Friday, October 14, 2011

The Great Divide

Chasm[Subtitled “Cognitive Dissonance Revisited]

I see that another Tumblr blog has cropped up in response to the We Are the 99 Percent site. Created by conservative blogger Erick Erickson, it’s about the 53% who claim to pay the taxes for the 47% who they claim don’t pay any taxes at all. I will not link to it. If you want to find it, have at it.

First of all, we need to put this ridiculous lie to rest. It is a vicious falsehood being promoted by the right in order to portray lower income people as lazy freeloaders. This is nothing new. Those of us of a certain age (ahem) will remember Reagan’s “Welfare Queen” story. Although there will always be people who try to game the system, this was an urban legend based on nothing resembling the truth. So the right is still at it, and some people are still falling for it. The people who pay little to no income tax are still paying taxes: payroll taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, gas taxes. To paint them as lazy bums contributing nothing to society or to our country is simply wrong. WRONG. If someone says this in my presence, they’re apt to get an earful, because I have had it up to here (motion towards my neck) with this nonsense.

If people don’t pay federal income tax, it’s because they have enough deductions under the federal tax structure to erase any further payments. These include deductions for the elderly and for children. If it’s not because of deductions, it’s because they simply don’t make enough to have to pay federal income tax once they take the standard deductions. Here is the best article I’ve read about the 47 percent.

So now that we’ve put that silliness to bed, what about the 53 percent and their website? Let’s look at a few. (This is where the cognitive dissonance part comes in.)
53 percenter
This person went to public school, then went on to get scholarships and loans for college. They served in the Army, taught college, and went on to law school and opened their own firm. That’s great! Good for you! And you DO realize, don’t you, that taxes paid to the government financed your public school, your loans, and the Army you served in? I’m sure the college where you taught also received money from the government for scholarships and research. I’m guessing at this, but I bet your law firm got plenty of deductions and tax breaks from the government. It sounds like you really made something of yourself and worked hard to get there...but you had plenty of assistance from the federal government.
53 percenter2
This person had a mortgage and a “pile of student loans.” A federal tax code deduction and loans provided by the federal government. Again, it sounds like they worked hard to get to the point they’re at. With government help.

53 percenter3
This is my favorite. This person goes to a public, in-state university. Federal funds. They got scholarships. Federal funds. They got a good education in high school, quite possibly (although not stated) at a public school. It sounds like they have the right idea about not living beyond their means, but much of the good fortune they’ve had has been because of the federal government.

There are other stories on that site about people’s parents being firefighters (government workers), nurses (working in a place that gets government funds via Medicare), or about people working their way out of welfare. That’s great, it really is. Here’s my question:

If it was okay for you to be on welfare or receive government aid when you needed help, why would you deny it to others?

There is a huge difference in philosophy here, and I really don’t know if it can ever be bridged. They completely misunderstand what the Occupy movement is about, and ignore their own interests in favor of those who are reaping huge profits and providing multi-million dollar bonuses to CEOs...but no matter how many tax breaks they get, they are not creating jobs. Wall Street deregulation, speculation, and unbridled greed led to our economy going into free fall, and they got away with it. They got away with it.

There are tales on the site of people working three jobs, 80+ hours, having to pay hundreds of dollars for health insurance, losing their homes, losing they not realize that it could and should be better for them, and for all Americans? Who has fostered this slave-like mentality that makes them think that they have to work themselves to death in order to fill the pockets of corporate CEOs? Is that their version of the American dream?

There is nothing wrong with hard work. I think most people (including the Occupiers) are willing to work hard. But when Wall Street screws the economy and people are laid off as a result, the jobs simply are not there. I know plenty of people who have tried their damnedest to find a job (including military personnel) and have sent out thousands of resumes, and the jobs simply are not there. Assailing the protestors as lazy, spoiled, whining, idiotic bums is just mind-boggling to me.

I don’t know if it’s Stockholm Syndrome or what, but they’ve sure fallen for it hook, party line, and sinker.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


OccupyYesterday was yet another gorgeous day here in northern Indiana, and it was a perfect day to head to downtown South Bend for a little political rally.

I went over to Shane and Matt’s, and we went to the meeting place, where we met up with our friend Doug. We went to a rally sponsored by MoveOn, and it was mainly about job growth and creation here in the U.S. There was a strong union presence there, including the head of the postal workers’ union. Everyone was in good spirits, we talked to a few nice people who were very concerned about what is happening in our country, held our signs, and waved at the cars going by. Most were fairly supportive, people waving and honking their horns, but we got a real kick out of the guy that drove by and flipped us off. Really? A group of people gathers to push for job creation in the country, and your response is “Fuck you?” I just don’t get that.

There was a simultaneous Occupy South Bend rally going on a block away, so we joined forces with them. Slightly different focus, but still on the same side of things. There is a growing inequity in how much the Haves have and how much the Have Nots don’t have. The rampant greed of Wall Street and the deregulations of their activities resulted in the average American getting screwed over royally. We--those same screwed-over taxpayers--bailed out the banks and investment companies, because to not do so would mean a complete collapse of the economy. I understand that, and I still support the bailouts. However, although some of that money has been paid back, not all of it has, and the profits of the companies and their CEOs are still through the roof...and they are still not investing in the American recovery. No one has been held accountable, and the greedy bastards are still doing what they were doing when they got us into that mess.

Ken and I are fortunate to have weathered this fairly well (knock on wood). He has a good job, and if need be, I could go back to work in the health care sector. But I was proud to stand in support of all those who have been so severely affected by this, whether it’s people who can’t retire because they lost most of their retirement funds, or people who have been out of work for months or years because the jobs simply aren’t there.

Herman Cain (or as Palin likes to call him, “Herb”) commented on the growing Occupy rallies last week and said that if you don’t have a job, don’t blame the banks, don’t blame Wall Street...blame yourself. I wonder what planet Mr. Cain is living on? There are 14 million unemployed in the United States, and I can tell you that I know plenty of people who are hard-working individuals and want to find a job, but simply can’t because there are so few jobs available. Matt has sent out over 2,000 resumes and has been unable to get anything. These are not lazy people, these are not people trying to take advantage of government programs. They are people like you and me who have been downsized and outsourced and screwed by corporate greed.

I supposed it’s easy for ol’ Herb to tell people to blame themselves. He isn’t struggling to pay the rent or put food on the table for his family or trying to pay medical bills. When he had to deal with cancer, he had the best care that money could buy; he didn’t have to worry about how his medical bills might bankrupt his family or make them lose their home. There are millions of Americans who aren’t millionaires who worry about those things every single day.

I stand with them.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


BethIt’s technically autumn, but it sure hasn’t felt like it lately! I believe we had a frost last weekend, which means that we’re in Indian Summer, and it’s been just beautiful lately. Sunny and temperatures around 80° for most of the week!

We went to the Notre Dame-Air Force game yesterday, and it was so nice we were still able to tailgate before the game. (We probably still will as it gets cooler, but it’s not as much fun. Some people go to elaborate lengths for tailgating, with generators and heaters. We’re strictly small-time.) I stupidly didn’t wear a hat, because I thought I’d be comfortable enough without one. I ended up having to buy another ND hat, and I like this one even better than the one I had, so it worked out okay!

Since we were playing Air Force, we hoped they might have a flyover. I think it’s usually F-18s. We got a bit of a surprise this time. I saw movement up in the sky at the other end of the stadium and said, “Holy crap, that’s a Stealth! They’re doing a Stealth flyover!” Sure enough, as the National Anthem was winding up, here it came, right at us, and towards Touchdown Jesus. I had never seen one in flight before, and it was quite impressive. The crowd went wild!

Stealth4The game ended up pretty well, too. The Irish dominated, with a final score of 59-33. It wasn’t even as close as that makes it look, because when we were up by 40 points, they cleared the bench and let the second string play. They gave up a couple of touchdowns at the end. Today is just doing some catching up around here, and it’s so nice Ken is going to fire up the grill and we’ll have our last two porterhouse steaks.

Tomorrow is going to be another nice day, and it looks like a good day for a protest march! Cousin Shane, Matt, Doug, and I will be heading downtown to take part in a MoveOn jobs march. This isn’t quite the same as the Occupy marches, but close to it. After that, we’ll stick around downtown and do our part to stimulate the economy by having a late lunch at the Thai restaurant. Recently, Herman Cain (or as Palin likes to call him, ‘Herb’) said that if you’re out of a job or if you’re not rich, don’t blame the banks, don’t blame Wall Street, blame yourself! Really? Really?! Talk about a case of blaming the victim. There are plenty of hard working people who lost their jobs because of the unbridled greed and deregulation of Wall Street operatives, and Cain has the nerve to say that it’s the unemployeds’ fault. Unbelievable. Ken and I have weathered this fairly well (rapping my knuckles on my head), but I will be proud to stand in support of my fellow Americans who have gotten royally screwed by banks and hedge fund managers, and have been told to shut up and take it up the ass, and to smile while it’s happening. And then that weasel Eric Cantor has the gall to say that the 99Percent MattOccupy Wall Street protests are un-American, and just a bunch of mobs. Since when is it un-American to peacefully protest when you aren’t pleased with what is happening in the country? Last time I checked, that was in the Constitution. For a bunch of people who claim to love the Constitution so much, they sure don’t seem to like it when others exercise their Constitutionally-mandated rights.

But don’t get me started. [wink]

I have one more beef, and then that will be it for today. You may have heard about the brouhaha that took place this week in the Massachusetts Senate race. Scott Brown is the incumbent, and Elizabeth Warren is leading in the primary to be his Democratic challenger. Several years ago, Brown was the centerfold in Cosmopolitan; not the full monty, but nude except for something strategically placed in front of the ol’ groinage area. In a recent Democratic debate, when asked about how she paid for college, she made the joke, “I didn’t take my clothes off.” Brown was asked about the remark on a radio show, and in response to Warren’s crack, he said, “Thank God.” Then he and the DJ yukked it up a bit.

This bothered me, and yes, I’m going to tell you why. I found it to be a typical male response when they are intimidated or ridiculed by an intelligent woman: make fun of her looks. It strikes me as condescending and patronizing, and somewhat misogynistic. Do I think it’s a huge deal, one that Brown should be tarred and feathered for? No, not really...but as a woman, it bothered me as indicating a deep-seated tendency to marginalize women. Did Warren bring it upon herself with her own joke about it? Yeah, probably, and she chose not to dive any deeper into these murky waters of snarkiness.

Some of my guy friends dismissed it as a tempest in a teapot. The incident really isn’t a huge deal for me, but it did bother me. It reminded me of my first job in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I was up in the ICU and trying to find a place to draw blood on a patient. With all the lines and IVs, it wasn’t an easy task. One of the patient’s doctors, a cardiologist, happened to be in there at the time, and he put his hands around my waist (Bad touch! Bad touch!) and moved me to the side, then said to the (male) patient, “I bet it doesn’t hurt as much when they’re as pretty as this one, eh?”

Women know your placeIt was condescending and creepy, dismissive of my education and duties, and incredibly sexist and unprofessional. (Yes, I complained to my manager.) I didn’t find it complimentary at all, and even 25 years later, I remember it quite well. Whether being “complimentary” or derogatory (I’ve had that happen, being told my eyes are so far apart that I look like ET. Oooo, burn! What else ya got, crackuh?), it’s the same demeaning bullshit that women have had to put up with for centuries. When some men are confronted with an intelligent woman, they resort to any means necessary to demean them and put them in their place. You can also bet that any woman who had posed like Scott Brown did would not have a career in politics in this country, and would be portrayed as a whore. Elizabeth Warren is an incredibly smart and capable woman, so Brown demeans her first by ridiculing her Harvard professorship (how awful those Harvard elites are!) and then by implying that she’s a repulsive woman that no one would ever want to see naked. She can take care of herself, I have no doubts about that.

But I feel that I have every right to say, “This bothered me, and here is why.” If you want to dismiss my viewpoint, I suggest you do it without calling me ‘honey’ or asking me to make you a sandwich before we discuss it.