Thursday, January 6, 2011

Welcome to Dickens World

(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

This eager assault on the foundations of modern middle-class America is of a piece with tea party tantrums on the 14th Amendment, or Rand Paul’s views on the Civil Rights Act. The urge to austerity is epitomized in a movement that demands we return to the gold standard. Modern conservatism has exceeded its title: not content to stand still, today’s conservatives demand a great going backwards. They would spend the 21st Century undoing the 20th Century.” - OsborneInk

"We cannot and should not maintain a system where public employees are the haves and the taxpayers footing the bill are the have-nots." – Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

What kept you?

The first session of the 112th Congress yesterday was essentially the groundbreaking ceremony of a massive new theme park that’ll stretch from coast to coast. It’s tentatively called Dickens World, the exact analogue of Disney Land’s World of Tomorrow. The regressives’ Land of Yesterday will feature many things no longer seen in what used to be the real world: Social Security, Medicare, public and trade unions and lots and lots of schools.

The price of admission? Your pension, if you’re one of the lucky few to have one, and you’ll be fitted with an Oliver Twist costume comprised completely of rags. The concessions are costly but will consist entirely of gin and gruel (Sorry, you may not have a second helping).

And, of course, the park will be populated with actors in Sykes and Fagin costumes to ensure that we all stay in character of the little thieves that we are all reduced to.

That would those of us who’d insisted on getting another unemployment extension (“More?!”), holding on to the pensions for which we’d worked for decades, the power to bargain collectively, Social Security and Medicare. Those who reasonably insist on these things after having been promised them for these selfsame decades are now being relegated to urchin and hobo status, people who are a drain on the bottom line of billionaires, multimillionaire elected officials and others who can capriciously self deal themselves pay raises while balking at throwing us even a scrap.

As if the rollback to the 19th century on Capitol Hill isn’t bad enough, freshman Republican governors, most notoriously Chris Christie of New Jersey (reportedly a huge fan of Walt Disney’s theme parks) and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are targeting public unions, principally teacher’s unions, and in true right wing fashion are all but saying that they would love nothing more than to abolish those unions forever. They’ve already come out on many occasions to claim that they the teachers are the drain on the bottom line, not the bloated, jiggling billionaires and multimillionaires whose taxes have been cut every year since 2001 and are still begging for more, more, more.

And cutting public services such as the jobs, health care benefits and pensions of teachers, firefighters, police officers and so forth is all piously done on behalf of the taxpayer, the Have Nots in this Charles Dickens nightmare from which we may never again awake, not the bloated, jiggling billionaires and multimillionaires who are still begging for more, more, more.

That’s what’s so bottomlessly despicable, that Republicans and other regressives, including the fools who elected them, are trying to portray themselves as champions of the little guy and not at all of the billionaires for whom they nonetheless ruthlessly lobbied to have ruinous tax cuts extended as the cutoff date drew near. Instead, the Haves are portrayed by the radical right wing as being not the billionaires and Wall Street tycoons for whom they shamelessly work but teachers, cops and firefighters who make five figure salaries

“Now, They’re Coming After Us.”

A disgruntled Red Sox fan said of his team after the 1986 World Series, “The sons of bitches killed our fathers. Now they’re coming after us.”

Well, the sons of bitches that had killed our grandfathers (literally) as they went on strike demanding unions and collective bargaining power are coming after us, our children and our grandchildren. Because it’ll be our children and grandchildren who will have to pay the note to the Chinese when they call it in to pay for the tax cuts that one would think the Democrats could have ended if they’d but flexed a little muscle.

Just a few years ago, Republicans got the dry heaves at the thought of supporting Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security (still the biggest disappointment of his fantasy presidency). Now they’re openly lobbying for it just as they’re openly lobbying to smash all public and as many trade unions as possible, if the National Republican Governor’s Association’s annual meeting last November is any indication.

And regressives are moving with a ferociously focused and coordinated agenda as if fucking up state and federal budgets and responding with disaster capitalism was the idea all along, as if they were moving into a Phase 2 of a master plan that involved Republican and corporate greed resulting in an excuse to take away even more from the middle class.

Politicians of all stripes rarely if ever think beyond the next election cycle but corporate raiders, like al Qaeda and other terrorists, think in terms of decades. Because of Republican/corporate initiatives, we’re now a nation of temp workers and minimum wage-earning clerks forced to steal and hustle like little Oliver Twists at the behest of the Fagins of the nation while our Mr. Creosotes get more and more bloated while somehow, miraculously, never quite reaching the bursting point.

And the timing couldn’t be any better because after we start killing each other in loading docks over bottles of Fiji water and government cheese and the social discontent can no longer be blamed on a few malcontents and bad apples, they can always blame it on the Democrat sitting in the Oval Office during the next election year, point to him and say, “There’s your villain! Get him!!”

Of course, this nightmare all started during Reagan, the guy who cut the tax rate for the wealthiest from 70% to 31%, smashed PATCO and whose initiatives resulted in tens of thousands of auto workers losing their jobs because they, too, were considered a drain on the bottom line of Roger Smith’s GM and other automakers. We’re just now entering the REM cycle, which is why none of us are waking up.

What was once unthinkable, like gambling away Social Security and its $2.7 trillion surplus, is now business as usual for the “new” GOP.

And as we exit Dickens World much poorer than we were on arrival, the actors, still in costume and character, will serenade us with a jeering rendition of “Happy Days Are Here, Again!” as we limp into a swollen red sun setting into a bruised, mottled horizon.

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