Same World, Next Year

I’m an ambivalent blogger, my engagement with the world always tenuous. Though as a child I was a very shy, I am not that now. But according to the Myers-Briggs assessment, I am an introvert. This news will shock a lot of people. But the Myers-Briggs definitions of introvert and extrovert are different from the common understanding. It isn’t a matter of being retiring versus gregarious. The question is what feeds your psychic energy – what recharges you – being with people or being alone? A Briggs-Meyers extrovert is actually energized by engagement with other people. Bill Clinton – tough, huh? In contrast, a Briggs-Meyers introvert may well be a gregarious person, but he is depleted of energy by his contact with others and needs, finally, to withdraw into himself, to be alone and apart in order to recharge on his separation.

So I took two weeks off from blogging for the holidays, retreated over the New Year to a cabin among the trees by a creek – and I wish I were still there. Much of what usually draws my attention on the blog, on what we call around here this sad red earth, I’m finding, truth be told, a little repellant. In order to persevere as a blogger, then, it is a good thing that I have the pressing need that I do to write, and that I a have strong natural capacity for irritation.

You know – “Every time I think I’m out…”

I could begin anywhere in the world, but why not here at home?

Darrell Issa
Image via Wikipedia

Darrell Issa.

I propose the following list of exclusions from any right to hold public office in the United States:

that one has ever

  1. used the word Nazi in referring to a president of the opposite party
  2. used the word Socialist in referring to a president of the opposite party
  3. (Use of the word Nazi and Socialist interchangeably should result in forfeiture of citizenship, in favor of any of the young men and women who might have gained citizenship through passage of the DREAM Act, which passage was denied in not insignificant measure by people who violate prohibitions 1 and 2 above, or who dream of violating them but refrain due to the ubiquity of cell phones.)
  4. declared a president of the opposite party to be evil
  5. declared, due to disagreement with, shockingly, the disagreeable policies of a president of the other party, that our democracy is in immediate peril, and
    1. cited any Federalist Paper in support thereof
    2. quoted Thomas Jefferson on one of his pissy days
    3. cited Abraham Lincoln or any other convenient demi-god describing the conditions that will spell our end as a free people and determined – Oh. My. God. – that those conditions are exactly what we are living through today: it’s right there in front of our faces.
  6. suggested that any symbol on U.S. paper currency – particularly a symbol containing an eye – has hidden meaning explanatory of 4.c. above
  7. stated even before his own politically bilious congressional investigations have actually, well – investigated anything, that a president of the opposite party is “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.”

This is the Darrell Issa who, spouting the GOP party-line insincerity about budget reform, including reduction in the congressional budget, will now, he declares, spend many millions of public dollars launching, in the new GOP-led House,

investigations on everything from WikiLeaks to Fannie Mae to corruption in Afghanistan in the first few months of what promises to be a high-profile chairmanship of the top oversight committee in Congress

simply because – we all know it – he doesn’t like President Obama’s politics. The GOP criminalization of political difference proceeds apace.

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 26:  (L-R) U.S. Rep. Dar...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

But this is crude political duncery compared to the manner in which the GOP increasingly pursues a strategy of oligarchic reaction: the setting of different segments of the middle class against each other in order to obscure concentrations of wealth and power. When the financial and banking sectors nearly brought down the world economy through reckless and greedy manipulations of a housing bubble, the GOP chose to blame, instead, reckless and greedy homeowners for taking out the subprime and substandard loans they never should have been offered. Now that that these companies have been bailed out and brought back, already, to billions in profits and billions in securities sector bonuses, in the second most profitable year in Wall Street history, the GOP (or Gland Ole Ponzi, as one new blogger has coined it) continues to promote the line – after decades of demonizing unions in general and teachers unions more particularly – that it is public employee unions and their pensions that overburden municipalities and states and threaten their financial health.

The New York Times thus reported Sunday that Public Workers Face Outrage as Budget Crises Grow.

Across the nation, a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable, as a wounded economy has blown gaping holes in state, city and town budgets, and revealed that some public pension funds dangle perilously close to bankruptcy. In California, New York, Michigan and New Jersey, states where public unions wield much power and the culture historically tends to be pro-labor, even longtime liberal political leaders have demanded concessions — wage freezes, benefit cuts and tougher work rules.

Of course, the major reason that such a “rising irritation” is “palpable” is that conservative politicians – who bemoan the slightest hint of “class warfare” in liberal rhetoric – have been promoting this meme of middle-class greed among the (take note) government employed for some years now. No GOP office holder has done so more aggressively than New Jersey’s Chris Christie, who in truly vile demagogic fashion denounced the “mindless, faceless” union leaders he blames for the unfunded liabilities of New Jersey’s public employee pensions. In truth, these union leaders all hold publicly regulated offices, are all well-known and easily identified. What about, in contrast – to speak of the overpaid who produce too little and make too much – the “masters of the universe” who traded mortgage derivatives and credit default swaps into government bailouts? Can you put any faces to them? Impressed with their minds – really – the past couple of years? Ah, but that would interrupt Christie’s guttural cry.

Whether all expenses during hard times and fiscal crisis need to cut is not the point. The point, as always with American conservatism, is the honesty of the debate, and the point is the honesty of the debate because of the ulterior motive, the strategic political goal in these conservative campaigns. We can – and others will – reveal that Texas, a state with a weak public sector and unions, has one of the largest projected budget deficits over the next two years. We can point out that the single greatest cause of the increase in unfunded pension liabilities – and recovery from them – is stock market fluctuation, the same stock market to which conservatives want individuals, with the power of one, to redirect their social security savings. We can recall that, for instance, in the early 1970s the funding level of the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), the second largest public employee pension system in the nation, was only 29 percent, far below what it is today, after which it rose to 110 percent in 2000, then fell, then rose, now has fallen again to 77 percent, all with the market.

We can consider that the second major reason that New Jersey’s unfunded pension liabilities are so high is that the state has not made any contribution to the state pension system in 13 of the past 17 years. It chose to misspend its money elsewhere. That’s one way to create unfunded liabilities. Meanwhile, Christie vetoed a proposed millionaire’s tax in the past year. As always, on whose wallets we try to balance budgets is a political choice.

As always, this is not really a budgetary dispute. It is ideological warfare. For three decades, American conservatives have waged war on labor unions, and largely been victorious. Millions of the complacent and historically ignorant have no memory of the first half of the twentieth century, or the latter half of the nineteenth that made it necessary, so they have been persuaded over thirty years of stagnant wage growth for most Americans and unprecedented wealth creation for the richest Americans that labor unions are not only not needed, but a social ill. The attack on unions was, in part, an attack on the natural adversary of conscienceless capital, but it was also, just as fundamentally an assault on collectivity.

For conservatives, public sector unions are the prime face of collectivity: not merely unions – now, because of the victory over private sector unionism, the largest union sector – but government unions, government workers, the very visage of government as a collective entity.

The war on unions was a war on the American worker, the working and middle classes. See how well they have fared with the decline of unions?

The war on public sector unions –disguised as a budgetary argument – is a war on government, part of the attempt to undo every government-ensured progressive achievement of the twentieth century.

Because, you know, an unregulated Wal-Mart nation is the path to prosperity and security.


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