Monday, April 25, 2011

If they don't quit patting themselves on the back, they're going to hurt themselves

"Yes, I make good money, but I work hard for it." People have got to stop saying that as if it explains everything. Lots of people work hard. They just don't get paid well for it. One does not axiomatically lead to the other.

Of course, many people love to believe that they control their own lives completely, and any good thing that happens to them is due to their own innate wonderfulness (l'm looking at you, Ayn Randians). Maybe the one good thing to come out of the current financial mess is that some of them have, at long last, been disabused of this ego-inflating illusion.

Also, it's odd how many conservatives in Congress are admitted Rand fans. They obviously believe they're part of the heroic "producer" class. That's absurd. They're in *conservatives in Congress,* for God's sake.

Btw, this is not to argue that people don't make bad decisions or are not in the least bit responsible for their circumstances. It's just to say that many people make plenty of good choices and still can't afford to live in this expensive world. Also, if we have any pretense of compassion, we need to make *some* allowance for simple human error. (And the "right choices" are not always so obvious when you're young or in the thick of things.) The bottom line is that our society *needs* a safety net, because a) in this imperfect world, the rewards don't always go to the good or follow from good choices (sometimes it seems precisely the opposite); and b) if we have any pretense of honoring the intrinsic worth of human life, it must be regarded as unacceptable for any one of us to go without the fundamentals of life: food, shelter. and medical care.

But then the Walton family couldn't buy quite as many platinum-plated butt scratchers

"Walmart and other low-wage employers are poster-children for free-market hypocrisy, claiming that the 'market' dictates they pay poverty wages while shifting some of their labor costs onto the taxpayer. A 2004 study by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce estimated that just one Walmart store with 200 'associates' costs taxpayers over $420,000 per year in government assistance to the poor."
If Walmart Paid its 1.4 Million U.S. Workers a Living Wage, it Would Result in Almost No Pain for the Average Customer - AlterNet

And it's not just health care that's been commodified

"How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as 'consumers'? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered...almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car--and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough."
Patients Are Not Consumers - The New York Times

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The conservatives' Bizarro-world morality

‎"There is one idea that explains Republican behavior: moral disgust at income redistribution.... Opposition to the progressive income tax is at once a sacred and a hidden value for Republicans, and thus one that makes compromise nearly impossible. You cannot bargain with a partner whose stated goals are merely pretexts....

"The great irony of the recent triumph of [Ayn Rand's] vision on the right is that it takes place in conditions just the opposite. The poor and working classes have languished for decades, while the rich pull in unimaginable sums. This is the atmosphere that has paradoxically given rise to the right’s fervid class warfare."
The Triumph of Taxophobia - Democracy

Yep--somehow it keeps coming back to Rand. The attraction is baffling to those of us who do not experience what Randians apparently do, i.e., an unquestioned sense of superiority to the 99.9999999 percent of humanity who are not them. I mean, radial solipsism and comically distorted egos I can almost grasp--winning!--but this is flat out psyhopathology:

‎"She wrote of one of the protagonists of her stories that 'he does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people;' and she meant this as praise."

‎"From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To the gas chambers--go!'" - Whittaker Chambers, in a 1957 review of Rand's novel published in--wait for it--William F. Buckley's "National Review."

Note to Paul Ryan: this is not the kind of change we can believe in.

A meaningful deficit fix

"Estimates of how much would be saved by extending Medicare to cover the entire population range from $58 billion to $400 billion a year. More Americans would get quality health care, and the long-term budget crisis would be sharply reduced."
Medicare Isn't the Problem -- It's the Solution - Salon

I have an ideology. And so do you

"There’s an old joke to the effect that you’re an ideologue; I’m just being sensible. The point is that everyone has an ideology — which is another way of saying that everyone has (a) values and (b) some view about how the world works. And there’s nothing wrong with that."
Everyone Has An Ideology - The New York Times

Who decides "deservingness"--and why?

A recent conversation reminded me of this: the virtue of government safety-net programs vs. individually directed "charity" (beyond the sheer financial and logistical inadequacy of the latter) is that public programs provide objective criteria by which to evaluate need, as opposed to the erratic and often inaccurate patterns of distribution that would result from individual taxpayers' underinformed and often biased suppositions as to what another person's circumstances or degree of "deservingness" might be (see, for example, Reagan's fictitious Cadillac-driving "welfare queen," a story that all too many believed unquestioningly because it played to their preconceptions and prejudices).
Eight Great Myths About Welfare -

Monday, April 4, 2011

Slouching towards America

"The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years...went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance)."
‎"When you look at the sheer volume of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent in this country, it’s tempting to see our growing inequality as a quintessentially American achievement—we started way behind the pack, but now we’re doing inequality on a world-class level. And it looks as if we’ll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing. Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth."
Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% - Vanity Fair

Where do they find these people?

"It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." - Upton Sinclair
The Truth, Still Inconvenient - The New York Times