you were rich, famous and brazen enough, you could get away with anything. Who would stop you? After all, as a Republican operative once famously said, “We create our own reality.” Is that what turned the old Republican party of fiscal responsibility and prudent conservatism into math-challenged Neo Know-Nothings waving vaginal probes?
So here we are, Battered Wife Nation, a country poisoned by fake reality – trickle-down “job creators,” my ass -- hammered into believing that the majority of us don’t deserve anything – no decent health care, no decent wages, no decent schools, or roads or bridges. We were told that all that mattered were the stock market numbers and we believed that lie. We were told that unions were to blame for our jobs being shipped overseas, so we hated unions. We were told that teachers and firemen and government workers were blood-sucking leeches, so we kicked them into the street. We were told that black people and brown people were either the enemy who would steal our outsourced, non-existent jobs or were “welfare queens” stealing our taxes, and we believed that. We were told that more tax breaks for the wealthy took priority over helping our unemployed neighbor, helping the poor and the old and the sick, and we believed that, too.
We forgot our civics lessons; if you want a better congress you have to vote in better congressmen. Instead, we elected clueless monkey-wrenchers, ideological hacks and wing nuts, then wondered why nothing reasonable got done. And when outrage and blunt honesty was the only sane response to the disaster our apathy and inattention had called down on upon our heads, we were told we should shut up and accept our downsized serfdom with a smiley face and grab our own bootstraps. Pluckiness was demanded, not fierce, righteous anger. It was Mr. Mcawber over Madame Defarge.
So, here we sit, sick, hurting, and befuddled at the corner of Battered Wife Nation and Enough Already! with the hour late, real economics (arithmetic, not theory) and real Mother Nature (hot enough for you?) bearing down on us – two actual real realities that do not deal in lies, care nothing about ideology and take no prisoners.
Happily, one antidote arrived at the convention. Former President Clinton, the Big Dawg himself, got down off the porch to call out and fact- check the Republican’s false narratives with the cheerful exactitude of a finger-waving schoolmarm. So now we’ll see how many people were tuned in and paying attention and how many were watching football on another channel.
Which, come to think of it, is pretty much how and why we got into this mess in the first place.