Why We’re All So Mad

Although I’m impatient with the “no rules” crowd, I’m also acutely aware of why people–including me–are so mad at government and big business right now. When growing up a lot of us were mistakenly led to believe that life might somehow be fair.  Fortunately I had a mom who scotched that fantasy early, reminding all her children that life isn’t fair nor is it likely to be, so be prepared.  But lots of people didn’t have the advantage of unvarnished truth to get them ready for harsh reality.  So they’re pretty angry at how life’s goodies are being handed out.

While out doing errands today I couldn’t help but notice the “men working” signs that closed off a lane of traffic. To the contrary, there were five guys in hard hats, standing on a bridge not working.  Wait, that’s not fair.  One of ‘em was looking down at the water, the other four were yakking away.  It’s easy to see why there were five guys needed.  The one looking at the water needed spotters in case he keeled over from the exertion of standing on his own two feet.  Maybe some enterprising soul could pay off a Congressman and get an item included in the budget to produce “Men Not Working” road signs.  And then make a quick buck on the contract.  (That’s called entrepreneurship.)

So, maybe those non-workers were just taking a break.  Except last Friday there were five guys, standing in exactly the same spot, cars whizzing past.  That time all five were doing nothing.  Contemplating, no doubt, the brutal non-work week just finished.  But, still not convinced, I checked when passing the quintet on the way back from the errands, about an hour later.  There was no change, the four slackers were still just standing there chatting; the go-getter of the five was still looking at the water.  Obviously the one with initiative was at least expending some nominal amount of energy raising and lowering his head to look at the water.  Whew!  He must be exhausted.

Now ya know whatever those guys are getting paid for, it’s a government project of some sort.  It’s not a private bridge, after all.  And everybody knows the public’s pretty fed up with tax dollars being wasted.  So wouldn’t you think that someone in a supervisory capacity might have a shred of common sense and, if determined to let the workers loaf, at least have them do it in a less public spot?  This bridge has a lot of traffic, so a lot of folks are looking at their tax dollars going down the rathole of five guys’ pay for standing around doing nothing.  Ya can’t miss the cars.  They’re all occupied by at least one person with eyes.  Jeez, have a little respect for the public, would ya.  Go loaf under the bridge where we can’t see ya.

What about that crumbling infrastructure we’ve been hearing about that needs fixing?  Is this one of those projects?  If so have they bought into republican faith based thinking?  That if they stand there long enough the deity to which they pray will fix that bridge?  Or are they the product of democratic science based thinking that says if ya talk about something long enough it’s the same as actually doing something?  Either way, tax dollars are still being spent to not fix the damn bridge.  And I’d bet that there are plenty of unemployed guys who’d love to have a job and would actually be willing to work and fix whatever is wrong with that bridge.  Although it’s hard to guess what it might be because it’s only a few years old and there was some sort of major work done just last year that entailed big barges loaded with huge rocks and some equipment dumping those rocks into the water under the bridge daily for months.

Remember when rethuglican Hank Paulson, Secretary of the Treasury for George W Bush blew into Congress one Friday afternoon and told the dumbocratic House that if he didn’t get $700 billion to give to the banks by Monday we were all goin’ to hell?  All he gave them in the way of supporting documentation and a plan was two or three pages, the contents of which were never reported, or if so, I sure missed it.  (Yeah, he’s a detail oriented guy. Knows his due diligence.)  And Congress folded like a two dollar suitcase and handed over the cash, no strings, no questions asked.  (I call that the really great bank robbery.)  Did any of that money go to small community banks, which actually lend to real people and businesses?  Or did it all go to the investment banks, which are simply gambling houses with better PR and less flamboyant attire than traditional gaming establishments?

Contrast Paulson’s flimsy excuse for a proposal with Obama’s stimulus request, which asked for a similar amount, except there was a big fat wad of paper hundreds of pages long.  Now there was meat there, right?  Do any of us actually know how that money was spent either?  I never heard much about either one.  All I know is, I sure didn’t get any of it, nor did anyone I know.

Contrast the slim returns we seem to see in the public sector with the productivity in the private sector.  There were reports in the news recently about a bunch of foreign workers at the Hershey plant in Pennsylvania who walked off the job because of inhumane working conditions.  Some staffing company (foreign?) had foolishly hired a bunch of foreign students to work at the factory and were mistreating them, bitching about how they needed to work faster, faster, faster.  The staffing company’s big mistake was hiring students.  If ya want to exploit workers, you’re supposed to pick uneducated poor people who are used to being treated badly.

And, BTW, I’ve eaten my last Hershey product.  If they can’t hire Americans then they can just get the foreigners to buy their treats.  I hope everyone else is equally offended and tells them where to put their Kisses.  My question is, why was a company in Pennsylvania importing foreign workers in the first place?  Doesn’t Pennsylvania have a fairly robust population of unemployed workers collecting unemployment benefits?  I can guarantee you, they’d rather have a job.  But nope, we’ll let some guest workers take those jobs, and the staffing company, which no doubt has made all the right political contributions, walk off with the profits from exploiting foreign students.  I think that’s what’s called a win, win solution.

And it probably hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that the proposal to up the tax rate for the top 0.3% of the population making more than $1 million per year is causing Congressmen to yelp like a stepped on dog.  How is it that they are soooo concerned for such a small group?  Well, of course it’s because 0.3% is obviously a minority population.  Yeah, billionaires are a minority.  Bet ya never thought of that did ya?  It’s heartening to see Congress be so alert to the injustice and rush to protect them, poor picked on folks that those hapless gazillionaires are.

How about the California solar power company that just defaulted on a half billion dollar loan guaranteed by “we the rabble”?  How’d that happen? Cronyism?  No, the Chinese government.  Which supports putatively private companies and has the added advantage of being able to provide chosen manufacturers with, essentially, slave labor.  So their solar industry can supply products far more cheaply than ours.  There’s a huge cost cutting measure for ya.  Slave labor.  Yep, brings new meaning to the term “free trade” alright.  And let’s not forget, we, or rather our corrupt idiot government, under both republican and democratic regimes, uh, I mean, administrations, allows China to export to us with a 2.5% tax.  And what tax rate does the Chinese government slap on our exports to them?  Ummm, isn’t it 25%?  That seems fair.  That’s why it’s called “fair trade”.

So on the one hand is a government that often asks not enough of its employees and vendors and on the other hand a private sector which wants to squeeze every last nickel’s worth of benefit from its employee and vendors so it can reap every last possible cent of profits.  Either way the result is a dysfunctional extreme which won’t be sustained indefinitely.  And meanwhile, the vast majority in the middle–well, we’re just mad.

Who to blame?  John Maynard Keynes?  No, blame the poor.  Of course it’s not their fault.  But they’re a safe scapegoat since they don’t have the know how or resources to fight back.  Which brings me to my Plan B.  If I can’t make a go of a new career as a conspiracy theorist (earlier post), then I’m thinking maybe professional scapegoater would be a fairly undemanding new endeavor.  That’s a niche market which hasn’t been fully vertically or horizontally exploited yet. Unlike the American middle class.


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