Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Reasons For Rich People To Feel Smug in 2023

 I haven't posted in the last couple of weeks for the simple reason that I'd deliberately ignored what passes for news. This was for both mental and physical health reasons. But as neoliberal doctrine dictates to the Lessers, there shall be no more excuses.  Western culture hasn't celebrated the whole, original 12 Days of Christmas for centuries. Everybody has to get back to the New Normal before New Year's Day. And for me, that means keeping up with the New York Times so that the more squeamish among you don't have to.

It didn't take me long to find a piece guaranteed to annoy and nauseate. Titled "Reasons for Optimism in 2023," it quickly becomes obvious that this iteration of the year-end "listicle" is exclusively addressed to the people who sincerely believe that the only reason they got so much filthily richer in 2022 is because they are so "blessed." 

But on the off-chance that a twinge of guilt might threaten to afflict the sensitive rich, DealBook's Andrew Ross Sorkin and about half a dozen of his closest assistant scribes are here to assure them that even the Lessers never had it so good. 

The main things that rich people can safely ignore in 2023 are the "tripledemic," the "brutal war with no end in sight," and the climate crisis.

Even though more than 400 people a day are still dying of Covid, they are mainly old or they have pre-existing conditions. The good news is that vaccines became available for "children as young as six months old, a relief for parents as much of the world returned to a new normal." 

The article does not inform its well-heeled readers  that Covid has exploded in China, and that a bipartisan Congress just voted to kick millions of poor people off the Medicaid rolls come spring. That is because Congress had no interest in funding any kind of pandemic relief in the next fiscal year. 

The New York Times listicle does not report these little factoids, possibly because they might make the Smugnorati feel uncomfortable in this season of comfort and joy.

Meanwhile, as if they needed another reason to feel self-satisfied about 2022, they're reminded that rich countries finally abandoned their selfishness and agreed at the COP 27 confab to study pledging financial aid to poor countries suffering from the capitalistic pollution of rich countries.  However, since the Times doesn't want its readers to feel bad, it side-steps the inconvenient truth that it's only a pledge, not an ironclad commitment. And besides, what difference does irreversible global warming make when Science™  just made a nuclear fusion clean energy breakthrough, and Joe Biden promised to cure cancer in 20 years?

And if the rich are altruistically worried that bots and artificial intelligence will replace human sweat, the article continues, they shouldn't be. Bosses and owners should reject the notion that wage labor can ever be fully replaced by technology.

"What the bots can do well is make grunt work easier. One example that went viral shortly after ChatGPT’s release: A Palm Beach doctor posted a video of himself dictating a letter to an insurance company."

The article doesn't mention that such writing programs replace the office insurance grunts who normally would not only take dictation from the boss but would have the skills necessary to write a business letter. This must be especially true in the billionaire paradise of Palm Beach, where denizens have private insurance and concierge medical care, and where nobody will ever notice the millions of people getting kicked off Medicaid because "we" cannot afford it, and because poor people must always jump through hoops in order to prove their deserving need.

And speaking of poor-shaming,  that brings us to perhaps the most shameless whopper in the whole mendacious Times article:

Real progress is being made in tackling child poverty. The number of children in America living below the poverty line has plummeted by 59 percent since 1993. As The Times’s Jason DeParle reported in September, “child poverty has fallen in every state, and it has fallen by about the same degree among children who are white, Black, Hispanic and Asian, living with one parent or two, and in native or immigrant households.”

Conveniently left unmentioned, lest rich readers lose the soft rosy glow of their own smugnorance, is that since Congress failed to renew the temporary Child Tax Credit before they left town for their holiday break. childhood poverty already is heading right back up.

But, the twisted Times logic goes, since kids were lifted out of poverty for six whole months in 2022, that is all the reason that "we" need to celebrate now and in the years to come.  Six whole months of relief was actually a pre-Christmas miracle when you come to think about it, because for once, Congress did not impose much if any "means-testing" poison pills on recipients. Nearly every family in the United States received it, whether or not they worked or paid taxes. This shocking universality brought out all the usual elite concern trolls, who feared that it would discourage people from working.

"Even the theoretical possibility of enabling laziness was enough to make a permanent extension a complete non-starter," explained Bloomberg News.

But never mind all that, because the New York Times concludes its own feel-good piece with news about a giant fan in Iceland that can suck tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. "The Department of Energy and a bevy of investors are racing to bring the technology, called direct air capture, to other parts of the world," the newspaper gushed.

I bet they are. If they can do subversive regulatory capture of government agencies that were originally formed to protect the public, and if they can suck the very life out of regular people just because it's profitable and because they can, then they can certainly do air capture.  They might even find a way to capture and privatize oxygen itself, and charge people for the privilege of breathing it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Grandma Got Run Over By a Neoliberal Reindeer


Rochelle Walensky of the CDC

You probably got an inkling about your fate last January, when the nation's chief public health officer said, right out loud, that it's a good thing that the old, the sick and the immunocompromised are dying from Covid-19 in such far greater numbers than are the people who are still well enough and young enough to continue contributing to the Economy.

“The overwhelming number of deaths — over 75 percent — occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities, so really these are people who were unwell to begin with — and, yes, really encouraging news in the context of Omicron.” Walensky added a plug for getting vaccinated and boosted, before underscoring her earlier comment: “We’re really encouraged by these results.”

Now, with the news that more than 90 percent of the Americans dying from Covid-19 are over the age of 65, Rochelle Walensky has actually accomplished the incredible feat of making the cynical holiday tune Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer seem like a feel-good Hallmark Christmas card. You see, even when Grandma dies in a snowdrift after a Santa hit-and-run, her surviving family members still celebrate as if nothing had ever happened. Because not even death can interfere with the mindless consumption of material goods and the watching of TV sports.

 Life without Grandma is simply getting back to normal and moving on with life, and ignoring one of the worst public health catastrophes in human history.

If Joe Biden declared the pandemic to be over, then it must be over, even with close to 600 people now dying from it every day in the United States. Thank goodness, our elite policy-makers are probably muttering to themselves, that these vulnerable disposables are mostly in their 70s, 80s and 90s, and probably out of the workforce 

This is precisely why the government is currently only recommending that people don masks in public settings like grocery stores, where all those excess old people are prone to shop when they need to eat.  Because as the cult of neoliberalism has drummed into us, masking is not so much a matter of protecting others. It's about protecting yourself. (not to mention your own future Social Security and Medicare benefits.) To mask or not to mask is not even a question. This, the public health experts say, is purely about your own comfort zone and your personal choice and freedom, and being the entrepreneur of your own life.

And for Walensky, being in the zone means doubling right down on her own serial callousness. Not content to limit her disdain to the disposable victims of this pandemic, she also recently congratulated the deceased Black victims of the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiments for their "sacrifice" on behalf of American medical research. Since sacrifice, by definition, is all about making an informed, personal choice, she insinuates that these men knew all the risks of being unwitting guinea pigs, and chose to participate in their own destruction anyway.

In case you were wondering why Walensky still has her job, it's because she is a staunch team player in the Neoliberal Thought Collective still running this country on behalf of the oligarchy and the military-industrial complex. Her casually racist remarks on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Tuskegee atrocities are all of a piece with the recent New York Times revelations about our nation-state's junior ROTC (pre-officer training) program.  The thousands of freshman high school students who are being unwillingly enrolled in this federally funded program are disproportionately Black, Brown and poor.  By dint of their race, ethnicity and social class, they are being purposely groomed to fight in the US Imperium's forever-wars. And when it's the their  inevitable turn to get maimed and even die, they'll get thanked for their sacrifice, too.

Meanwhile, even though Congress just miraculously forced railroad workers back on the job without sick or personal time off, and allocated billions more for the Arms Industry's Ukraine proxy war with Russia, it is said to still be struggling to do anything for regular people of any age or  color, other than to urge them to "share the sacrifice" for the greater good of Wall Street and the war industry. In other words, we must learn to live with a resurgence of eugenics, or what Andre Damon of the World Socialist Website aptly calls "social murder." 

But who (besides Walensky, Biden and the whole merry band of professional pathocrats, that is) said we should accept our doom graciously? Not only should we not go quietly into that good night, we should all join together, as Dylan Thomas advised, to "rage, rage against the dying of the light." 

And on a related note, if you ever happen, like Robert Frost, to stop by woods on a winter evening, and you happen to see Grandma lying in a snowdrift, give her a hand. And put on a mask. Despite what "medical ethicist" Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel trumpets about gracefully dying by age 75 to avoid being a burden on society, we are all of us, at every age, in this together. We have miles to go before we sleep.