Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Politics Of Reality

According to Wednesday’s Washington Post, a recent study by the Pew Research Center indicates that two thirds of Americans now think there are “strong conflicts between the rich and poor.”

The nonprofit think tank in Washington released a study Wednesday that reported a growing number of Americans say there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and poor — a number that has risen by 9 percent since July 2009.

Though 43 percent still believe the rich become so “because of their own hard work, ambition or education,” a full 46 percent think they become wealthy as a result of “connections or birth.” Furthermore,

… these attitudes seem to be shared regardless of income level. Nearly 67 percent of adults with a household income of less than $20,000 a year believe there are serious conflicts between the rich and poor, as do 67 percent of those earning $75,000 a year or more, Morin wrote.
Sharp class divisions are a fact of American life, and class warfare will be the inevitable result. Pointing this out is not, as Mitt Romney claims, to indulge in some spurious “politics of envy.” On the contrary, it is to engage in the politics of plain reality, to respond to the way things actually are. No amount of happy talk about fictional “opportunity societies” or ego-stroking rhetoric about Americans being “blue sky, can-do people” will change the fact that a dangerously high number of us know our lives are being flushed down the drain so a that a privileged few can buy $1200 wastepaper baskets, or a presidential candidate worth $250 million dollars can remodel his $12 million mansion in La Jolla, California, during the worst recession since the 1930s (all the while lecturing the rest of us about getting off unemployment and learning to work harder, like his rich daddy did).

“An imbalance between rich and poor,” wrote Plutarch, “is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” Our leaders need to wake up and recognize this simple fact. They need to understand that gross economic inequality, regardless of its cause, is a dangerous and corrosive social evil that must sooner or later be soberly addressed. Free-market platitudes cooked up at the University of Chicago or in the comic book mind of Ayn Rand don’t qualify as serious solutions.

The situation is made worse when the wealth of the elite is seen by the masses as illegitimate, which is becoming the case in our present condition. The people are catching on to the fact that America is not run by the deserving rich, but by a bunch of speculators, frauds, and trust fund babies. Nepotism, grift, and strategic marriage are far more effective ways of wriggling into the one percent than hard work and genuine talent, which are much farther down the list of necessary qualifications, if indeed they are necessary at all anymore. I have my doubts. The great beast of the people has finally, thank goodness, begun to smell this out.

Just look at our recent political history. The 2000 presidential campaign was a race between the son of a former president and the son of a former senator; in 2004, it was a contest between the son of a former president and the son of a former ambassador. In the latter instance, both men went to Yale and were members of Skull and Bones. Diversity.

When someone like Obama manages to climb out of the lower depths, he can only do so by shamelessly kissing the asses of the established powers. We may lament the fact that he stocks his cabinet with well connected money changers, but if he didn’t he would never win re-election (could never win election in the first place).

Of course, Obama ran in the Democratic primaries against the wife of a former president, who, by virtue of being the wife of a former president, had already been given a senate seat from a state she had never really lived in. Somewhere along the way, she learned enough about international relations to become our current secretary of state, and now she piously lectures the Syrians and the Iranians about the virtues of democracy.

Obama’s opponent in the general election was, of course, the son of an admiral. His initial entry into politics was bankrolled by his rich (second) wife, who inherited a fortune from daddy.

Viva democracy! I’m choking on all the used up bootstraps laying around here.

(Needless to say, the exact same constellation of wealthy donors contribute large sums of money to both campaigns, regardless of political party, and proceed to have their functionaries pipelined straight into high level government jobs.)

Do I need to mention Romney’s bona fide$? I think not. The voluminous commentary on Mitt’s fortune is already reaching Churchillian or Lincolnian dimensions in the blogosphere, so I’ll leave it alone, but I do have a few thoughts on Mitt himself.

He looks like the little plastic figurine on a wedding cake and appears to have a similarly synthetic soul. Much has been made of Mitt’s “flip-flopping,” but that’s irrelevant. In reality, Mitt’s mind seems totally rigid and inelastic: He unquestioningly swallowed the religious and political beliefs of his parents and never looked back. His fundamental view of the world was shaped by mommy and daddy at an early age and baked in a clay oven sometime during adolescence. That set it for all time. It can’t bend or it will break (I bet you that’s why he gets so touchy and angry when he’s challenged). So here he is, full grown Mitt, robotically spouting free market dogmas that are so grossly out of touch with our economic reality that it literally makes your jaw drop. If he showed up to a speech wearing a top hat and spats the effect couldn’t be any more jarring.

Then again, Mitt had a substantial financial interest in being obedient, as do his boys. Yes, I fear, it’s only a matter of time before Mitt’s waxwork sons begin inflicting themselves on our diseased political life. After all, princes are born to rule. Mark my words, for the hour draws nigh: Senator Tagg Romney is an historic reality waiting to materialize. You don’t honestly believe that Tagg, Matt, Craig, and Josh are opposed to the estate tax out of philosophical conviction alone, do you? Your war chest can never be too big.

The fix is in. The game is up. It’s their world, we just live in it — and they charge us a pretty penny to do so. Shit, they’d charge us for breathing if they could, but since they can’t they do the next best thing, which is poison the air, ha ha. (It’s not enough that they merely succeed. We must also be made to suffer and fail.)

Luckily the people are figuring it out.

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