October 18th, 2009


The Lie at the heart of the Dream: Only The Worthy Shall Be Wealthy

One of the big points against the whole "trickle-down/rising tide" doctrine of the benevolence of the Invisible Hand of the Free Market is that one of the justifications is that "charity of the community" will make up for what the ideally-non-existent social services would have done (even though it never has in all of human history) but inevitably, when such "charity" has even existed, it's always been conditional, doled out only to the "deserving" poor - with such deserts based on the judgment of whatever sins the wealthy have considered most objectionable at the time and place. IOW, an excuse both to withhold, and to coerce the behavior of others, to force them to grovel, to give up any pleasures, to exert themselves to "earn" the dribs and drabs of "charity" or to even change their religions (or lie and shame themselves to survive), all to indulge the power-tripping "virtue" of the oh-so-charitable Lords and Ladies Bountiful.

And all this is the ugly truth, as true as it was when Scrooge asked if there were no workhouses left? to deal with the un/deremployed.

But there's another thing that is like an iceberg looming under the surface of the claim that Fiscal Conservativism is all about the Common Good, and an unregulated agora will benefit all rather than allowing the haves to grind the have-nots down further - and that is the fact that the claim that fiscal conservatives/libertarians believe that everyone should be allowed to maximize their income is a lie.

And the first and most obvious example of this is the resistance to raising minimum wage and the phony accusations of parasitism against undocumented immigrants; but the other and even more glaring example is the seething, hissing hatred of unions and union workers.

If "Greed Is Good" then why the endless denunciations of "those union workers" and blame of them for being "takers"--? Why shouldn't they keep demanding the highest paychecks and best benefits they can get? Why should we be told that it's wrong to denounce the giving away of billions to CEOs who wreck their companies and sail away on golden parachutes, that this is "ZOMGclass warfare!" by the same people who turn around and say that teachers and factory workers and bus drivers and grocery store cashiers ought to just cave in and take whatever crumbs the rich decide to toss their way?

--The truth is, that the only people who are allowed to be worthy of prospering, according to the worshippers of Mammon, are those who are already rich. Once you've gotten to that top 10% - unless you're a liberal class traitor, a decadent artist or a voter against tax cuts and for social services - then, and only then, are you entitled to make more and more, year after year.

Sure, it's a democratic, egalitarian system - Nouveau Riche is just as good as Old Money (at least on the surface, who knows what's said behind the closed doors of the Boston Brahmins and in the Hamptons and at Kennebunkport, the Mayflower Moneyed may still look down at the Morgans and Mellons as they did in the days of Henry James) so if you're one of those few scores of Little Turtles who survive to thrive (and the odds of doing this all on your own are slim) and squeak through the gauntlet into the upper eschelons then you'll do just fine (unless you have some sort of spectacular Veneering-style smash that can't be plastered over and then everyone pretends they didn't know you like Ken Lay or Robert Maxwell or that guy in England who took his wife and daughter in his Viking Pyre along with him not long ago.)

It isn't "hard work" that gets you rich, btw - it's exploitation. This is a terribly un-American thing to say, I know, but it's true. There is nobody in the top 10% who didn't get there by exploitation - either their own exploitative acts, or if inherited, then their parents' and grandparents. If "hard work" were all, then Joe the Janitor or Wendy the Waitress or Neda the Night Nurse working three jobs would all be millionaires, wouldn't they? And if smarts were all, then there would be no broke inventors whose patents were stolen or who could never get funding in their lifetimes or whose companies couped them right out, would there? No profession in this country at least "creates wealth" for but a few: the wealth of those few comes from not paying living wages for the other 90% + of us, and this is why there is a whole cottage industry massive international meme-industrial complex dedicated to rationalizing and justifying this exploitation and setting us at each others' throats (even up to outright wars) as part of the legerdemain. Maybe it doesn't have to be this way, but this is the way that Capitalism as we have it is, and how its predecessors were, in feudal Europe and in ancient Rome no less than now. And will be so long as a) it works to keep funneling money upwards to the ruling cliques, and b) we go on letting them get away with it.

The rich get richer while the poor get poorer, as my high school teachers said in the Eighties; the system is not broken, that is the system.

And this is not a new thing: note that when factored against the rising cost of living, workers' pay in this country has not gotten better since the early 1970s, and what jobs have been created have been shit jobs, jobs that don't provide enough to live on let alone improve one's lot, jobs that require multiple jobs to make ends meet for a family, that require the laborers to go on the dole as Walmart's are told to just to survive, or that are only "good" jobs if they're hobby jobs - jobs taken by someone who doesn't need to work for a living, or doesn't need it to survive, who has a spouse or parent who has a good job that pays all the major bills and covers the emergencies - remember the saying about how insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? That's what the mantra of "tax cuts! deregulation! privatization!" is. Wealth hasn't trickled down; instead the rising tide has swamped all the little boats that were chained to their moorings trusting the lying, comforting forecasts of the pundits, while the Kleptocrats have sailed off laughing in their yachts, skulls and crossbones flaunted from the maintop at last. (How dare you fire off any popgun parting shots at them? That's Class Warfare--!)

And fools and incompetents who blow billions running their businesses into the ground with what anyone with any experience in the field could have told them in advance was an untenable model not only don't starve, but yet get rewarded, because they're part of the club. And the Free Market Invisible Hand worshipers of my RL acquaintance who told me that (along with women not deserving to be paid the same as men because we were more likely to waste our training by leaving to get married and have kids in despite of all evidence) CEOs "deserved" their outrageous rates of pay because they were "creating wealth" because only they could be so smart as to do so, turn around and exonerate them from all responsibility for their failures because "who could have seen?" that the airlines were operating in unsustainable ways? who could have predicted? that Cisco was glutting its market, or that Enron was a house of cards? Only the poor deserve to suffer for the failures of the rich - because if we were Good Peoples we wouldn't be poor, we'd have been successful too.

--At this point, the only excuse for being a Fiscal Conservative is stupidity. Still, it's better to be Stupid than Evil, at least from a Socratic/Taoist/Vedic/Stoic/Christian/generally-ethical POV. For whatever consolation that is.