Friday, August 21, 2009

Why Slackers Are Right & The Entertainment Value of Snuffing Grandma

In a time of workplace suicides surging 28 percent last year,* Joe Bageant (I really love this take-no-prisoners guy) cuts us a new avenue for understanding why the health care finance reform bill will never contain any options that solely benefit the overworked and underpaid underclasses (and why unions and good education are a thing of the past for the 99% of the workforce who are work slaves). He also clears up why people are so interested in hearing (every five minutes on Faux Snooze) about killing their grandparents. (It's a long essay today with links to three others which are more than worth your while, so put on a pot and pull up your chair.) (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Eddie and his fellow underclass Americans are stuck here. They have no idea that industrialized people elsewhere as poor as themselves do not live in such fear. They have no idea that old people in Sydney or Stockholm do not, as Eddie does, have to cut their blood pressure pills in half doses because they cannot afford to refill the prescription, which requires a doctor visit for re-authorization, plus $40 for the prescription monthly. We're talking about a man here in his seventies, living on about $800 a month, who, according to national social policy and benefits, is supposedly protected by Medicare - but chose the wrong plan under the purposefully confusing plan C, which is just another way to shift more money and profits uphill. But what if the profits were distributed more equally among full time American workers? What if that one percent of Americans last year had not earned as much as the bottom 45 percent combined? Every working American would be earning $72,394 per year at the least (a 2007 calculation). And there would be enough left over to double all Social Security payments to boot. And this is allowing for necessary industrial social reinvestment, taxes, balancing of trade deficits. An excellent calculation table of this can be found in the appendix of Charles Andrews' book, "No Rich, No Poor." I've asked a couple of capitalism loving economists to refute this table. One admits he cannot and the other refuses to return my calls.

I'd like to believe that Joe is really doing us a favor by putting this in laymen's terms (and giving us the lowdown on why kids today look forward to working for the Mob when they grow up.)

The Entertainment Value of Snuffing Grandma

A nation of children roots for the Mafia By Joe Bageant Every day I get letters asking me to weigh in on the healthcare fracas. As if a redneck writer armed with a keyboard, a pack of smokes and all the misinformation and vitriol available on the Internet could contribute anything to the crap storm already in progress. Besides that, my unreasoned but noisy take on this issue is often about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. None of which has ever stopped me from making a fool of myself in the past. So here goes. There ain't any healthcare debate going on, Bubba. What is going on are mob negotiations about insurance, and which mob gets the biggest chunk of the dough, be it our taxpayer dough or the geet that isn't in ole Jim's impoverished purse. The hoo-ha is about the insurance racket, not the delivery of healthcare to human beings. It's simply another form of extorting the people regarding a fundamental need - health. Unfortunately, the people have been mesmerized by our theater state's purposefully distracting and dramatic media productions for so long they've been mutated toward helplessness. Consequently, they are incapable of asking themselves a simple question: If insurance corporation profits are one third of the cost of healthcare, and all insurance corporations do is deliver our money to healthcare providers for us (or actually, do everything in their power to keep the money for themselves), why do we need insurance companies at all?

Answer: Because Wall Street gets a big piece of the action. And nobody messes with the Wall Street Mob (as the bailout extortion money proved). Better (and worse) presidents have tried. Some made a genuine effort to push it through Congress. Others expressed the desire publicly, but after getting privately muscled by the healthcare industry, decided to back off from the idea.

For instance: \ Franklin Roosevelt wanted universal healthcare.

\ Harry Truman wanted universal healthcare.

\ Dwight Eisenhower wanted universal healthcare.

\ Richard Nixon wanted universal healthcare.

\ Lyndon Johnson wanted universal healthcare.

\ Bill Clinton wanted - well we can't definitely say because he made sure that if the issue blew up on him, which it did, Hillary would be left holding the turd. Is it any wonder that woman gets so snappy at the slightest provocation? First getting left to hold the bag on healthcare, then the spots on that blue dress.

So why did American liberals believe Obama would bring home the healthcare bacon? Because they live in an ideological cupcake land. It's a big neighborhood, a very special place where "Your vote is important," and "by electing the right candidate, you can change our beloved nation." Most of America lives in that neighborhood, even though they've never personally met. It's a place where the shrubbery and flowerbeds of such things as "values" and "hope" bloom. Hope that our desires coupled with the efforts of a good and decent president can affect "change." Evidently these voters never heard the old adage, "Hope in one hand and piss in the other, and see which one fills up first." The slaughter of the innocents by the healthcare lobby has pretty much extinguished the political usefulness of the word hope. Nobody, especially Obama, uses it now. The first on-stage scuffle of the Obama administration, government assured healthcare, quickly settled down into the accustomed scenario of very rich and powerful people in expensive suits "finding middle ground," otherwise known as the status quo. Single payer healthcare soon became "a consumer government alternative to private insurance," and is now "a system of health cooperatives. Next comes "slightly better health insurance (but not medical services) than before, from the same insurance companies but at twice the price; don't worry though, we're increasing your tax load so you can afford it." The televised screaming matches, having served their purpose, are over now. The presidency and the nation have settled back into the normalcy of the officially sanctioned state consciousness and its curious non-language, one modified and shaped daily by corporate and government symbiosis. Over generations we've come to internalize this imagistic language, which is quite theatrical when heated up for public consumption and dully bureaucratic when attention is to be avoided. But always it is void of content and any sort of truth. In the corporately managed theater state, it's not whether a thing is true that matters, but how it sounds and looks and what you call it. Call end of life counseling a "death panel," and you've just turned mercy and choice into one more Great Satan. In the end though, healthcare American style comes down to the preferences of two elite castes, Congress and corporate powers, neither of which can exist without the other. Corporations need the government to sanction their methods of extracting wealth from the public. Congress needs corporations to finance its campaign chariot races. Right now members of Congress have an excellent chance of putting the arm on healthcare industry lobbyist for some real cash: Senator Smedley Heathwood: "Oh, I dunno, I'm sort of liking Obama's alternative." Godzilla Healthcare Inc.: "Here, take this suitcase full of gold bullion, call me if you run short. And remember, we've got that ‘Life is a pre-existing condition' bill coming up in the Senate soon." Siamese twins, joined at the hip, they share the same goal, preservation of control - the government's social control and the corporations' economic control. And you cannot have one without the other. Obama got elected on hope of reform, despite that one cannot reform a mafia, only pay increased extortion moneys.

He's fortunate that it was not a genuine demand for reform, just hope. We're fortunate we did not demand reform because we're not going to get it. Obama doesn't have to reform the healthcare industry mob. All he has to do is look like he took a shot at it, and hope it's convincing enough. What we've seen is probably his best shot, too. Why not? There is always the off chance it might work, in which case his "presidential legacy" would be assured. And if it doesn't, well, the serious progressives who are screeching mad at him now will still have to vote for him as the incumbent in 2012. Or learn to love somebody like Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush, Rick Santorum (take your pick) or some as-yet-unknown the GOP drags out from under the hen house and ballyhoos as a "new face." Luckily, Dick Cheney is out of the question, barring a coup by the far right wing of the schizophrenic GOP. But still, after Palin, one shudders at the prospects. Whatever happens, we will not see Congress stand up against the extortion of its people by the healthcare industry. We will not see even the most ordinary kind of healthcare declared as a human right, as it is in so many other nations. We will see, however, greater access to the public treasury by the insurance corporations. Every nation in the world is now party to at least one treaty that addresses health as a human right, including the conditions necessary for the delivery of health services. Healthcare is a right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Hell, even Saddam Hussein provided healthcare. That Americans cannot grasp this fundamental aspect of human rights (but then we cannot even get child nutrition, or limiting the number of times you can taser an old lady in an airport, out of the starting gate) and join the civilized world and assure its people of such things is testimony. Testimony that we live in a vacuum exclusive of the accepted standard of mercy and decency common to civilized democratic nations elsewhere. Testimony that even we the citizenry would rather maintain and spread lies than accept truths such as most people in countries with universal healthcare would not ever give it up in favor of the U.S. system. Most of all though, it is testimony that we live under an induced mass hallucination where spectacle replaces fact, information and common sense. In place of actionable information, we are served up screaming red faces - angry mobs manufactured for TV protesting "government interference in the people's healthcare choices." One must wonder what inchoate anger is really being tapped by the organizers of these strange "citizen protests." As usual, the straw boogeyman of socialism is once more invoked. "Oh my god! I'll have to give up my $1,100 a month insurance bill, which only pays 80% of my insurance costs AFTER I pay the initial $5,000 of those costs! If that ain't Joe Stalin all over again, I don't know what is!" We get the false media drama of "death panels." And being captives of spectacle and hyperbole, we friggin love it. The idea of death panels plays to our childish attraction to the extreme and entertaining. Killing Grandma is far more entertaining to our imaginations than say, guaranteed access to chest screens and blood pressure medicine. Two generations into this national infantilization, it's now the only national life we know - the ideological spectacle made real. To steal a page from Guy Debord, society has become ideology. We live in an antidialectical false consciousness, imposed at every moment on everyday life as spectacle. We are held in thrall. Our faculty of ordinary encounter has been systematically broken down. In its place we now have our unique social hallucination. Never do we encounter anything directly, yet we get the illusion of encounter. This includes encounter with each other. Anyone who lives in meatspace with his or her fellow Americans could not deny 57 million of them health. In this society no one is any longer capable of recognizing anyone else. Instead, we see others as the screamers at the town hall meetings, or as communists who want to give free healthcare to illegals and establish death panels. Or as Christian fundamentalists, or as liberals or conservatives. Or as celebrities or as nobodies. But most importantly, whenever we must reach any significant agreement as human beings, whether it be about something as globally insignificant as U.S. domestic policy (we are only 6% of the world population, and though it hasn't soaked in yet to most Americans, we're also broke and owe the Chinese loan shark a wad) or as significant as global warming, we immediately cede the field to ideology. We simply don't know how to do anything else. Ideology has utterly triumphed. It has separated us from ourselves and built itself a home inside our consciousness, from whence it operates now as our reality. There is no going back, only forward. Given that we are a nation of children who prefer to close our eyes and make a hopeful wish with Tinkerbelle, rather than give hope the piss test, then let us hope to high hell. We may as well go for broke. So let us hope that, in going forward, new and unforeseen developments in the national consciousness occur. Developments that offer an escape from this one so deeply colonized by the corpo-political machinery we created - and which in turn recreated us. One that will break us loose from enthrallment. Maybe collision with a giant asteroid. Or that Garth Brooks will be barred from making a fifth comeback tour. That's one hope. A consciousness shattering event by American standards. Another hope is for an absolute and total collapse of the system. At this point, I'll take what I can get.

And how did those slackers come up smelling like roses? Even though their children want to grow up and work for the mob (and not only as a last resort)? Joe Bageant explicates these lessons for us in an exchange with one of his correspondents.

From the beginning of recorded history there have been slaves and other forms of cheap labor. For many centuries, most people were just subsisting. Whether they were serfs, owned a small plot or otherwise got by, they were effectively slaves to their work in order to survive. When serfdom ended with the industrial revolution, people were able to switch to the cheap labor jobs in factories. Then with workers uniting in unions, things got a little better, but we were still slaves to our job because even those of us who had a middle management job, were still only a paycheck or two from losing everything. I used to tell my wife that even though I had a job which I had some control over and could decide what I was going to do on a given day, I was still a job slave because we could only survive for about three months without at least a job that paid about the same as the one I had. We are all effectively job slaves even if we have what we consider a good job with good pay and we are never going to get rich working as we do. Now in the last forty years there has been a concerted effort by employers to take back our gains and put us in (what they think is) our proper place. And sadly even though we could control our government by changing our elected reps, we never do it. We are as bought and paid for as Congress is. David ------ David, Amen brother! American capitalism needs a laboring underclass to survive. It requires that all participants be wage slaves. At the present, American capitalism has little to fear. Americans are convinced that jobs are the object of the game, especially well paying jobs, are that jobs are the answer to all economic problems and moreover, the purpose of life. Oh sure, working class Americans' outrage over such things as $55 million CEO salaries has more to do with the fact that their corporations went bankrupt than that the CEOs looted the companies. Regular working class folks are pissed at them not because of their greed and criminality, but because, as my friend Eddie said yesterday at the Twilight Zone Cafe here in Winchester, "The CEO's didn't do their jobs, and so other people lost their jobs." They see corporations as the great givers of jobs. Jobs are everything. And so the looting CEO and the corporation cutting cuts jobs to make the books look good for the big guys on Wall Street, are not guilty of looting, or cooking the books. They are guilty of "not doing their jobs," as if their "jobs" in any way resembled what the rest of us do. Workers know only work and jobs, because they have been undereducated, misinformed, university indoctrinated and psychologically pistol whipped into submission. It is utterly ridiculous that any adult cannot figure out the obvious inequity of this nation and American capitalism, where an elite one percent of the people grab 45% of the national pie. Such a conditioned stupidity and powerlessness makes you want to cry for your country. Or just get out of the goddamned place for long periods of time, to keep some sort of perspective and your sanity. I do some of both. But Eddie and his fellow underclass Americans are stuck here. They have no idea that industrialized people elsewhere as poor as themselves do not live in such fear.

They have no idea that old people in Sydney or Stockholm do not, as Eddie does, have to cut their blood pressure pills in half doses because they cannot afford to refill the prescription, which requires a doctor visit for re-authorization, plus $40 for the prescription monthly. We're talking about a man here in his seventies, living on about $800 a month, who, according to national social policy and benefits, is supposedly protected by Medicare - but chose the wrong plan under the purposefully confusing plan C, which is just another way to shift more money and profits uphill. But what if the profits were distributed more equally among full time American workers? What if that one percent of Americans last year had not earned as much as the bottom 45 percent combined?

Every working American would be earning $72,394 per year at the least (a 2007 calculation). And there would be enough left over to double all Social Security payments to boot. And this is allowing for necessary industrial social reinvestment, taxes, balancing of trade deficits. An excellent calculation table of this can be found in the appendix of Charles Andrews' book, "No Rich, No Poor." I've asked a couple of capitalism loving economists to refute this table. One admits he cannot and the other refuses to return my calls. But the truth is that the $78,000 a year doesn't mean shit. The price of that, redistributed or not, still means the destruction of what natural resources remain on the earth, simply because of the capitalist system we use to generate a money-based wealth economy instead of a labor or social credit based economy. One of the most insightful things I've ever heard came back in the 1990s out of the mouth of the dumbest looking slacker kid you can possibly imagine, a kid named Chris B. "Dude," he said, "money IS slavery."

Read the rest here. And think deeply. Suzan ____________________________

* WASHINGTON (AP) - Workplace suicides surged 28 percent last year, the Labor Department said Thursday, as anxious workers dealt with a struggling economy and watched colleagues depart in a rash of layoffs.

At the same time, the agency's Bureau of Labor Statistics said the total number of workers who died on the job from any cause fell by 10 percent.

The 5,071 workplace fatalities recorded in 2008 was the lowest number since the agency began tracking the data in 1992. That number includes 251 suicides, the highest number since official reporting began.

Labor officials did not seek to explain the sudden rise in workplace suicides. A BLS spokesman said the agency plans to research it more extensively.

The agency says economic factors could be responsible for the overall decline in fatalities. Workers on average worked 1 percent fewer hours last year and the construction industry - which usually accounts for a major share of accidental workplace deaths - posted even larger declines in employment or hours worked.

Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., said the numbers suggest the struggling economy taking a toll on worker morale.

"Those who are at places where there have been substantial layoffs are trying to cope with survivor's guilt," Chaison said. "I also think there's tremendous anxiety in the American workplace. It's not just being anxious, its being depressed."

2 comments:

Michael Hart said...

Suze,

Poignant, disturbing, but ultimately not helpful— unless you take out your kudzu machete and hack down the cynicism of despair, and embrace hope and change; not hope and "reform." Fuck "reform." We elected Obama because we hoped he would bring CHANGE— change for the better; not the deviously stupid dance of corporate dicks trying to convince us we can reform shit a little bit and things will be fine.

Will he break free and embrace real paradigm shifting change once he's given these useless fucks enough rope to hang themselves? I still hope so. The talking, screaming, how-stupid-can-this-get stage is almost over. Let these fuckwads think they are safe in their trench of power and money. Soon all these goons and spineless leaders are going to start feeling the sting of physical violence directed right at them.

Suzan said...

Thanks for the wisdom, Michael.

But I never thought I'd read this from you.

Soon all these goons and spineless leaders are going to start feeling the sting of physical violence directed right at them.

Calm down. It'll be over soon.

Hacking away,

S