Monday, December 9, 2013

'Tis the Season, Continued

Well, this didn't take long
The White House will not insist that an emerging budget deal include an extension of the unemployment benefits program set to expire at the end of the year, press secretary Jay Carney said on Friday.
Carney said that it would be “terrible to tell more than a million families across the country just a few days after Christmas that they're out of benefits,” but that the White House was agnostic on how the extension happened.
So now Barack is an agnostic? And right after he quoted the Pope on the evils of record wealth inequality? So I guess as it pertains to the president, agnostic is that sweet Third Way centrist spot between pretending to care about suffering people and actually not caring about them at all.

While foisting well-deserved blame upon the Republicans for kicking more than a million people off their benefits in a few weeks, Paul Krugman also emits his standard heavy but fleeting sigh over the complete and utter complicity of the Democrats in announcing beforehand that they don't give a shit either. My response: (typos corrected)
When Democrats said they'd be willing to accept a budget deal without an extension of unemployment benefits, my jaw dropped.
The callousness is bipartisan; only the messaging differs. The GOP Caligula Caucus culls the herd with sadistic gusto, while the Docile Dems offer us "ladders of opportunity" to crawl our way out of the wreckage at some TBA date. So much for the president's promise last week "to do everything in his power" to narrow the gap between rich and poor for the remainder of his term.
Reported terms of the budget deal naturally include restoration of military funding so "we" can stay in Afghanistan for at least another decade. This will be offset by regressive taxes on consumers, including an air travel surcharge, as well as by increased pension contributions from government workers. (Not that jobless people actually have to worry about vacations or pensions.) And before we even have a chance to register our dismay, the politicians will have blown town for more bribe-seeking rounds of golf or après-ski with the ruling class elites who fund their campaigns and dictate the policies.
The right wingers rail against the War on Christmas even as they cheerlead endless wars on the make-believe terror battlefield. They serve Christmas dinner to the troops at the same time they throw kids off food stamps. They get their preening pictures taken in church and demand that God Bless America.
If I were God seeing them pray, I think I would lose my faith.
* * *

For those of you without a Times subscription, use this link to read a rare and excellent in-depth look at how a homeless child named Dasani and her family actually live in the richest city in the world, which also happens to be the income disparity capital of the world. The irony, of course, is that the poor are not even allowed read about themselves, because it costs money to jump the Gray Lady's pay-wall. 

The same newspaper is also running a fun feature on how obscenely rich grandparents can give the gift of financial savvy and instill the joy of receiving in their heirs this holiday season. A woman whose specialty seems to be getting kids ready for the Ivy League while  still in utero is the source of the story. She suggests that doting fogies give four piggy banks to each little trust fund piggy -- one for savings, one for spending, one for investing, and one for charity.

So, while Dasani sleeps on a mattress with protruding rusty springs in a homeless shelter, don't expect the city's ultra-rich to come to the rescue.  Here's how a retired banker and Episcopal minister (!) used the four-pig gimmick with his granddaughter Morgan (how apt):
When she was 8, he said, he brought up the idea of giving away some of the money in the donate part of her bank. She had $30, and he threw in $100 for the “Morgan/Papa Philanthropy Fund.” He then gave her a copy of the Episcopal Relief and Development catalog, which lets people pay for specific things to help people in developing countries, like a flock of chickens, mosquito nets or vocational training.
At their next breakfast, she told him she wanted to donate a latrine. “I was dumbfounded,” Mr. Fisher said. “I thought she’d want to buy a cute little goose.”
Gramps goes on to explain that she hit up other family members for cash and ended up with more money than she needed. And the lesson in all this? “Now she’s 14, and it’s in her bloodstream,” he said. “You don’t get carried away, but you give.” (bold italics mine.)

It's the neoliberal way. No unemployment insurance extensions or food stamp restorations or a living wage or guaranteed decent housing for every man, woman and child in the richest nation on earth that now ranks 27th in life expectancy in the "civilized world."

But you give. Within reason. And if you're really lucky, you get your noblesse-oblige written up in the New York Times, and your grandchild has a built-in college admission résumé-padder.

The American ruling class learns young that one must not get carried away in narrowing the income gap so much as to actually engender equality. Noblesse oblige has its limits. As long as the poor people they never have to see or meet have a place to crap, then all is right with their world.


James F Traynor said...

Yes, Karen, I read Dasani's story, including how she got her name. I have to admit to a subscription to the Times and that I submitted a comment this morning which will probably go unpublished. No, it wasn't intemperate, but it did raise doubt as to the efficacy of reasonableness as an argument, and a suggestion that Tom Paine might have had a thought on the subject.

The one thing that gives me some hope is the kid has the face of a warrior and we're really going to need them.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Just finished Part 1 of the Dasani article, which is really a book-length documentary on the details of poverty today. Quite moving. And what about the thousands of other families who don’t even have the consolation of one great soul of a child like Dasani?

Let’s hope Michael Bloomberg’s replacement can do a better job at diverting public resources away from those who have too much to those who have next to nothing but their tears.

“Rich Lazarus! richer in those gems, thy tears,

Than Dives in the robes he wears:

He scorns them now, but oh they'll suit full well

With the purple he must wear in hell.”
–––––––––– Richard Crashaw

4Runner said...

Dasani, of course, is a Coca-Cola brand name and product. It is basically tap water run through reverse osmosis and stored in plastic bottles which are not BPI-free. Nor is it required to be measured for purity. Buyer beware!

James F Traynor said...

Jay, not on subject for this thread, but your Rolling Stone ref on Greenwald and Snowden (in prior thread) - excellent article. Very well written.
Karen, I think you would enjoy it.

Jay - Ottawa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay - Ottawa said...

Why aren’t today’s campuses hotbeds of contradiction to the bad acts of The Empire, as was the case during the Vietnam War? These two links tell you why: they’ve been de-occupied and turned. Fear provokes silence. Free speech on campus is history. 

First, they tamed for the press, then the unions, then the universities….