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A Sad Optimist Cries Yet Again: A Pox on all Your Houses

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Back in 2005, I penned a screed, little read but appreciated by those few who did, attacking Republicons, Democridiots, and everyone else in between.

Today, Americans are more angry, scared, and frustrated; they’re retreating back to their Bibles and guns — oops! Poor choice of words there, let me rephrase that: We’ve lost faith in almost everything and everyone and are ripe for the picking by those who reinforce our deepest fears. Anyone for Glenn “I Really Am Crying, it’s not Makeup” Beck or Sarah “I’m Too Sexy for My Shoes” Palin? Rush “Bubbles” Limbaugh? Ed “The Whale” Schultz?  How can anyone take them seriously?

What we need are leaders who understand our fears but have a vision for the future that is believable and attainable. Yeah, and I need a hair transplant — badly. But just when the good ol’ US of A needs forward-looking leadership, both the fat guys and the asses are looking backwards. Fred Hiatt, in the Washington Post of October 18, wrote in an op-ed, “…in this midterm election they [politicians] seem increasingly pointed to the past.”

Some Republicons want to repeal the 17th amendment, which called for the direct election of senators by the people. Return that right to the state legislatures as the Foundling Fathers wanted. Yup, just the kind of issue that will rescue America. And the Democridiots can’t stop thinking about yesterday, when they had George Bush to kick around, while the nonsense that business is the root of all evil does nothing but further isolate certain liberals from reality.

Wonderfully, the attacks aren’t limited to interparty squabbles. Democridiots are spraining ankles and dislocating knees scrambling away from President Obama’s legislative victories. Many Republicons decided it’s not o.k. to bound around in a Nazi uniform in the name of historic reenactment.

Best of all, Sen. John McCain’s daughter, Meghan, startled pachyderms & delighted mules when she said that Christine O’Donnel “is seen by many young Republicans as nut job.” On ABC’s This Week, McCain said O’Donnell “has no real history, no real success in any kind of business.”  But the witch won the nod to be the Republicon candidate in Delaware. Go figure.

Posturing panderers to the public. Yeah, TARP and other rescue bills did nothing but increase the national debt. Without those, we’d be in a depression not seen since the 1930s. Precious few economists from either side would disagree with that. But it’s great fodder for the right, even when they’re wrong.

Harken to the Words of Jesus. Or, It’s Mine, All Mine

Love they neighbor as thyself? As times get tougher, Americans seem to become more mean spirited and greedy. Poverty in America is at a fifteen-year high, 14.3%, according to a Census Bureau report issued last Thursday. That’s one in seven, or 44 million Americans. It gets better: Twenty percent of children in America live in poverty. That’s one in five children, people. Does that statistic give you pause for even a moment? Do you care? Nah. Fuck the poor people. They’re poor because they’re lazy, genetically deficient, culturally diseased.

Of course, the real poverty rate is much higher, but it’s held down by two factors: people living with relatives or parents or sharing couches, and, most incredibly, a poverty rate for a family of four set at $22,050. And I don’t want to hear from college kids about how they live just fine in an apartment on $5,000 or those who argue that the figure doesn’t include food stamps and other government socialist programs. A family of four would be poverty stricken if they earned $30 thousand — or 40. But no one wants to face that reality. We’ve returned to the caves and are hiding under rocks, surrounded by what wealth we can accumulate.

Ah, if people would only remember their Bible, remember what it means to be good Christians.

Gospel of Mark, 12:30: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 12:31: And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” [Emphasis added.]

About Mark Schannon

Retired crisis & risk manager/communications expert; extensive public relations experience in most areas over 30 years. Still available for extraordinary opportunities of mind-numbing complexity. Life-long liberal agnostic...or is that agnostic liberal.
  • Baronius

    Every time you write an article I make the same comment, and you take it badly. You say that I missed the point, and that I’m failing to recognize your nonpartisanship. But here goes: you say that both sides are to blame, then criticize the Republicans. “You and I are both wrong. For example, you.” The Democrats are criticized primarily for failing to implement Democratic policies, while the Republicans are blamed for everything they believe.

  • Baronius

    Please clarify this:

    “Posturing panderers to the public. Yeah, TARP and other rescue bills did nothing but increase the national debt. Without those, we’d be in a depression not seen since the 1930s. Precious few economists from either side would disagree with that. But it’s great fodder for the right, even when they’re wrong.”

    Which sentences do you intend as correct, and which are examples of fodder?

  • Mark Schannon

    Ah, Baronius, I apologize for the confusion. You’re right, an incomprehensible sentence. But clever, nonetheless, eh? Whatever.

    Point: Without TARP and the other bills, our economy would be in the tank. Bush & Obama were right (do you feel a disturbance in the force?) in creating various stimulus packages. Frankly, I wish the Democrats had the balls to support another round. The deficit is a concern, but deflation is a far greater one. (Consider Japan’s last decade or so.)

    The Republicans and those Democrats attacking the bailout are doing the pandering.

    Now let the great debate begin but with civility.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Mark Schannon

    Baronius,

    Missed first comment. After careful consideration, I must admit, with great reluctance…you’re right. (Ow, man did that hurt.)

    I know I don’t do a very good job at being non-partisan. I’m just tired of the screaming and idiocy from both sides. (I did include Ed Schultz & should have added Chris Matthews and Keith whoever. They all me drive me crazy.) Our problems are too serious for lies, polemics, fear mongering, and distortions. We’ll never solve them when the only goal is power, getting elected, and screwing the other side.

    It’s true that I tend to blame the Republicans more but objectively speaking–they deserve it!!! (Joke, kind of.) After all, I am a good ’60s liberal.

    And I think the Republicans are much better than the Dems at attack strategies. As a former pol, I’m criticizing the Dems for that.

    This is probably not my best article, but it’s been very hard to write for the past few years & was so surprised & pleased that I could write anything, I didn’t edit it as well as I should have.

    “You and I are both wrong. For example, you.” Great line. I’ll have to remember that.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Baronius

    Thanks, Mark. That “you and I are both wrong” play is one of Obama’s favorites. He sells it as “let’s both sides move past the partisanship and agree to follow the Democratic platform”.

    As for the other comment, there’s hardly agreement among economists about the effects of the stimulus packages. Nothing shocking about that; they never agree on anything. A sizable minority would say that the bailouts etc. are causing a depression. That’s why I wanted clarity about what position you were taking.

  • Baronius

    An article about economists’ disagreement in the NYT – It’s not the best article, but it’s well-timed.

  • Mark Schannon

    I’d read the article. Economics is not called the “dismal science” for nothing. At least there are many who are finally recognizing the human factor and the lack of rationality in marketplace decisions and are creating new models based on those factors.

    But I’d argue that history does support the idea that government stimuli most often lifts countries out of recessions while tax cuts and reduced spending does the opposite.

    Just for argument’s sake, I disagree about Obama’s position. He’s gotten nothing but straight-armed since he took office. I wish he’d dumped the notion of bipartisanship a lot sooner & used his majority to get stuff done more efficiently.

    But that’s just my liberal knee jerking.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Baronius

    Mark, I’m hard pressed to think of a recent issue in which the primary compromise wasn’t between the two wings of his party.

  • Clavos

    It is really refreshing to see a discussion between two bright and reasonable people on these threads.

    Props to both of you, Mark and Baronius!

  • Ruvy

    How can any nation look to us for leadership when one in five of our children live in poverty? How can we think of ourselves as special, as something different? We’ve turned into pathetic, little grasping trolls, gathering whatever we can, regardless of the effect it has on others.

    This is what America always was, Mark. You are no different from what you were. You are seeing the truth in the mirror, and the truth is no fun to look at. I felt the same way when I realized that the Zionist régime here was a bunch of scared traitors. The truth forced itself to the forefront and confronted me. But unlike you, I do not get sad. I get angry.

    Your president is just the dancing boy of the investment bankers. Investment bankers sing no paeans of soaring rhetoric. They collect their interest and try to hide their bad loans and bad judgment lest the public figure out who and what they are – and lynch them.

    And they shake the charity pot for YOUR money, stealing you blind. I hope you enjoy the picture. It is the picture of the Democrats and Republicans both.

  • Mark Schannon

    Ah, Clavos, you’re too kind.

    And Baronius, you ignorant slut (old Saturday Night Live line…very old), the reason why ol’ jug ears had had to compromise with his own party is that the floppy ears wouldn’t play at all. You hear that???

    There was a comment by the Repub Senate candidate in Colorado in this morning’s Wash Post that, if elected, he’d refuse to compromise on anything. When elected officials refuse to play the game, nothing gets done. Without compromise nothing would get done in business…why should it be any different in government?

    Reuvela, Reuvela, Reuvela, don’t you believe in change? Of course, what we’re seeing is change for the worse, but it’s change nonetheless. I don’t understand why you say Obama’s the tool of the investment bankers–the TARP program was passed under Bush & as disgusting as it was to see those banker bums getting bailed out, the alternative was worse.

    Also, not only are we getting most/all of the money back, we (the gov’t) may actually make a profit.

    I certainly get angry but anger makes me paint with too broad a brush, so I try to wait until I cool down before I make any important decisions…like which book to read or if it’s time to take out the garbage.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Clavos does make an excellent point. I’ve always thought Baronius to be a reasonable fellow, just never treated him with the respect he deserves because of my goading, in-your-face style.

  • Ruvy

    Oh, Mark, I believe in change. I’ve warned you all of change – for the worse. You concentrate on TARP – which was done by Bush under utter fear and which introduced fascism – the combining of corporate and government power. Obama, with the measures he has introduced has only deepened the hold of fascism on your economy.

    You ignore the printing of fiat money (not merely by the Americans) to the tune of trillions of dollars, yuan, pounds sterling, euros, etc. Even the Swiss!! are devaluing their currency, so as to keep their exporters happy. In America, this is the work of Obama and company. To my knowledge, there is $3 trillion of this funny money floating around. Eventually, a Whopper Sandwich should cost you a whopper of cash. NOW GOLD IS AT $1,350, give or take some. Gold is the new real money, whether you like it or not.

    So, nu? Did you buy any gold coins, a troy scale and a sharp knife? Did you at least buy some silver coins if you felt you couldn’t afford gold?

  • Doug Hunter

    “And despite the incredible insensitivity of too many conservatives, “social scientists are rejecting the notion of a monolithic and unchanging culture of poverty. They attribute destructive attitudes and behavior not to inherent moral character but to sustained racism and isolation.”

    Insensitivity meaning of course, we value the truth over peoples feelings.

    Did you even read the linked article? You took one token charge of racism as part of the neccessary caveat from the whole thing (put their because it’s PC never to blame anyone for their own failures) and ignored the main thrust, which was indeed that the cultural explanation for poverty was staging a comeback. Of course, that’s big breaking news in the social(ist) science world what should have been obvious to anyone with 2 brain cells to rub together for the last 40 years. Glaringly obvious reality takes awhile to shine through the fog of indoctrination I suppose.

    The traditional social science explanation was what? That poor people are just like the middle class minus opportunity? That magic mind bullets of immeasurable passive racism travel through time and space and make one boy shoot another or impregnate a girl and run off? That people without jobs don’t have time to properly raise their kids? And they made entire college courses that preached this shit. And that’s exactly what it was… bullshit. I suspect the resurgence of the cultural explanation will be quickly reburied by the PC police, it’s far to close to actually holding people accountable for their own decisions (and we know we can’t have that).

    People inherently know the truth about these things though, whether they speak them or not. It’s not magic racist mind bullets, it’s parents leading horrible examples of lives and teaching their children the habits of failure. That’s why it’s more an more popular to take kids earlier and earlier into schools. Why there is more of a push for year round schools and after school programs and even in DC’s case 3 meals a day at school. Basically, the only way to break the cycle is to take the kids away from their parents as early and as often as possible and teach them a better way to live. DC is already keeping them for 3 meals a day, the only step left is to provide them a cot and eliminate the parents and other bad influences from their lives completely. That’s how you break intergenerational poverty, not lecturing responsible working taxpayers who take care of their own a thousand miles away about how it’s all their fault because they weren’t ‘sensitive’ enough.

  • http://financialpolitics.com/ Sekhar

    Hi Mark, Baronius question in #2 is not still answered in #3. Did you intend to withdraw the former remark and remain with the latter? Or is it answered wholly when you say, “This is probably not my best article” in #4? I don’t get it.
    #7: You can say stimuli lifted the countries out of recessions only if you consider the country as a place for only “top one percent” as quoted from Prof. Frank. It is true that stimuli increased the national debt. It is also true that they lifted the rich out of credit crunch and profits’ realization (as further investment) crisis, which has become national crisis (and of course, world crisis).
    If we can see that the interests of the top rich are diametrically opposite to those of working people, middle class and small and medium businesses, we will realize then that stimuli helped the top people but burdened the others with increased debt. Also, we have to realize that in the name of debt cutting or fiscal consolidation, people are further burdened with spending cuts and tax increases, as we are witnessing in the EU. The US may follow suit after achieving targeted recovery.
    Mark, maybe you cannot see the real picture unless you see the broader unanimity in pursuing rich-friendly and market-friendly economic policies of both the Dems and Reps. Having said that, bipartisanship is a myth as I see it from India. It just simply diverts the people from concentrating on their real problem of why they are continuously losing one by one since the stagnation of their wages in 70s.
    I think it is not the question of bipartisanship or nonpartisanship. It is the question of pro-rich Reps and Dems vs. the working people, who generate wealth, of the US of A but can’t get a fair share of it. If we limit the discussion between Reps and Dems, it will mean that we are like frog in well.

  • Mark Schannon

    Ah Doug, turn down the rhetoric machine, eh? However, I will acknowledge I probably hit a sore point with And despite the incredible insensitivity of too many conservatives… As Baronius has already pointed out, I’m rarely successful at being nonpartisan. Let’s pretend I never included that sentence, o.k.?

    That being said, in many instances, we’re in violent agreement about people’s responsibility for their own lives. That’s why I included the article which cites Bill Cosby and Obama calling for more responsibility among the poor.

    But you trivialize racism with your “magic bullet” analogy and you ignored the second part of the equation, just as powerful–isolation.

    Do responsible working taxpayers who take care of their own a thousand miles away deny that they are their brother’s keeper, that the second commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” apply literally to those living on either side of them?

    I’ve always loved John Donne’s Meditation XVII, often repeated but I think rarely taken to heart:

    No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…. any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.

    Living an ethical life is hard, particularly in these times, and I continually struggle with what it means to be honorable or ethical. But when it comes to poverty, both extremes–blaming those in poverty or blaming society as a whole–are, I would argue, unethical positions because they absolve the individual of any responsibility.

    Read the article again, particularly the research that examines the factors that influence success or failure in breaking the chains of poverty. Poor people have the responsibility to grab any opportunity, but society–we individuals as a whole–must acknowledge that no one wants to be poor, that we allow, usually through passivity, conditions to exist that condemn people to a cycle of poverty.

    Racism and isolation are real and painfully complex; too often we (of all political persuasions) don’t want to deal with them because they are so painful and seemingly intractable.

    Whew… I’m turning into an agnostic preacher here… sorry. I just worry that as the world gets more screwed up, people begin to withdraw holding tight to family and friends and turning their backs on everyone else. That way lies disaster.

    So, in conclusion, the world would be a better place if everyone adopted one simple injunction:

    In Jameson Veritas

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Preach on, brother Schannon.

  • Doug Hunter

    #16

    I think you’ve got your ideas turned upside down, unfortunately I don’t have the time to address each idea fully. You’re still leaning too heavily on this idea of racism but that’s to be excused considering how the idea is pushed upon us. I’ll admit it’s a useful concept for your purposes, to make one group feel an extra measure of responsibility for the situation of another ad besides you’re not entirely making it up, just blowing it far out of proportion (and for good cause too).

    - I think your idea that families and friends holding tight being a bad thing is completely 180 degrees out of alignment with reality. I think families falling apart is in fact, a hallmark of the failed culture of poverty. How you can come full circle and point the finger at those who stick together is one of those mental gymnastics I never could get through.

    - Tied to the first, I think you miss the point that society is nothing but a collection of individuals and families. When a large percentage of us take care of our families and friends relieving the need for government to do so and work hard contributing to the collective in the process then the world’s a better place for everyone. An individual can help the world first by not being the one that needs the world’s help. Live by that rule and the rest is just icing on the cake.

    We’ve sort of glossed over a major moral delimma when it comes to destroying another culture (even if it is harmful one). You’ve mentioned isolation and you’re right. The solution is to take people out of that culture and spread them to the wind, to take children away from parents, etc., etc. It’s ugly business.

    I’m going to use Europe for an analogy because it works better. There you have issues of traditional European values and Muslim immigrant values, separate cultures living side by side. If one culture values education and moneymaking more while another values family and religion more and you measure ‘success’ by the former you’ll always find a disparity. Is it morally right to destroy a culture just because it doesn’t lead to as much economic success? Here it may be more black and white, but you have to be careful.

    I feel the need to remove any obstacles and lead a horse to water, but no compulsion to force him to drink. That’s at the heart of our differences. The government is a tool to force people to dring and I want none of it. I’m content simply splashing and playing in the water and inviting you to come on in, the final decision is up to you.

  • Mark Schannon

    Sekhar, This is what I wrote in response to Baronius: Without TARP and the other bills, our economy would be in the tank. Bush & Obama were right (do you feel a disturbance in the force?) in creating various stimulus packages. Frankly, I wish the Democrats had the balls to support another round. The deficit is a concern, but deflation is a far greater one. (Consider Japan’s last decade or so.)

    Those pols who attack the various relief programs are, in my view, pandering.

    As to your other comments, one of the great and tragic changes in the U.S. is the loss of upward mobility, as much as its still a part of our national myth.

    Check out the links in the article regarding that.

    The rich/poor fight isn’t/wasn’t as static in the US as you describe, which is one reason many middle class people want to see the Bush tax cuts extended in their entirety–that belief that me or my kids can make it is very powerful.

    Doug, I’ll respond to your comments in a later. This is more than I’ve written in a couple of years & while it’s fun, it’s exhausting.

    Roger…thanks!

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Mark Schannon

    Ruvy,

    I’m afraid I’m a good (but nervous) Keynsian, so printing money with the real risk of inflation down the road is preferable to deflation right now. As I noted before, just look at Japan’s last decade & a half.

    My bride had bought some silver many years ago before we were married & watched its value plummet. So…she gave it to her brother who needed help. Who knew it would jump in value so high???

    And as for gold, my wedding ring from marriage #1, a couple of watches from my father, and whatever’s in my teeth. I wouldn’t buy it now–too high–but I wished I’d bought some a few years ago. Of course, I’ve been saying the same thing about Google since it was at about $100/share. Incredible company.

    Anyway, I ain’t saying I’m not scared, but it’s better than the alternative. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in Britain now that they’ve resurrected Thatcherism.

    And, sorry, but I don’t think Obama’s a fascist. I think he inherited the toughest presidency since FDR..maybe worse. I trust him a lot more than I trust ol’ George “Mission Accomplished” Bush.

    Doug,

    Some very good points, especially the Europe example which I think raises enormous cultural issues. America’s never really had a culture, but England’s, France’s, etc. cultures go back 1000+ years. If I were French, I think I’d have a hard time with a group of people who came into my country but refused to assimilate. There’s something historical and precious to lose. I wasn’t sure, but are you’re saying that the French culture values money & education vs. the Muslim value of family & religion? Having spent a lot of time there, I’m not sure I agree but from what I’ve read, the French object to losing their culture, not having a group of people with somewhat different values. I don’t think it’s an economic/capitalism issue…at least I hope not.

    But as the world gets smaller, the issue of colliding cultures is a huge issue. The way things are going, the US is becoming an Hispanic country. Although it probably won’t happen in my lifetime, I have to admit I’m not sure how I feel about that. Some liberal, huh? LOL.

    Perhaps you missed that in my last response to you I cleverly slided from racism to poverty to try to get away from all the baggage the former brings. Poor whites in Appalachia have many of the same problems as poor blacks in Cleveland…particularly the effects of isolation and stereotyping.

    The issue is, I’d argue, can we as Americans tolerate poverty levels that are getting worse?

    Complexity is a bitch, isn’t it. You’re right that the breakdown of the family, not just in poor areas, but across the country, is a serious problem. At the same time, I still think people, to the extent possible, have withdrawn into emotional and physical enclaves because the world out there is simply overwhelming.

    Finally, the government can’t force people to drink. You can splash and invite all you want, but if people don’t know about the water or don’t trust that there aren’t sharks in the water or live among people who hate water and will make their lives miserable, then you’ll be in the pool all along.

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Daniel K. Jugo

    Folks, whichever way you are looking at the American, and indeed the world’s economic,political and social problems they are pointing at one thing-the fulfillment of the word of God as recorded in the Holy Bible. Take a step and confirm by reading the Bible.