Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Orwellian doublespeak

From the Orwell dictionary:

Right to work. A labor law philosophy that gives workers the rights to be paid low wages, work in unsafe and unfavorable working conditions, and be fired at any time with no notice and no reason.

Voter integrity. Measures intended to prevent certain groups of people from voting, ostensibly to combat the rampant in-person voter fraud. Measures include draconian photo identification requirements and restrictions on same-day voter registration and early voting.

Entitlement reform. Any number of measures intended to kill New Deal programs and their derivatives. Typically this means doing things like raising the retirement age, and privatizing Social Security and Medicare. Also known as increasing big banks' and insurance companies' market shares.

School choice. Any number of measures aimed at giving taxpayer dollars to private businesses and religious groups, so that parents can have a choice to not send their kids to school with "those people."

Protecting women's health. Imposing prohibitively expensive and unnecessary regulations on clinics that provide abortions, causing many to close, is supposed to protect women's health. Also, preventing women from free or low-cost cancer screenings, contraception, and other services is protecting women's health.

Fiscal restraint. Usually means first cutting the top marginal income tax rates, then increasing defense spending (including often going to war of some kind or another).

Tax reform. Shifting from progressive income taxes to regressive sales taxes. Frequently includes imposing new sales taxes on goods and services used by working class people (movie tickets, car and appliance repairs), but not on goods and services used by more affluent folks (greens fees, brokerage fees).

Flat tax. The ultimate tax reform, resulting in a single tax rate with no deductions. "Submit your tax return on a postcard" to some unknown entity, because a flat tax includes abolishing the IRS. The flat tax does not usually include income from investments (capital gains, interest, dividends), which punishes labor and rewards wealth.

Gun safety. Having a loaded gun, with safety off, everywhere, all the time, in order to either repel the hordes of radical Islamic terrorists or take out, with sniper precision, some "bad guy with a gun" in a dark movie theater or crowded subway car or church worship service or local bar. Also having a 30-round semi-automatic .223 lightweight rifle to resist the tyrannical government's B-2 bombers and FA-18 jets and artillery and tanks, or to make deer sausage in the field.

Immigration reform. Making sure certain business sectors (agriculture, construction, hospitality, healthcare) have a steady supply of cheap workers who can't complain about pay or working conditions for fear of being deported. In other words, maintaining the status quo.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit, Trump, and Nativism

Last night, the people of the UK voted to leave the European Union. The geopolitical and economic ramifications of this vote will be far reaching, with many no doubt unforeseen consequences as this decision takes hold.

Some news reports have already suggested that even those who voted "LEAVE" were voting more in protest, without regard to practical results like dissolution of EU trade rules with the Continent. No doubt those who chafed against open borders will chafe anew at increased difficulties in crossing the Channel for holiday in the south of France.

This vote marks a kind of official endorsement of the kind of nativist backlash that is fueling the Trump campaign in the United States. That nativism has its roots in the Jim Crow South, with its ideological forebears the segregationists like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. The parallels between the followers of Trump and those of George Wallace a half century ago are striking.

Trump apologists dress up this anger in the finery of economic populism. They distract the disgruntled public away from the systemic wage theft resulting from a tax code that encourages accumulation of massive wealth over compensating the labor that creates that wealth. Instead, the right wing political machine has directed white working class anger at "those people" who are taking their jobs, rather than at the "job creators" who hoard cash in offshore tax havens, breaking it out only to buy out other companies.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Thoughts and Prayers

Early on Sunday Morning, June 12, 2016, a gunman opened fire with an AR-15 in a nightclub in Orlando. At least 50 people died, and another 50 or more were injured in another act of mass violence, using a weapon designed for war.

With this latest mass shooting comes the usual statements, tweets, and facebook posts from politicians and other public figures offering their "thoughts and prayers." Numerous social media memes show votive candles, various colored ribbons, and other symbols of support for the "victims and their families." Columbine, Washington Navy Yard, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tuscon, Mother Emanuel, San Bernardino, Orlando...the list goes on and on. Beneath these headlines is the steady drumbeat of 80 gun deaths every day in America, and the endless litany of "thoughts and prayers."

Maybe, like the prophets of Baal, our prayers are not loud enough, our petitions not flamboyant enough, our tweets not perfectly worded, and our facebook posts not clever enough. Or maybe we have forgotten the command of Christ to "pray in secret to God who hears in secret." Maybe we are guilty of following the form of religion, while ignoring its power. Or maybe we are leaning on our own understanding, afraid that God's answer will show that what we know to be true is completely wrong.

I don't know any answers anymore. And I don't want to posit any ideas to attack the scourge of gun violence that threatens the very existence of freedom. All I know is that I'm afraid of the world that our two brand new grandchildren will grow up in.

Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.