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PRESIDENTIAL PRONOUNCEMENTS AND LAMENTS OF THE UNDERCLASS (PART II)

December 8, 2014

PRESIDENTIAL PRONOUNCEMENTS AND LAMENTS OF THE UNDERCLASS (PART II)

Tirado: “I know a lot of people think that I’m supposed to be a good little worker bee and do my part to help move the wheels of capitalism. I just don’t see what’s in it for me anymore beyond my little paycheck. Think of it this way: At my earning peak, I made approximately nineteen cents a minute before taxes.” (And, ironically, a portion of her taxes went to support corporate welfare for businesses like the ones that were underpaying her in a classic example of support for the rich by the poor.)

Tirado the author has just made the case for how labor is treated in this land in time and day of wage inequality. She is also making the case for “If I am mistreated by those who define capitalism to their own advantage, why should I care about them or the system since they obviously have no concern for me and my well-being and capitalism as thus practiced just doesn’t work for me.” She has a point. Why should she care? There is no reward in caring. Caring as thus seen is an illogical if not masochistic response. Why pull a Stockholm Syndrome response to the benefit of one’s persecutors?

Although disclaiming any intent to become violent, start a revolution or engage in civil commotion, and denying that the one percent need to hire extra bodyguards on her account, she has this advice for the superrich: “If you feel that something must be done before the villagers find their pitchforks, here is what you can do: Stop being a —- to service workers whenever possible. Start filling out those stupid surveys when someone’s done their job well. . .” Here Tirado is angry because of a perceived lack of respect for service workers who live on this earth along with the one percent. Her allusion to pitchforks suggests that reform is needed not only in fair pay but in labor’s right to be respected for their contributions to society, a respect currently absent in states that have passed right to work and other labor suppression legislation. She again makes a good point.

Tirado: “I earn my wages with my scars. . . I’ve burned my hands because the oven gloves had worn through and the owners were too cheap to spring for another pair. I’ve sliced my fingers open nearly to the bone when the knives have slipped. I’ve dropped heavy equipment on my feet because I didn’t have time to wash the grease off my hands. I’ve hurt myself in more ways than I can count because that was how I got my seven or eight bucks an hour.” What a commentary on working conditions! Working conditions used to be one of the bargaining points between unions and management until Republicans decided to de-unionize America with their bizarre and Jurassic so-called “right to work” laws.

Even sadder – these Tirado quotes: “I’m not preparing our kids for a gentle world, full of interesting and stimulating experiences. I’m getting them ready to keep their damn mouths shut while some idiot tells them what to do,” and “I get that poor people’s coping mechanisms aren’t cute. Really I do. But what I don’t get is why other people feel so free in judging us for them. As if our self-destructive behaviors therefore justify and explain our crappy lives.”

Tirado bitterly attacks the cruel and hypocritical tirades of the rich against the poor with statements such as these: “We’re told to keep smiling, and to be grateful for the chance to barely survive while being blamed for not succeeding.” “It is impossible to be good with money when you don’t have any.” “I have trouble understanding why taking a few grand a year in food stamps is somehow magically different than taking trillions as a bailout.” (Note to Tirado – the only difference is that Wall Street banks hit the bailout jackpot and you poor people threw snake eyes in sharing public largesse.)

Tirado finally wonders how America can be surprised by her recital of what is (and isn’t) going on. She writes “How can the rest of the country live knowing that so many of us have to live like this?” One reviewer answers her question in cynical fashion as follows: “I have an answer to this poor person’s question. The rest of the country will manage just fine, because it never cared about you and never will.” What a response! Is this what America has become, a snake pit of uncaring and greedy inhabitants interested only in further and further acquisition and to blazes with their fellow Americans in need? If so, then how much longer can social cohesion hold us together and how much longer can we keep pretending that we are living in a democracy? If America is just a piece of land devoted entirely to snarling competitors in pursuit of profit oblivious to their human and physical environments, then why claim to have a country at all when all you really have is a marketplace?  If that’s all we have, then stop the train because I want to get off. I see neither national identity nor purpose in a world of trading and hedging assets and liabilities where all policy is designed to reflect such a mercantile arrangement.

Republicans used to be the progressive party, having not yet been acquired by Wall Street and its minions. Less than 140 years ago and while we were still clearing the country of Indians, Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes noted that “Now the great problem is to rid our country of the conflict between wealth and poverty without destroying either society or civilization, or liberty & free government.” It is clear that we have not solved that problem during the some 140 year interval since, and though we managed to survive the Gilded Age (with the help of another Republican trust-busting president, Teddy Roosevelt), I am not sure we will survive today’s reincarnation of that 19th century misadventure since Republicans are pro-greed and Democrats are only lukewarm in opposition.

One reviewer points out that “Linda Tirado is a credible, passionate and sometimes powerful expresser of the poverty she describes” and notes that when her mouth was injured in an automobile accident, her teeth kept decaying because she had to choose between fixing them and getting a new car, which she needed to get to work. She herself noted that “For years my diet consisted of whatever food at work had become expired for service most recently.” She is one of millions mired in poverty with no exit.

Linda Tirado and almost all of her fellow Americans other than those in the corporate and investment class will be disappointed to learn that the corporate welfare and greed beat goes on and on while the poor scramble for food and perhaps a dry spot under the bridge. Thus The Week magazine in its December 5, 2014 edition published a clip here set forth as a quote: “Seven of the 30 largest U.S. companies paid their chief executives more last year than the firms did in federal taxes. Boeing, Ford, Chevron, Citigroup, Verizon, JP Morgan Chase and General Motors reported more than $74 billion in combined U.S. pre-tax profits BUT COLLECTIVELY RECEIVED MORE THAN $1.9 BILLION IN FEDERAL TAX REFUNDS.”  Linda Tirado and the rest of us who had taxable income last year helped fund those refunds to Wall Street banks, an oil company and others not set forth in the magazine’s report. JP Morgan Chase Bank, the biggest bank on Wall Street thus paid less taxes last year than Linda Tirado (or Gerald E).

Is change politically available to excise this cancer of poverty? Not yet. We need losers.    GERALD    E

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