Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A voice for the hardworking people in the bottom 50%

Everyone just wants something to work.  And it is OK to disagree on what works - because what works for the top 1% and what works for people below the poverty line are two completely different things.  But finding what works for the country as a whole becomes an endless game of chasing your tail, since it requires concessions on both ends.  And since nothing is ever completely fair, the larger concessions have to come from the very top, from the people with the loudest and most politically influential voices.  And so here we sit in a stagnant no-man's land.  

I ask you, what more can the bottom 1/3 of this country do?  They/we live paycheck to paycheck, if they can even find a job, and have no savings or extra money for things like decent health insurance.  There's a high percentage that are also facing "up-side down mortgages" (they owe more than their home is worth) and they have run out of options.   And nothing burns me up more than to hear right wing zealots say that these people are lazy and parasitic.  I grew up in a very small rural community where no one had more than a modest house and a tiny amount of savings for an emergency.  And I found out quickly that poor people are some of the hardest working people alive.  They will work repetitious factory jobs (back when there were factories), they will work outside in extreme weather conditions, whether it is building houses in freezing temps, or paving roads on hot summer days, or milking cows twice a day for 365 days a year. They'll work all week and then help their neighbor put up hay, or put on a new roof on the weekend.  For these people to be called lazy only shows the voices of the rich are completely out of touch with any type of reality and should be discounted immediately.  Choose a random person out of my community and I'll bet a month's pay that they work harder than Mitt Romney any day of the week! 

As I was listening to right-wing radio the other day I heard in the first five minutes that the bottom 50% of this country are "nothing but moochers and parasites" and that "the best thing that could happen on election day is for there to be a huge sale of Nike sneakers so the right people will be voted in."  As Matt Taibbi pointed out this new wave of conservative ideology and rhetoric will inevitably bring the GOP down.  This is not the voice for the middle, and who in their right mind would want to be a part of this vitriolic message?

Now, there are people who live off the welfare system and work harder to stay on that system than they do to be responsible.   And all of us, no matter what affiliation, will agree that is a huge problem that should be addressed and dealt with.  But in my poor rural county everyone that I know wants to be independent and make their own way.  For most people it is basic human nature, and when the conservative voices not only forget this, but disgrace us by using words like "moochers" and "parasites" they are only digging their well-deserved grave.   

Taibbi's use of the drug addict metaphor is dead-on.  The voices of the conservative movement have to keep one-upping each other for attention and taking bigger hits until the line where reality begins and ends becomes blurred.  One of the greatest political moves in the history of our great country was the Republican party convincing poor rural white people that they were looking out for their best interests.  "Low taxes, tiny government, and guns, guns, guns!" was the mantra, and it worked!  The party run by the richest of the rich for the rich convinced people living on $300 a week that they had their best interests at heart.  Unbelievably genius, right?   But in today's world of radicalized right-wing talk radio they have become unhinged from that one thing that has kept them competitive in elections.  There just aren't enough one-percenters out there to win the elections for them.  And now they are resorting to disgusting back-room tactics like re-drawing district lines in their favor, and passing various laws that will keep the poorest of the poor away from ballot boxes each cycle. 

What our country loses in this slide down into a radicalized cesspool of rhetoric is the fact that we need some of these forgotten conservative ideals in our political discourse.   The importance of personal freedoms along with personal responsibilities, the 2nd amendment freedoms and the responsibilities that come with it, the genuine desire to not let government overgrow, and financial prudence are all important ideas that have made this country great.  But these topics have no place in today's endless debates when you have unlimited soundbites from people who make the characters of Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" look visionary. 

Watching this slow motion train-wreck does have a morbid entertainment quality to it, I have to say.   Everyone must admit some joy as we feed energy to these caricatures of politicians, as we push one to the top and watch excitedly as they fall like a slalom skier wrecking at 60 miles an hour tumbling down the mountain.  Then we find another willing participant and push them to the top of the same mountain and wait for the same outcome.  The GOP race has turned into nothing but a Wide World of Sports disaster outtake reel.  

Everyone has to sacrifice to get out of this slump, and some more than others. I only wish the loudest voices of the conservative movement could get a glimpse of what poor people go through everyday to just have a place in this world. (Here's a good start. "Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America" - read it!)  And if I hear anyone call the simple people of rural communities lazy parasites again I just might fucking lose it. 

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