The True Story of Christmas
NBC’s Meet the Press was very adoring to Nelson Mandela today. In their adoration they were attempting to discount the fact that America was complicit in apartheid survival as long as it did.
President Obama’s remarks glossed over how vehemently the government of the United States, specifically Republicans, for a long time was against Nelson Mandela and the ANC. They never accepted that the African National Congress (ANC) was no different than our founding fathers, who picked up arms for freedom.
Al Sharpton silenced the round table as he placed into context America’s role in South Africa’s liberation. The USA was not a supporter of Nelson Mandela. Conservatives are attempting to rewrite history. Al Sharpton ensured that all around that table were forced to accept that fact. He ensured that all of those listening were well aware that Conservative stalwarts like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did not embrace freedom. They uttered the words but it was just for a select few.
“I think it is a betrayal of history to act as though as Nelson Mandela evolved the world embraced it. There was a real battle in this country,” Al Sharpton said. “So when Randall Robinson and Maxine Waters and Reverend Jackson led that fight … there was major contention. They were attacked for supporting communists. Let’s remember the ANC that he refers to, they were pursuing freedom. Many of the communist nations embraced them. This country did not. So it is not like they were born Marxist. They were born people seeking to be free. Some of the Marxist nations, either genuinely or in a self-interest way, tried to embrace that. This country did not, and fought that, and denounced them, and denigrated them. And I think that for us now to sugarcoat that is a betrayal of history. We chose sides. We chose the wrong side
Later when the Conservative panelist tried to sugarcoat Ronald Reagan’s role in the eventual liberation of South Africa, Al Sharpton would have none of it.
“Let’s be clear. Reagan vetoed, supported vetoing bills. Reagan denounced Mandela, called him names. He evolved after a protest movement here turned the tone and public opinion,” said Al Sharpton. “But let’s not act like Reagan was a major supporter of Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. It’s just not true.”
Americans must be made aware of our history. There are many reasons why many nations we believe should be aligned with us are not. If we are to understand the appeal of the likes of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, and Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff by the underclasses of these nations, we must understand our government’s support for their respective plutocracies.
Unless Americans are provided history and context, they will continue to elect politicians governed by self-centered policies that isolate Americans from what is best for the world as a whole. Nelson Mandela’s death highlights our past mistakes at the same time that it highlights an outcome assisted partly by the better angels of the American grassroots. Irrespective of government policies and objections, they led a movement against the South African evil, apartheid.
Gov. Rick Scott’s latest purge of Florida’s voter rolls is lurching forward, despite the skepticism and outright opposition of many county elections supervisors.
True to his “Tea Party” roots, Scott dreams of the days when most voters were cranky, middle-aged white people, his core constituency. Up for re-election next year, the governor fears a high voter turnout, because that would mean lots of Hispanics and African-Americans standing in line to cast their ballots.
They tend to vote Democrat, grim prospects for a Republican who isn’t exactly beloved in his own party.
Scott’s first voter purge was a debacle. Initiated ahead of the 2012 elections, the idea was to thwart President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates by reducing the number of Hispanic, Haitian and other foreign-born voters.
Screening drivers’ licenses, the Division of Elections produced a list of about 182,000 possible non-citizens who were registered to vote. Unfortunately, the list proved worthless because the data was outdated or flat-out wrong.
County officials were left exasperated and angry.
Scott’s vote-whitening hit squad then reduced the list of targets to 2,600, and finally to a measly 198 before bagging the whole project.
To the dismay of Scott and Republican leaders, Obama carried Florida. This information wasn’t available on Election Day, or for several days afterwards, because Florida was the last state in the country to count all its votes.
Thank God it no longer mattered.
More than 8.4 million Floridians went to the polls, and long lines overwhelmed some election offices late into the night. These delays could have been avoided if Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature had agreed in advance to increase the number of early-voting sites, as many county supervisors had requested.
But Republicans don’t like early voting because it raises the total turnout. They prefer a smaller, more manageable electorate.
The new Florida purge will use a data program from U.S. Department of Homeland Security called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE. Election officials are supposed to compare voter rolls to a list of legal non-citizens who are qualified to receive certain benefits.
A federal court ruled that Florida was allowed to use the SAVE list, even though Homeland Security officials raised doubts about its reliability as a means of identifying non-citizens.
The point man for the Voter Purge II is once again Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Scott appointee, who calls it “Project Integrity.” Seriously.
Detzner recently finished a short statewide tour of county elections offices, where he tried to stir up enthusiasm for the purge. There was none.
The most intense grilling came from Susan Bucher, supervisor of elections for Palm Beach County, the site of repeated ballot fiascos going back to Bush-Gore in 2000. A Democrat serving in a nonpartisan position, Bucher questioned Detzner and his staff about the accuracy of the SAVE list.
“Where does that data come from; how often is it updated — every 10 years or every 10 minutes?” she asked, adding: “I have a lot of concern that the people we got the database from are saying this is not comprehensive and definitive.”
Picky, picky, picky.
Detzner replied that SAVE was the best database available, and the voter screening “will be done correctly.”
He said he didn’t know how often the information was updated to show changes in immigration status. When asked how soon counties would be supplied with lists of potential non-citizens on the rolls, he said he didn’t know.
He couldn’t even say which agencies in Tallahassee were receiving the data from Homeland Security. But, hey, he’s the secretary of state. Why should he be bothered with such piddling details?
If Detzner’s mission was to inspire confidence in the purging process, it backfired. The only worse strategy would have been for Scott himself to show up and try to explain it.
The governor’s attack on the voting rolls took a new tack two weeks ago when Detzner issued a “directive” saying election officials shouldn’t “solicit” the return of absentee ballots to any location except the supervisor’s office.
Several counties allow people to turn in absentee ballots at early-voting sites or secure drop-off boxes. It’s meant as a convenience to those who are elderly, disabled or have limited transportation.
Detzner says he’s only enforcing the law.
To county elections officials, it’s just more of the same meddling, more time and taxpayer resources wasted on a continuing political crusade to shrink the vote.
It self-destructed the first time, and the same thing will happen again.
Those long lines at the polls in South Florida last year weren’t packed with illegal voters, as Scott would perhaps like to believe. They were the people his own party has turned its back on.
And, try as he might, he can’t make them go away.
(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)
Photo: Erik Hersman via Flickr
The Christian Right goes on and on about how much they love Jesus Christ. When will they get the memo? Jesus was a liberal.
Jesus Christ was a liberal, despite what right-wing Christians think.The Christian Right goes on and on about how much they love Jesus Christ. When will they get the memo? Jesus was a liberal. Image by Elisabeth Parker for Addicting Info.Have you ever wondered why right-wing Christians keep saying they love Jesus Christ, even though their toxic beliefs have nothing to do with what Jesus said, taught, or stood for? Whether you believe He was our savior, or just a great teacher in history, have you ever suspected that if Jesus Christ lived today, he would have been a liberal? Well, you were right all along. Jesus was a liberal. And we’ve got 15 quotes to prove it.“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”– Like many liberals, Jesus Christ scorned phony displays of religion.(1) Religion: Right-wingers claim to love Jesus, and are known for loudly shouting their faith from atop their soap boxes. But, like many liberals, the real Jesus Christ scorned these showy – and often phony – displays of piety. He said: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” [Matthew 6-7 KJV](2) The 10 Commandments: As far as we can tell, the leaders of the Christian Right don’t obey the laws inscribed on the tablets Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai, let alone the ones Jesus valued most. When crowds asked Jesus Christ what He saw as the most important of the 10 Commandments, His reply reflects the values of today’s liberal Christians. Jesus clearly sees a pure love of God and for our fellow human beings as the bottom line for being a Christian: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” And: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 36-40 KJV].(3) The “War on Christmas”: We’ll never know what Jesus would have thought about Christmas décor and baby-in-the-manger scenes at City Hall. But He probably would have found conservatives’ rantings about “The War On Christmas” puzzling. As many savior-savvy liberals would quickly point out, Jesus Christ didn’t celebrate Christmas: He was Jewish, and would have observed Hanukkah.“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”– Jesus Christ agreed with liberals when it comes to paying taxes and keeping Church and State separate.(4) Paying taxes: Right-wingers keep whining about taxes and saying that paying our national debt and having a social safety net is like slavery. When they don’t get their way, they shut down the government, or threaten to secede from the US. But when it comes to taxes, Jesus Christ is more like a liberal. He said we should pay our taxes even when we don’t agree with what they’re used for. “Then saith he unto them, ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.’” [Matthew 22:21 KJV](5) Separation of Church and State: The Christian Right keeps trying to force their beliefs into our legal system, and to fund their churches and schools with taxpayers’ dollars. Like modern folks in the USA, Jesus Christ lived in a huge empire with diverse religions and ethnic groups. Many of Rome’s laws and customs were against his people’s customs and beliefs. But – like most liberals – Jesus Christ clearly believed that Church and State should be separate, as shown in the above quote.“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”– Jesus Christ’s views on income inequality and capitalism were very similar to those of liberals.(6) Income inequality: Have any of you liberals out there wondered what Jesus Christ would have thought about today’s rampant income inequality? Right-wing Christians love to ignore the fact that Jesus made his views about the one percent abundantly clear: “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 19:24 KJV](7) Capitalism: Right-wingers are ever in search of ways to promote and justify the unfettered capitalism Pope Francis rails against. But they won’t find any help from their Savior, Jesus Christ. He loathes capitalism, even more than most of today’s liberals here in the US. Pretty much the only time we ever see Jesus lose his temper is when he returns to Jerusalem with his disciples and finds the Temple full of bankers and vendors. He doesn’t just yell at them, he destroys their booths and drives them out with a whip that he makes on the fly. One can only imagine how Jesus would feel about Black Friday.“And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” [John 2:14-16 KJV]“But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”– Jesus Christ believed we should help each other, as liberals do today.(8) Welfare and the social safety net: The Christian Right keeps ranting about how raising taxes to pay for programs that help the poor is somehow like forcing us into slavery. But Jesus Christ’s views on feeding, clothing, and helping people in need was more in line with how liberals think. Jesus flat-out told his followers that when they help people in need, He sees that as directly serving Him:“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” [Matthew 25:34-36 KJV](9) Healthcare: The right-wing Christians who oppose evil, “liberal” Obamacare have failed to notice something that seems crazy-obvious to the rest of us. Their Savior, Jesus Christ, was always out and about doling out free healthcare — the horror! — to his fellow human beings. The New Testament abounds with stories of Jesus healing blind people, lepers, crippled people, paralytics, a bleeding woman, a young girl in a coma, and pretty much anyone who asked (or had someone ask for them). His disciple, Matthew, wrote: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”(10) Social justice: Unlike the right-wing Christians who pay only lip service to Him, Jesus Christ was a strong advocate for social justice. Martin Luther King Jr. and other much-loved liberal icons were inspired by His life and teachings. Jesus not only demands that the rich share with the less fortunate, but insists that if they don’t, they are heartless. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” [1 John 3:17 KJV] Take THAT, Koch brothers.“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”– Like today’s liberals, Jesus Christ rejected the double standard for women and preached tolerance.(11) The War on Women: Jesus Christ lived in a highly patriarchal society, but rose above the customs of his time. Like today’s liberals (and unlike today’s right-wing Christians), Jesus clearly valued women and treated them as equals. His parables abound with women who serve as role models to follow. At least four women — his mother, Mary Madgelene, and the sisters Mary and Martha — were in his inner circle. This may explain why women played a big role in the early days of the Christian church, and may have even served as leaders. Nor did Jesus respect the double standard that holds men and women to different rules. When a crowd gathered to stone a women to death for the “crime” of adultery, Jesus stopped them, demanding: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” [John 8:7 KJV](12) Abortion: Unlike the Christian Right, which won’t shut up about a fetus’ “right to life,” Jesus Christ never talks about abortion. But in the tale of the bleeding woman (Luke 8:43-48 KJV), Jesus clearly rejects irrational taboos and religious rules against women. While walking through a crowd, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years, touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and it healed her. She then cringed away in fear (the “issue of blood” seems to have been coming from down there, which meant that touching a man would give him “unclean” woman cooties). Instead of casting her away, Jesus did the liberal thing and said, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” It’s too bad the “Christian” folks who run this country — and some hospitals — think their weird religious rules are more important than a woman’s health.(13) Marriage equality: Strange, but even though our right-wing Christian friends are all in a lather over gays getting married and LGBT folks’ having the nerve to simply exist, Jesus Christ never uttered a single word about gays and other non-gender conforming people. He was too busy spreading his love, healing, loaves and fishes, and miracle wine around to bother with hating … kind of like one of those liberal hippies from the 1960′s.“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”Like many liberals, Jesus Christ preferred peace to war.(12) War: During his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” [Matthew 5:9 KJV] This event took place shortly after Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, and is considered to be central to his teachings. The Sermon on the Mount was radical because of its ideals of peace, love for one’s neighbor, love of God, and striving for purity of heart. Liberals share most of these ideals, even if they don’t believe in the same god (or goddess) … or any god(dess) at all.(13) The death penalty: The right-wing is all-out for the death penalty, all while they screech about being “pro-life” and rolling back a woman’s right to choose. But, like most liberals, Jesus Christ clearly did not believe humans had the right to take life from one another. “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” [James 4:12 KJV](14) Crime and punishment: Conservatives don’t just love the death penalty, they love meting out harsh punishments for even the least of crimes (unless you’re a Wall Street Banker). Our useless “war on drugs” — and large private prisons industry — explains why the US has the highest rate of people living behind bars in the world. Most liberals object to this, and so would Jesus Christ, who said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” [Matthew 7:1-2 KJV](15) On race: Although Jesus Christ lived in the remote region of Galilee for most of his life, He was born in Bethlehem and had traveled to Egypt and Jerusalem as a boy. He was probably more well-traveled than many people of his time, and had come across people of many cultures, colors, and nations. Jesus clearly shows that he sees no person as above another one when he said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” [John 13:16 KJV] Also, he was known to consort with all sorts of people who would have seemed scandalous to proper Jews of his time, including women, lepers, Roman tax collectors, his motley crew of fishermen-turned-apostles, and even — gasp — Mary Magdalene, who had a bad (and likely untrue) rep as a loose woman. It is unlikely that Jesus would have thought one race or skin color to be better than another.NOTE: It is doubtful that Jesus Christ even would have been what we now call “white.” The Bible does not describe how He looked (other than things like “shining” and “radiant”). But, since Jesus and His family came from the Middle East, He is likely to have looked like today’s people from that region: Olive-skinned, dark-haired, and dark-eyed.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has been reading Jack Kemp’s Wikipedia page.
Kemp — a former congressman, secretary of Housing and Urban Development and 1996 Republican nominee for vice president — was famous for being a conservative Republican intent on reaching out to minority communities. When not one right-wing politician showed up at the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, numerous commentators said, “Jack Kemp would have been there!”
In the 1980s, Kemp pushed the concept of Enterprise Zones to combat urban blight and renew communities. The core of the idea is to — you guessed it! — cut taxes and lower regulation in “distressed areas.” These zones tend to do well at nourishing large corporations when the economy is strong. Otherwise, “There is little evidence demonstrating that this concept is effective at generating new economic development at the local level,” a 1989 study found.
Pushing lower taxes and lenient regulation may have made sense for Kemp — before the lowest taxes and the most lenient regulation in 50 years led to the greatest economic crash in 50 years — but to do so now shows that the GOP has learned nothing from the Great Recession.
When it comes to minority outreach, the GOP is also far behind the Republican Party of Kemp, Bob Dole and even George W. Bush. The GOP of that era didn’t accuse minorities of fraud in order to make it harder to vote. They were proud of Reagan’s immigration reform legacy and they weren’t actively denying health insurance to millions of minorities living in red states.
Senator Paul — who visited Detroit this week to rebrand Enterprise Zones as “Economic Freedom Zones” — hasmocked the reality of voter suppression, voted against immigration reform and opposes Medicaid expansion — though the program has already helped reduce the uninsured population in his home state of Kentucky by more than 10 percent.
Paul was not there to commemorate Dr. King’s speech but he did show up in the Motor City just days after a judge said that the pensions of public workers could be voided in Detroit’s bankruptcy, even though Michigan’s Constitution explicitly says they are inviolable.
Imagine if Rand Paul had showed up in Detroit to speak out against theft of retirees’ pensions — an average of just $19,000 a year for millions of workers who mostly do not qualify for Social Security — because honoring promises to people is more important than paying off the Wall Street financiers who engineered the city’s economic downfall.
Rand is the guy who accused the president of being too tough on BP during the largest oil spill in American history. His feelings about corporations resemble how pre-Reformation Catholics felt about the Pope — absolute infallibility.
No, Paul didn’t come to Michigan to defend workers. Instead he came to Detroit to tell his 90-percent white audience in a city that’s 90-percent African-American that the real problem — of course — is that rich people hadn’t been rewarded enough.
“The president plays this sort of thing of envy and he says to us, ‘You should not like the rich people, you should punish the rich people.’ I say no, reward them,” he said. “They create the jobs. That’s who we work for. Anybody here work for a poor person? So you want rich people to have more money so you can have more money.”
The senator also blasted the city for spending too much money on cleaning its drinking water. Is there an emoticon that exists to display what a WTF comment that is? The city is on a river where tons of petcoke waste from Koch Carbon is stored at the shores. He argued the reason the lights can’t be kept on in the sprawling city is because it’s too obsessed with not poisoning itself?
There are reasons Detroit has to choose between safety and clean water. They have to do with globalization, a disconnection from the massively affluent communities just outside the city’s boundaries and a starvation of public funding that’s the inevitable result of cutting taxes to spur growth that never comes, especially to the places that need it most.
The only recovery Michigan has seen in the last few years has come from investing in the auto industry, which migrated almost entirely outside of Detroit’s city limits during the mid-20th century. Rand Paul, of course, didn’t support the rescue of General Motors or Chrysler, saying that GM should “absolutely” be allowed to fail.
Still, the Tea Party hero deserves credit for two things.
He’s not Mitt Romney going to the NAACP conference to be booed. Knowing he’ll be criticized, Paul has interjected himself into a difficult situation under the pretense of wanting to help minorities in a city where the people desperately need help. (Of course, he’s also laying the groundwork for his 2016 presidential run in a crucial statewhere he won a straw poll earlier this year.)
Paul is also very progressive and very correct about the need for reforming mandatory minimum sentences, which unfairly punish minorities, shattering communities and damning millions to lives of second-class citizenship. This is genuinely brave outreach that has not been attempted by any major figure in the conservative movement before. Unfortunately, that’s where Paul’s originality ends.
If the answer to poverty is to make the rich richer, why hasn’t the massive transfer of wealth to the richest 1 percent since 1979 solved the problem? Almost 700,000 Kentuckians live in poverty. More than 46 million Americans live in impoverished households.
What the senator needs to understand is that he does know someone who works for a poor person, actually for lots of poor people — Rand Paul.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
This is a great read! David Simon, the creator of one of my all-time fave show “The Wire”, tells it like it is on the ever-increasing divide between rich and poor. He declares Capitalism the winner of systems but bids us to remember the adage “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”. Simon puts Capitalism and capitalist ideologues on notice about their victory creating “Two Americas”.
America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.
There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west. I don’t think it’s unique to America.
I think we’ve perfected a lot of the tragedy and we’re getting there faster than a lot of other places that may be a little more reasoned, but my dangerous idea kind of involves this fellow who got left by the wayside in the 20th century and seemed to be almost the butt end of the joke of the 20th century; a fellow named Karl Marx.
I’m not a Marxist in the sense that I don’t think Marxism has a very specific clinical answer to what ails us economically. I think Marx was a much better diagnostician than he was a clinician. He was good at figuring out what was wrong or what could be wrong with capitalism if it wasn’t attended to and much less credible when it comes to how you might solve that.
You know if you’ve read Capital or if you’ve got the Cliff Notes, you know that his imaginings of how classical Marxism – of how his logic would work when applied – kind of devolve into such nonsense as the withering away of the state and platitudes like that. But he was really sharp about what goes wrong when capital wins unequivocally, when it gets everything it asks for.
That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.
We understand profit. In my country we measure things by profit. We listen to the Wall Street analysts. They tell us what we’re supposed to do every quarter. The quarterly report is God. Turn to face God. Turn to face Mecca, you know. Did you make your number? Did you not make your number? Do you want your bonus? Do you not want your bonus?
And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.
Capitalism stomped the hell out of Marxism by the end of the 20th century and was predominant in all respects, but the great irony of it is that the only thing that actually works is not ideological, it is impure, has elements of both arguments and never actually achieves any kind of partisan or philosophical perfection.
It’s pragmatic, it includes the best aspects of socialistic thought and of free-market capitalism and it works because we don’t let it work entirely. And that’s a hard idea to think – that there isn’t one single silver bullet that gets us out of the mess we’ve dug for ourselves. But man, we’ve dug a mess.
After the second world war, the west emerged with the American economy coming out of its wartime extravagance, emerging as the best product. It was the best product. It worked the best. It was demonstrating its might not only in terms of what it did during the war but in terms of just how facile it was in creating mass wealth.
Plus, it provided a lot more freedom and was doing the one thing that guaranteed that the 20th century was going to be – and forgive the jingoistic sound of this – the American century.
It took a working class that had no discretionary income at the beginning of the century, which was working on subsistence wages. It turned it into a consumer class that not only had money to buy all the stuff that they needed to live but enough to buy a bunch of shit that they wanted but didn’t need, and that was the engine that drove us.
It wasn’t just that we could supply stuff, or that we had the factories or know-how or capital, it was that we created our own demand and started exporting that demand throughout the west. And the standard of living made it possible to manufacture stuff at an incredible rate and sell it.
And how did we do that? We did that by not giving in to either side. That was the new deal. That was the great society. That was all of that argument about collective bargaining and union wages and it was an argument that meant neither side gets to win.
Labour doesn’t get to win all its arguments, capital doesn’t get to. But it’s in the tension, it’s in the actual fight between the two, that capitalism actually becomes functional, that it becomes something that every stratum in society has a stake in, that they all share.
The unions actually mattered. The unions were part of the equation. It didn’t matter that they won all the time, it didn’t matter that they lost all the time, it just mattered that they had to win some of the time and they had to put up a fight and they had to argue for the demand and the equation and for the idea that workers were not worth less, they were worth more.
Ultimately we abandoned that and believed in the idea of trickle-down and the idea of the market economy and the market knows best, to the point where now libertarianism in my country is actually being taken seriously as an intelligent mode of political thought. It’s astonishing to me. But it is. People are saying I don’t need anything but my own ability to earn a profit. I’m not connected to society. I don’t care how the road got built, I don’t care where the firefighter comes from, I don’t care who educates the kids other than my kids. I am me. It’s the triumph of the self. I am me, hear me roar.
That we’ve gotten to this point is astonishing to me because basically in winning its victory, in seeing that Wall come down and seeing the former Stalinist state’s journey towards our way of thinking in terms of markets or being vulnerable, you would have thought that we would have learned what works. Instead we’ve descended into what can only be described as greed. This is just greed. This is an inability to see that we’re all connected, that the idea of two Americas is implausible, or two Australias, or two Spains or two Frances.
Societies are exactly what they sound like. If everybody is invested and if everyone just believes that they have “some”, it doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to get the same amount. It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be people who are the venture capitalists who stand to make the most. It’s not each according to their needs or anything that is purely Marxist, but it is that everybody feels as if, if the society succeeds, I succeed, I don’t get left behind. And there isn’t a society in the west now, right now, that is able to sustain that for all of its population.
And so in my country you’re seeing a horror show. You’re seeing a retrenchment in terms of family income, you’re seeing the abandonment of basic services, such as public education, functional public education. You’re seeing the underclass hunted through an alleged war on dangerous drugs that is in fact merely a war on the poor and has turned us into the most incarcerative state in the history of mankind, in terms of the sheer numbers of people we’ve put in American prisons and the percentage of Americans we put into prisons. No other country on the face of the Earth jails people at the number and rate that we are.
We have become something other than what we claim for the American dream and all because of our inability to basically share, to even contemplate a socialist impulse.
Socialism is a dirty word in my country. I have to give that disclaimer at the beginning of every speech, “Oh by the way I’m not a Marxist you know”. I lived through the 20th century. I don’t believe that a state-run economy can be as viable as market capitalism in producing mass wealth. I don’t.
I’m utterly committed to the idea that capitalism has to be the way we generate mass wealth in the coming century. That argument’s over. But the idea that it’s not going to be married to a social compact, that how you distribute the benefits of capitalism isn’t going to include everyone in the society to a reasonable extent, that’s astonishing to me.
And so capitalism is about to seize defeat from the jaws of victory all by its own hand. That’s the astonishing end of this story, unless we reverse course. Unless we take into consideration, if not the remedies of Marx then the diagnosis, because he saw what would happen if capital triumphed unequivocally, if it got everything it wanted.
And one of the things that capital would want unequivocally and for certain is the diminishment of labour. They would want labour to be diminished because labour’s a cost. And if labour is diminished, let’s translate that: in human terms, it means human beings are worth less.
From this moment forward unless we reverse course, the average human being is worth less on planet Earth. Unless we take stock of the fact that maybe socialism and the socialist impulse has to be addressed again; it has to be married as it was married in the 1930s, the 1940s and even into the 1950s, to the engine that is capitalism.
Mistaking capitalism for a blueprint as to how to build a society strikes me as a really dangerous idea in a bad way. Capitalism is a remarkable engine again for producing wealth. It’s a great tool to have in your toolbox if you’re trying to build a society and have that society advance. You wouldn’t want to go forward at this point without it. But it’s not a blueprint for how to build the just society. There are other metrics besides that quarterly profit report.
The idea that the market will solve such things as environmental concerns, as our racial divides, as our class distinctions, our problems with educating and incorporating one generation of workers into the economy after the other when that economy is changing; the idea that the market is going to heed all of the human concerns and still maximise profit is juvenile. It’s a juvenile notion and it’s still being argued in my country passionately and we’re going down the tubes. And it terrifies me because I’m astonished at how comfortable we are in absolving ourselves of what is basically a moral choice. Are we all in this together or are we all not?
If you watched the debacle that was, and is, the fight over something as basic as public health policy in my country over the last couple of years, imagine the ineffectiveness that Americans are going to offer the world when it comes to something really complicated like global warming. We can’t even get healthcare for our citizens on a basic level. And the argument comes down to: “Goddamn this socialist president. Does he think I’m going to pay to keep other people healthy? It’s socialism, motherfucker.”
What do you think group health insurance is? You know you ask these guys, “Do you have group health insurance where you …?” “Oh yeah, I get …” you know, “my law firm …” So when you get sick you’re able to afford the treatment.
The treatment comes because you have enough people in your law firm so you’re able to get health insurance enough for them to stay healthy. So the actuarial tables work and all of you, when you do get sick, are able to have the resources there to get better because you’re relying on the idea of the group. Yeah. And they nod their heads, and you go “Brother, that’s socialism. You know it is.”
And … you know when you say, OK, we’re going to do what we’re doing for your law firm but we’re going to do it for 300 million Americans and we’re going to make it affordable for everybody that way. And yes, it means that you’re going to be paying for the other guys in the society, the same way you pay for the other guys in the law firm … Their eyes glaze. You know they don’t want to hear it. It’s too much. Too much to contemplate the idea that the whole country might be actually connected.
So I’m astonished that at this late date I’m standing here and saying we might want to go back for this guy Marx that we were laughing at, if not for his prescriptions, then at least for his depiction of what is possible if you don’t mitigate the authority of capitalism, if you don’t embrace some other values for human endeavour.
And that’s what The Wire was about basically, it was about people who were worth less and who were no longer necessary, as maybe 10 or 15% of my country is no longer necessary to the operation of the economy. It was about them trying to solve, for lack of a better term, an existential crisis. In their irrelevance, their economic irrelevance, they were nonetheless still on the ground occupying this place called Baltimore and they were going to have to endure somehow.
That’s the great horror show. What are we going to do with all these people that we’ve managed to marginalise? It was kind of interesting when it was only race, when you could do this on the basis of people’s racial fears and it was just the black and brown people in American cities who had the higher rates of unemployment and the higher rates of addiction and were marginalised and had the shitty school systems and the lack of opportunity.
And kind of interesting in this last recession to see the economy shrug and start to throw white middle-class people into the same boat, so that they became vulnerable to the drug war, say from methamphetamine, or they became unable to qualify for college loans. And all of a sudden a certain faith in the economic engine and the economic authority of Wall Street and market logic started to fall away from people. And they realised it’s not just about race, it’s about something even more terrifying. It’s about class. Are you at the top of the wave or are you at the bottom?
So how does it get better? In 1932, it got better because they dealt the cards again and there was a communal logic that said nobody’s going to get left behind. We’re going to figure this out. We’re going to get the banks open. From the depths of that depression a social compact was made between worker, between labour and capital that actually allowed people to have some hope.
We’re either going to do that in some practical way when things get bad enough or we’re going to keep going the way we’re going, at which point there’s going to be enough people standing on the outside of this mess that somebody’s going to pick up a brick, because you know when people get to the end there’s always the brick. I hope we go for the first option but I’m losing faith.
The other thing that was there in 1932 that isn’t there now is that some element of the popular will could be expressed through the electoral process in my country.
The last job of capitalism – having won all the battles against labour, having acquired the ultimate authority, almost the ultimate moral authority over what’s a good idea or what’s not, or what’s valued and what’s not – the last journey for capital in my country has been to buy the electoral process, the one venue for reform that remained to Americans.
Right now capital has effectively purchased the government, and you witnessed it again with the healthcare debacle in terms of the $450m that was heaved into Congress, the most broken part of my government, in order that the popular will never actually emerged in any of that legislative process.
So I don’t know what we do if we can’t actually control the representative government that we claim will manifest the popular will. Even if we all start having the same sentiments that I’m arguing for now, I’m not sure we can effect them any more in the same way that we could at the rise of the Great Depression, so maybe it will be the brick. But I hope not.
David Simon is an American author and journalist and was the executive producer of The Wire. This is an edited extract of a talk delivered at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney.
A Map of the Most Corrupt Countries in the World
Fox News ran a segment entitled “You Do Need A Husband!” on Sunday.
Fox News ran a segment entitled “You Do Need A Husband!” on Sunday. Their guest, founder of the site ‘Women for Men’ Suzanne Venker, was on to argue that women are trying too hard to reduce their reliance on men. Her appearance followed up on her article “Why women still need husbands,” published Friday on Fox’s website.
In the piece, Venker argues that women won’t find fulfillment trying to balance a relationship and family with full-time work. “Financial independence is a great thing,” she writes, “but you can’t take your paycheck to bed with you. And there’s nothing empowering about being beholden to an employer when what you really want is to have a baby. ” She uses this opinion to advocate for women having less of a role in the workforce, and letting men be the breadwinners. “Unlike women,” Venker writes, “a man’s identity is inextricably linked to his paycheck.”
During the segment, hosts Clayton Morris and Tucker Carlson lavished praise on the piece, thanking Venker for writing it and saying “I’m confused why this controversial.” But Fox correspondent Anna Kooiman seemed a little more skeptical of Venker’s argument, pointing out that, “some critics have said it’s a little bit too broad to say men are this way and women are that way.”
Kooiman then got personal with Venker, asking her for “some words of wisdom:”
KOOIMAN: I fit into that category perfectly. I’m single. I’m 29 years old. I’m very career-oriented. What is your advice in just a couple sentences?
VENKER: My advice is, as the years go on and you find that you want, if you do, to get married and settle down, to understand time is going to be your greatest enemy. Not your husband, not men, not the government, not your employers. It’s time, there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything. So if you learn to embrace that side of yourself that isn’t about work — in other words, the nurturing side, the motherhood, all of that — it’s okay to let your husband bring home that full-time income so you can have more of a balanced life. And we should really be thanking men for this, not saying they’re in our way or not doing enough.
Venker has previously argued that, as women become major breadwinners and stop acting like “traditional women,” they are becoming increasingly more annoying and less marriageable to men.
But no matter what prescriptive ‘answer’ Venker thinks is right for all women, she’ll have to get used to the fact that women are bringing home the bacon. In May, a Pew report found that a record-breaking number of families are relying on women’s income. And if women are feeling taxed and burnt out by that, it’s only because, while they grow as a share of the primary breadwinners in the country, they are still largely responsible for all the housework that goes into keeping a family.
Venker’s solution — that women need to stay home — ignores the structural inequities that make it so hard to balance this family and work. Outside of expectations, like Venker’s, that stick women with the housework, there’s also the problem that employers don’t adequately meet the needs of balancing family with work life. The United States lacks guaranteed paid parental leave, making it one of the least accommodating countries in the developed world for new parents. On top of that, a lack of guaranteed paid sick leave in most of the country means a lot of parents (and particularly mothers) are forced to make the choice between earning their wages and taking care of their kids.
More propaganda from Fox. Get women out of the workforce in order to keep the White Male Christian Power Structure in place. And the best thing; make it the woman’s idea!
If the United States has a state religion, it’s capitalism.
That hasn’t always been so, but few adults under the age of 60 would know that Ayn Rand was once reviled by believers, that the working poor were once seen as honorable folk, and that churchgoing Christians did not always believe it their duty to defend the ways of Big Business. Indeed, there was once a time when even the U.S. Supreme Court looked askance at the depredations of large corporations.
Our recent history, however, has seen little of that. The end of the Soviet empire not only highlighted capitalism’s superiority over communism, but it also encouraged the notion that capitalism is perfect. It didn’t help that Ronald Reagan, who played a role in forcing the collapse of the Soviet system, popularized the idea that poor people were impoverished because of their innate flaws.
Taken together, those strains of thinking allowed business executives and their political allies, especially those in the Republican Party, to enshrine capitalist enterprise as a new religion — to be untouched by state regulation, to be left to work its will, to be allowed to run (and perhaps ruin) the planet.
The decades-long idolization of an amoral system helps explain the outrage on the right to the recent apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, whose 200-odd page “Joy of the Gospel” includes a stinging critique of capitalism. Rush Limbaugh, right on cue, rushed to denounce it as “pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope.” A more thoughtful rejoinder came from New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a conservative Catholic, who wrote: “When it comes to lifting the poor out of poverty, global capitalism, faults and all, has a better track record by far than any other system or approach.”
But the Pope’s analysis — and he did not mince words — still rings true. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘Thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” he wrote.
Pope Francis specifically defended government regulations that would emphasize fairness and balance, decrying “ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. … They reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born … which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.”
The Pope’s words matter despite the fact that his immediate influence is limited to Catholics. He commands a grand stage, and his exhortation will be hard to ignore.
That’s especially true since conservative Christians here in the U.S. have spent many years infusing politics with their right-wing religious views, claiming a moral basis for policies that are simply harsh and selfish. Among their more illogical positions is an insistence on denying abortions to poor women while also working to deny them the basic assistance, such as food stamps, they will need to support their children outside the womb.
When previous Catholic prelates emphasized an adherence to traditional social doctrines, their doctrines were embraced by conservative Protestants. They enjoyed having allies in their battles over issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
So let those conservatives now argue with a Pope who, despite reasserting his church’s more traditional teachings, has put the false god of capitalism back in its place. It is not a system that is inherently evil; rather, it is amoral, subject to the people who practice it. It stands in need of corrective impulses that place more value on the disadvantaged, the marginal, the excluded.
In particular, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who has often held up his Catholic beliefs to support his politics, should spend some time reflecting on Pope Francis’ renewed emphasis on social justice. If he does, he might renounce his allegiance to the atheist Ayn Rand, whose social views were Darwinian, and reverse sharp cuts to social programs that help those in need.