Every day on the news, I hear about how government employees and overpaid union thugs like teachers, firefighters and police officers are destroying the economy, and things we used to take for granted – like the minimum wage, decent working conditions and benefits – are causing “uncertainty” among the “job creators” – and that all those things, along with all that un-American socialist “entitlement” crap like Social Security, food stamps, school lunches for poor children, Medicare and unemployment insurance should be taken away from the teat-sucking denizens of the “nanny state” in order to make the “job creators” feel secure enough to create a few jobs somewhere other than Mexico, China, India or Bangladesh.
I hear about how President Obama “hates capitalism” and that he’s bad for business. And then I hear about multinational corporations like Exxon making record profits, paying less in taxes than I do, and sitting on ginormous piles of cash, with CEO’s being awarded huge salaries and bonuses – while they offshore and/or outsource American jobs to China. I hear about billionaire hedgefund managers who continue to manipulate the market with Ponzi-scheme-like credit default swaps and defective mortgage securities, while they suck in more and more and more of the wealth in this country while the rest of us lose our jobs, our homes, our health insurance and our futures. I hear how more and larger tax cuts for the corporations and the 1% are the only answer to our recession, and yet, history shows that cutting taxes for the wealthy and clamping down on government spending during a recession is the surest way to keep that recession going strong. History shows that government spending on infrastructure, creating jobs, ensuring that Americans have their safety net of unemployment and other programs is the real cure for what ails us. If you doubt me, simply read up on FDR and the Great Depression.
Tonight I watched Dateline NBC’s special “America Now: Lost in Suburbia,” a news story covering the secret pockets of poverty sprouting like weeds in formerly prosperous upper-middle-class communities in America. The program followed three families through layoffs and unemployment, then followed two highly educated and professional couples and a single mom try to find employment – and mostly fail.
One of the husbands, a former well-paid business consultant now works days at a retail store and nights as a part-time janitor, cleaning local offices. His wife was a high-powered VP of Human Resources, who ended up first helping her husband clean the offices and then landed a temp job as an administrative assistant. It chronicled their stress due to the inability to pay their bills, their shame at having to use a food stamp debit card and getting groceries at the local food pantry. This cost one woman her marriage, and stressed one couples’ marriage to the point of breaking.
As I watched, a lot of it was familiar. I’ve been there, you see, and I’m still there. As I watched these folks in Colorado struggle with their harrowing plunge from prosperity into poverty, I wondered how many of them voted for Republicans in the last election, and how many of them plan to vote for Mitt Romney in November. I wondered if they truly understand what the GOP had been doing for eight years under Bush, and has been doing over the last three and one half years. Do they get that the GOP has blocked every attempt by the Obama administration to put in place programs to get us out of this deep recession and put us all back to work? Do they get that Republicans like Paul Ryan want to take away their unemployment, their food stamps, their Medicare and even the government-subsidized low cost health insurance that is currently paying for one teenaged girl’s insulin? I wonder.
That’s not the only thing I wonder about. I see these feel-good PSA’s from Exxon Mobil urging Americans to “support our classroom teachers” so American kids won’t be 25th in the world in science and math. When I see those ads, I agree with their premise 1000% – we do need more teachers; we do need to improve our school curriculum in science, math – and, hell, in every subject.
What I don’t understand is how Exxon can tell us we need more teachers, while they’re writing huge checks to Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate who tells us that we don’t need any more union thugs like teachers and firefighters and cops. They also bankroll ALEC, the organization of corporate lobbyists who keep themselves busy by churning out reams of insert-state-name-here legislation to ensure that we don’t do anything about the issue of climate change, invest in renewable energy or stop handing over billions of our tax dollars in the form of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
It seems we’re all suffering from a massive case of cognitive dissonance. It’s a giant shell game for the rubes, and the rubes fall for it every time. When are we going to wake up?