Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 297 – Confessions of a Former Voldemort Republican

          I put a tweet up yesterday in which I referred to myself as a Voldemort Republican. I’m really not anymore—probably I never was—but I still think the concept is incredibly funny. I got it from a t-shirt/bumper sticker ad I saw during the last presidential election, but it seems that the concept actually originated with an online comic strip called Goats, which is written and drawn by Jonathan Rosenberg.
          That the humor has been embraced, one would think mostly by Democrats, speaks volumes about the low esteem in which Republicans were generally held leading up to the election of Barack Obama as president. Voldemort is of course the principal antagonist from the Harry Potter franchise. Voldemort is the embodiment of overarching patrician conservatism suffused with an unrelentingly callous evil. This is pretty much the way a lot of people still talk about George W. Bush.
          I always liked George Bush. I thought he was naïve at times, maybe even a little stupid, but I never regarded him as evil. He’s an affable, down-home kind of goof-ball born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He’s a contradiction and an occasional buffoon, but he is not evil. By the same token I do not think that Barack Obama is a Nigerian Islamic communist. I do not think he has an agenda to take my money and redistribute it to the poor and disadvantaged. I do no think he is pursuing a reverse racist agenda.
I think each of these presidents did or is doing the best they can, given their particular ideological proclivities and extremely difficult circumstances. I’m giving them a break. This doesn’t mean I agree with the policies of either of them. In fact, just the opposite. I think they’ve both made a lot of mistakes. I’m just not about to presuppose that I, or anyone I know or know of for that matter, could do any better.
          I’m tired of the slash and burn rhetoric from both sides of the political equation. I’m tired of congressional votes that divide along party lines. I’m tired of the no-quarter-taken-and-none-given lack of compromise on all sides. Republicans were only too happy to give $1.5 trillion to GM, Chrysler, AIG and 13 banks when they thought the world as we knew it would come to an end if chips fell where they may. Now they don’t want to part with a few paltry billion in unemployment benefits because they’re afraid the world as we know it might come to an end unless the chips fall where they may. If they are truly interested in making the country a better place for its citizens, they have chosen an odd place to draw the line on stimulus.
          Just as bad, the Democrats were determined to pass health care reform just to prove that they could, but they couldn’t be bothered to listen to anyone else’s ideas, so we got reform that isn’t and cost savings that don’t. Is there anyone out there who is interested in actually fixing some of our formidable problems? All our politicians and all our pundits act like fundamentalist evangelists who would rather prove that their own personal interpretation of scripture is correct than to actually lead a soul to salvation.
          A few days ago (August 12) there was an article posted at the Fox Forum by John Lott blaming the Democrats for a recent, and nearly insignificant, spike in unemployment claims. Lott believes, along with a lot of other people apparently, that unemployment benefits create unemployment claims. This theory has been debunked nearly as many times as the flat earth, but still it persists. It persists because people are afraid that someone undeserving is going to end up with some of their money. They are afraid some lay-about like me is going to use extended unemployment benefits to fuel my yacht and stock my liquor cabinet with high dollar single-malt scotch. They are afraid that the Democrats are orchestrating a massive shift of wealth into the hands of the poor who are, after all, poor for a reason.
          A person calling himself ‘webedun’ who commented on Lott’s post put it most succinctly: “It's the ‘CLOWARD & PIVEN STRATEGY’ they've had in the works since the '60's. Google it. Glenn Beck saw this coming something like a year ago. Just look it up and learn. You'll see the Progressive's plan to take down the Government.” Well I did Google it, and I have to say that I don’t think that ‘webedun’ looked it up himself. He just took Glen Beck’s word for what Cloward and Piven were all about, and then he tried to apply it to a case where it doesn’t really fit.
          The Cloward and Piven Strategy was a proposal by two sociologists back in 1966 for a massive registration of qualifying poor people in order to create a welfare crisis and thereby force the Democrat controlled Houses of Congress to pass something like a guaranteed national income. It was folly then, and it remains folly today. Anyone who would posit it as a viable political agenda, a strategy to be either feared or embraced, would necessarily have an IQ hovering around their hat size. It is ridiculous, and yet there it is on the Internet, touted rather seriously as something I need to look up and guard against.
          The irony is that while Glenn Beck and his minions are worried about a massive shift of middle class income to poor, unemployed, illegal Mexican immigrants, shiftless African American welfare cheats, and secret cells of Muslim terrorists, there has in fact been a massive shift of middle class income. It went the other direction. Instead of going to the poor it went to the rich. We watched it happen and we were too dumbstruck to say anything about it.
          It didn’t have anything to do with Democrats or Republicans either…or liberals or conservatives…or George Bush or Barrack Obama. We were fleeced by our banks. Not only that. They’re still at it. Our banks robbed us of our prosperity. They stole our future. They bet our farm, lost, and got reimbursed for the loss…by us. We paid twice. They lost our stuff and then they got us to pay them for losing it. It’s not over either. They’re going to get us to pay for it a third time. All that lost value, all those toxic assets we heard so much about, they’re still there—still secreted on and off the banks’ balance sheets at inflated values. They haven’t taken the losses we already paid them for yet. They are waiting until they have enough profits to offset the unrealized losses on their books.
Where are they going to get these profits? From us. They are going to charge us fees for doing things they ought to do for free. Citibank is talking about charging a fee if you want to talk to a teller. They are going to charge exorbitant interest rates to loan us money that they get for free. The more trouble they get us into, the more they are going to charge us. They will justify this because we are bad credit risks, and we will be getting worse. We will be overextended.
Sadly, I think, if we don't stop them, we will deserve it.

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