American Shmoos

September 8, 2010 at 3:56 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Today, Jerome Doolittle, over at the Bad Attitudes site posted the above cartoon under the heading, “God save us one and all…because we plainly can’t do it by ourselves.”

I wrote the following into the comments section:
“But the Republicans have learned something: That American voters are just as gullible, ignorant, forgetful, & pliable as Republicans expected.

Silly me, I thought most Americans would remember for at least a few years how incredibly lousy Republican governance can be. But the right-wing’s ownership of all major media & continued control of all branches of government makes them able to induce an amnesiac-trance-like state in the citizenry.”
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Barry Goldwater’s 1964 landslide loss to President Lyndon Johnson was devastating for the Republican party. But more than that, it was an overwhelming repudiation of ultra-conservative politics. Most Americans had lived through the Great Depression & racist oppression. They still remembered what Social Darwinism & laissez faire economics had gotten them. Living Americans had memories of times in which:

Most Americans did not own their homes or much of anything else. They made very little money at their factory, farm, or service jobs where their workweeks stretched for 60 or 70 hours. There was no vacation, no health insurance, no sick days, no safety laws, & no retirement.

Schooling, especially beyond elementary grades, was rare as young people often had to help support their families by working in backbreaking, dangerous jobs. What we think of as the carefree childhood years of play & freedom were usually reserved for offspring of the upper class.

Women & minorities were very limited in their choices for work, education, & general lifestyle.

Very few workers could look forward to ever retiring. Very few got pensions & most never made wages enough to save for their old age. They literally worked until they dropped-dead.

Anyone who fell upon hard times, such as widows, the ill, the injured, or those who lost their jobs were just s.o.l. unless they could find charity.

Wealthy people could afford to hire servants very cheaply because, after all, what other options did an uneducated, beaten-down workforce have?

This list could go on & on but I think you get the picture. And a fairly grim picture it was for all but a fortunate few. The truth is that life, for ordinary people, was all too often a tougher slog than we moderns can fathom.

My point is that those conditions improved drastically, particularly after the Socialist-lite reforms of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. As I said, a lot of Americans in 1964 had lived through tough times, knew how bad they were & what/who had caused them & could not be suckered-in by reactionary calls to return to the “good old days.” But after that blistering election defeat, the hardcore right decided to get a lot smarter & meaner. Some of the bolder wingnuts had already had John Kennedy’s brains blown-out but liberalism kept on coming. So they kept murdering or sabotaging popular lefty leaders while segueing into more subtle but more effective ploys. Over the following 45 years these budding fascists:

Bought-up all mainstream media & used it to propagandize for their cause. They flooded the airwaves & press with a conservative worldview that entirely froze-out all discussion of progressive solutions. And all the while they ridiculously asserted that the media had a bias in favor of liberalism.

Mongered lessening fear of racial, sexual, class, & religious differences back into full-blown phobias. They used this to capture the Republican party & the fundamentalist “Christian” churches. This hatred of the “other” is nearing its culmination as we face the very real prospect of worldwide “Christian” religious war against Islam along with permanent second-class citizenship for groups such as homosexuals & the poor.

Nursed America back from “Vietnam Syndrome,” which had caused the nation to become disgusted with war. By using movies (like Rambo) & other media to recast the wrong-headed war as having been lost by gutless liberals & commie sympathizers and then rebuilding troop morale & citizen patriotism by kicking the asses of pipsqueak countries (Grenada, Panama) the modern Machiavelli rekindled American’s love of war. Also, by fawning over the the military & anyone else who wears a uniform while doing a dangerous job, they have won the undying devotion of all those “heroes.” Sadly, those heroes don’t notice that after they risk their lives, rightwing leaders have no problem throwing them aside like a used paper towel. The scum who run our country now tell us we are in endless war.

Dumbed-down the educational system & poisoned the food, air, & water to rob the people of health & critical thinking capabilities. If the rapidly smartening American masses were rejecting conservatism, then the solution was to make them fuzzy-brained enough to start thinking conservatism makes sense.

Invented the overblown War on Drugs & later the War on Terror as means to persecute & imprison millions of mostly minority citizens. Mostly they were a justification for circumventing the Constitution to monitor activities of law-abiding Americans & squelch dissent.

Made sure money became more and more a vital part of the electoral equation. After all, how many of those corporate personhoods & millionaire/billionaires are going to support politicians who want the rich to do more to help the rest of us? And how can small donors compete with the mega-donors? This has reaped a bought system in which it is impossible for the non-rich to get fair treatment.

This list could also go on & on. But let us suffice to say that after 45 years of this steady re-education most Americans are totally brainwashed. They think trickle-down economics worked, they think labor unions are a bad thing for their standard of living, they think the U.S. is #1 in all the important measures of life, they think the poor are what bankrupted the treasury, they think Muslims are scary & dangerous & hate us because of our freedom, & they are ready to fight at the mere mention of Socialism/Communism. They are deluded enough to think it is possible that they, themselves, may become one of the super-rich in the very near future & so they want all those fantastic rich-people tax-breaks preserved.

We have witnessed the results of a huge & complex sociological experiment. Question: Is it possible to take a population & feed it a steady diet of misinformation, disinformation, erasure, & lies until the population no longer is capable of discerning, much less defending, its own best interest? Answer: It sure looks that way.

And the thought occurred to me: By Gad, this evil experiment is turning Americans into Shmoos!

For those of you too young to remember the famous Lil Abner newspaper comic strip of the 1930’s-1970’s, Shmoos were white, blob-like creatures who can lay eggs or give milk & butter. They are absolutely elated to have themselves sliced-up, thrown into a skillet to be eaten by a hungry human, and they can change to taste like anything from chicken to steak to catfish. They can be sawed into pieces to use as lumber & their eyes can be used as clothes’ buttons. In short, they have no sense of self-preservation & live only to please their masters. And they require nothing but air to live upon.

The new breed of Shmoo-Americans are ideal for the approaching Capitalist paradise. Schmoo-workers will not drain Capitalist resources for healthcare, Social Security, or daycare for their Shmoo-kids. Shmoos will allow themselves to be entirely consumed in the cause of benefiting the wealthy, whether it is by fashioning themselves into a nifty speedboat or being burned as fuel. And no matter what, the Shmoo-Americans will keep voting for the very ones who turned them into Shmoos in the first place.

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Wall Street Gets the Goldmine & We Get the Shaft

April 23, 2010 at 1:49 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In spite of my best efforts, America’s casino economy hums-along in its happy, fraudulent, and bonus-filled way. Meanwhile, the needs of the real economy and the hundreds of millions of citizens it supports are as ignored by the Washington crowd as coal mine safety.

Our wise “leaders” in business, media, and government grasp at every straw, twisting statistics to fit the “prosperity is just around the corner” scenario they need to keep us from rising-up & demanding the rotten system really be changed. For instance, they blew their trumpets loudly to announce that, Heaven be praised!, 162,000 jobs were created in March. So the economy is on the mend and Wall Street can go back to handing-out bonuses. Sounds good… but whoa wait a minute!, it turns out that at least 150,000 jobs must be created every month just to absorb new people coming into the workforce (like all those eager young people and immigrants). Well, ok, that leaves 18,000 jobs to chip-away (for 361 years!) at that nasty 6.5 million “long-term unemployed” number. But, oh my gosh! 88,000 of those 162,000 jobs were temporary work, such as working on the U.S. Census. The truth is that real job growth is still going in reverse.

And that does not even address the fact that America’s jobs increasingly lack wages & accompanying benefits that allow workers to share in their nation’s prosperity. Livable pay, health insurance, retirement, and vacations are all things taken mostly for granted by our Capitalist elite, Socialist Europe, and in the “mixed-economy” days of post-Great Depression-pre-Ronald Reagan America. But they are vanishing quickly in this country. The only real solution I can see is a turn to Socialism or at least a return to its milder cousin, the “mixed-economy” of the 1930’s-1970’s, wherein government’s main job was to make sure the playing-field is kept level by keeping a tight rein on big-business and helping the common citizen to flourish.

Back in November, when this blog had almost no readership, I posted the essay, Bring Back the Red Menace!” Now, I wish to re-print it, with apologies to those who would debate finer distinctions between “Socialism” (an intermediate step between Capitalism and Communism) and “Communism” (the ultimate destination in the flight from Capitalism), I use the terms interchangeably.

Bring Back the Red Menace!

We Americans are brought-up to believe that genuine, vigorous competition is the life-blood of our great system. Vying against one-another for victory, with the winner taking all the spoils and the loser conceding any claim is what makes social Darwinism tick. And so it is drilled into our red, white, and blue brains from cradle to grave until it becomes second-nature to believe that non-winners deserve to have nothing. Gaining or losing it all motivates us to try our best. Striving against a rival makes us strong!

Who would deny that in the 1970’s, our domestic auto makers had become bloated, complacent, and inefficient. They were insensitive to and exploitative of their customers; building increasingly lower-quality and higher-priced products designed for “planned obsolescence.” They were improved by stiff competition from foreign car companies that gave customers an alternative. Likewise, the United States Postal Service was improved when other carriers appeared. I could fill pages with examples of industries and organizations that were increasingly out-of-touch with their market, all of which were raised-up by vying against tough, strong, viable opponents.

That lack of competition is exactly why a monopoly does not function well. There is no rival to keep said monopoly under control so sooner or later hubris, greed, and decadence set-in (note that this is why government regulation is used to control these tendencies in monopolies). In modern American, Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Obama-nomics, monopoly is a diseased thing that must be cured through competition. If the schools, the airlines, or the electric company can’t face the challenge, then that’s too bad because it’s sink or swim for everyone (except for banks and Wall Street tycoons).

And now I come to my point. And here I am relieved to know that no one actually reads this blog, so I will not be hounded by threats and cat-calls for the assertion I’m about to make: The worst thing that happened to the average American citizen in the past 100 years was the collapse of the Communistic Soviet Union. Why? Simply because we now have no competitor to which we can turn when we are abused by the monopoly known as American Capitalism. And so that monopoly becomes increasingly abusive of its captive customers.

Apparently, I am the only one to notice that there was only one span of time when conditions consistently improved for American workers and citizens: the years from 1920 until the mid-1980’s while the Soviet Union existed and, in the minds of America’s leaders, there was real danger of a (cue-up the scary music) Communistic revolution in America.

Before that window of time, laissez faire Capitalism was firmly in the saddle and there was very little progress in the treatment of the vast majority of the population. Things didn’t really begin to improve until the Great Depression of the 1930’s caused a large percentage of Americans to start considering the alternative economics of Communism/Socialism/Populism (all close cousins). This scared the bejesus out of our political and business rulers who then reluctantly agreed to allow a little of the wealth to be spread around. And for the next 50 years, more and more wealth got spread in America so that the people were kept happy and non-Communist.* Overall, things kept getting better all the time for Americans across the board: the old, the young, all races, both genders. The poverty level crept down a little at a time and literacy rates kept going up.

Then in the late 1980’s, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics fell-apart under the weight of its leaders’ corruption and greed. The threat by the Communist menace was over. Sure there were still a few other Communist nations around, but none of them posed a real threat to Capitalism. American Capitalism boasted of being the only superpower remaining on earth. And, immediately, (actually it had started a few years earlier when the Soviet collapse could be seen on the horizon) American Capitalism no longer had to try to keep our hearts and minds. The tide turned against the average American. And it’s been downhill for us ever since.

So today we Americans are seemingly stuck with a bloated, uncaring, inefficient, corrupt, wasteful, unfair, and unresponsive system that is typical of any monopoly. But we are not stuck! Having no competition allows Capitalism to dismiss the needs of the citizens. There is only one solution: We must pick-up the threat of Communist revolution off the ash heap of history and, at the very least, pretend to be considering it as a replacement for Capitalism. That will scare the elite into once again being willing to share some of our nation’s prosperity.

* And contrary to what neo-conservative ideology teaches, in spite of having to share prosperity with the bottom 95% of the nation, there was still plenty of money for the upper 5% to stay very, very, very, rich.

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Outstanding in His Field

March 3, 2010 at 2:09 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

You’ve got to hand it to him. As our nation’s government descends further into madness, the #2 (pun intended) Republican in the Senate, Jon Kyl of Arizona is delusional-enough to stand-out in the crowd. He argues that paying unemployment benefits makes people want to not get jobs.

If I were more famous, I’d issue this public challenge to the Senator: “Show me these people of whom you speak. In other words, put up or shut up.” Of course any sensible person knows Senator Windbag, er, I mean Kyl was speaking anecdotally in much the same way Ronald Reagan would cite the legendary “Welfare Queen” or 1950″s Senator Joe McCarthy claimed to have the names of hundreds of Communist traitors in our government- but never produced one real example.

It’s a pity the present pack of birdbrains in the government & among the citizenry don’t know history (particularly the Great Depression/New Deal) nor do they understand economics. Their ignorance allows them to fall prey to right wing charlatanism and hatred toward victims of an economic system that has gone insane. Because of this ignorance they are making decisions that are dooming us to repeat some of the worst errors of pre-FDR society. There are good reasons why social safety nets were put in place by the developed nations of the world.

For instance, if they knew more about unemployment they would realize that payment of benefits is not only a help to the individual collecting the money. It also acts as a prop for the economy by allowing the jobless citizen to continue to pay bills. This prevents an economic downturn from cascading into catastrophe.

Another example is Social Security payments and pensions that allow workers to retire at age 65. Social Security was instituted for a number of good reasons.One of which was to raise the elderly from the depths of poverty. Did you know that 80 years ago, senior citizens were the poorest demographic of Americans? Social Security succeeded so well that elderly Americans are now the nation’s wealthiest demographic. Another reason for Social Security was to get the older workers out of the workforce so there would be jobs for the younger citizens during and after the Great Depression. Now, thanks to a concerted effort of shortsighted stupidity, we have many of our senior citizens hanging on in the workplace and younger Americans shut out of the job market. This is a recipe for disaster.

And speaking of getting older workers to retire so younger people can have jobs. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, whom I consider one of the few members of Congress who is worth an owl’s hoot*, recently proposed a good idea. For a cost of $15 billion (chicken feed nowadays), he wants to temporarily lower the Social Security age to 60 in order to open-up as many as 4 million existing jobs for younger citizens. I’m willing to bet that you never heard of his proposal in the mainstream media, so of course it will go nowhere. Too bad ideas like that are never heard at the President’s “jobs summit.”

* Disclaimer- I contributed money to Congressman Kucinich’s 2008 Presidential campaign.

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Unbought & Unafraid

January 18, 2010 at 5:12 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), was first elected to the Presidency in 1932. He was elected in landslides to 4 terms as president and died in office during his 4th term, after leading the nation through World War II. If he hadn’t died he would likely still be president. The Republicans passed a constitutional amendment after his death limiting Presidents to 2 terms. The rich people hated him and the common people loved him. And why wouldn’t they? He saved them from the utter despair of the Great Depression that was brought-on by the greed & corruption of unfettered Capitalism. His “New Deal” saved Capitalism by tempering it with a strong-dose of regulation and a touch of Socialism. He was born rich but understood the regular people. He had compassion, possibly because polio crippled him as an adult (it usually struck children) and left him without the use of his legs. His wife, Eleanor, was a strong-willed, independent woman who vocally & visibly assisted him in his quest to re-make American society.

Democrat FDR took office after 12 years of 2 Republican presidential administrations. During the 1920’s the country enjoyed a free-wheeling, zooming economy that ended in the devastating crash of 1929. Republican economic ideology called for leaving business alone to do its thing and leaving the people on their own to take care of themselves no matter what. So the government did very little for 3 years as the economy spiraled into ruin.

You think Obama has it tough? When FDR took office unemployment was about 37% for non-farm workers (in some cities it reached 80%)and those who were still employed took one wage cut after another, the average income for families had gone down 40%, crop prices had fallen 60% and 1 million families had lost their farms, 17% of mortgages were foreclosed, international trade had dropped by 75%, industrial production had fallen 45%, severe drought killed the crops throughout the middle of the nation, 5,000 banks had failed, there were 2 million homeless wandering the nation. By the day of Roosevelt’s inauguration, every bank in the nation was closed because the economy was nearly at a halt.

FDR knew there was no time to waste. He immediately set-out to bring “Reform, Relief, and Recovery” to America. His inaugural speech pulled no punches as he said, “Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. . . . The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization.”

On the very day he took office, he had his entire Cabinet sworn-in, ordered all banks closed for 4 more days while reform legislation was drafted (that was done 5 days later!), and called Congress back into emergency session in 5 days. After he got Congress back he wouldn’t let them go until he passed more reform: of government (he cut the pay of many government workers to balance the budget), of agriculture (to “restore vitality to the demoralized farmers”), of partying (Prohibition was repealed). FDR was determined to “provide…relief to as many people as soon as possible.” So the jobless were to be employed on government projects (that’s where a lot of the infrastructure came from that later caused the economy to boom). Legislation was passed to stop home foreclosures, bring electric power to the rural population, and help workers share in the coming prosperity through fair labor laws. Within his first 100 days, FDR passed 15 major laws and gave 15 speeches to Congress. So, unlike the present occupant of the White House, FDR was more than just talk.

The economy immediately began to revive, but it was a slow crawl back to the pre-Depression level. In 1936, FDR ran for re-election. Here’s an excerpt from one of his speeches. This is what a President who cares about Americans, is unbought, and unafraid sounds like

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