Monday, September 5, 2011

It's Labor Day 2011

Lucrum fidelitas nullus

In the past year, the unbridled greed and service of self that characterize U.S. society in the 21st century have become breathtaking in their scope, and nauseating in their depth.

A partial list: 
  • Between the 2nd quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2011, S&P 500 corporations saw a 45.8% increase in profits; during the same period, hourly wages in the private sector were off by 0.2%. Average weekly earnings saw an increase of 0.6%, simply because civilian employment figures showed a drop of 0.5% and there was more overtime.
  • Congressman Paul Ryan's attack "budget" aimed to turn Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security into a sieve instead of a safety net. The fact that his fellow Republicans in the House forced passage of this piece of garbage with no hope of it ever becoming law speaks volumes about who they really work for: There are no corporate tax increases in Ryan's asinine proposal, only cuts to programs that serve the poor and vulnerable. And some jackass in what passes for the press in the U.S. these days called Ryan courageous for it.
  • Oil companies are reporting record profits, but House Republicans refused to entertain the idea of eliminating $53 billion in zero-royalty drilling over the next 25 years and $36.5 billion in direct taxpayer subsidies over the next decade. In 2011, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and Shell posted a combined $18.2 billion in profits for the first quarter. That's a 40% increase over 2010.
  • S&P downgraded the U.S. debt from AAA to AA+, specifically citing the tantrum thrown by Republicans in the House over raising the debt ceiling as a major factor in the move. S&P called the behavior unpredictable. It was treasonous. It was also effectively ignored by the corporate media, conveniently.
  • Corporations paying no federal income tax on record-breaking profits received tax refunds totaling billions of dollars.
  • In states across the country, the full ramifications of Citizens United were felt as elected officials were bought by corporate "persons" and ALEC-written corporatist legislation was introduced and passed by the ream. Jobs? We don't need no stinking jobs. We need voter suppression/ID measures. We need corporate takeover of essential public services. We need to eliminate public education in all but name in favor of voucher schools so that money can be made, and the Word of the Profit can be spread among the young. We need to sell off the commons to our handlers without bids. We need to bust all unions, starting with the public employees and teachers because we can, followed by the rest as soon as we can draft the right-to-work laws.
It's stunning that private sector workers believe, because their employers treat them like pieces of furniture, that public employees, by God, deserve to be treated the same. How does it make anybody's lot better when government sets an example that lowers standards for everyone? People actually seem perversely proud of getting screwed by their employers, at least when they're talking about the evil of public sector unionism. The justification for union busting in the public sector is that profit sector workers are getting sodomized by profit sector corporations. Puh-leeze. The idea that "every dollar that comes out of a public worker's pocket is one that doesn't come out of a private worker's pocket" is horseshit. The taxes that generate that dollar will still be paid by common people, not corporations, and it will go to corporate welfare, not back to the people.

It really boils down to the incontrovertible fact that corporations are not people. The only moral imperative a corporation has is to profit, regardless who gets hurt or impoverished in the process. Left entirely to their own devices, corporations attempt to eliminate things that constrain their ability to profit in any way they see fit. Corporations are not people. They are reptilian, and their unrestrained appetites are perhaps the truest and most widespread evil in the world today.

The desire for "freedom of will" in the superlative, metaphysical sense, such as still holds sway, unfortunately, in the minds of the half-educated, the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one's actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society therefrom, involves nothing less than to be precisely this causa sui, and, with more than Munchausen daring, to pull oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the slough of nothingness.
Friedrich Nietzsche
Beyond Good and Evil, 21

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Evil Workingman

Cartoon by Ben Yomen
The building gradually goes quiet as the staff leaves for home. While the hum of the ventilation system takes over from the murmur of office business, he saves the file he's been editing and stands to chase down a cup of stale coffee to zap.

It's his favorite part of the day. No phones ring in the cube farm after 5, and he can work uninterrupted by colleagues who can't conceive that the urgency of their word processing impairment isn't several orders of magnitude greater than whatever it is he might be working on. Working for the public means wearing another new hat just about every week as people and jobs disappear from the state service; one of his current collection has "I am your Help Desk" written on it. He does what he can, but some days it eats into his schedule so badly the only way to get everything done is to stay late, off the clock. Being frugal with the public's dime.

He has recently come to the conclusion that, as an employer, until they turn off Fox and start paying attention, the public will suck.

When the microwave beeps, he takes the mug back to his cube and sets it on the desk, trying to ease back into "terminal" mode as he sits down. Taking a ginger sip of the scalding coffee, he realizes as the document rolls back up that there's no more work in him tonight. His eyes are sandy, his mouth tastes like the inside of a running shoe, and there is a bone-deep fatigue that comes only from pouring your awareness into a computer for hours on end.

Out of gas, he thinks. Which reminds him of the drive home, which reminds him of the drive in this morning. Which unfortunately reminds him of a clip of Rush Limbaugh demanding that House speaker John Boehner (R-*hic) put Barack Obama "in his place" for having the effrontery to ask to hold a joint session of Congress so he could present a jobs package at the same time NBC is presenting the Republican candidates debate, another miraculous battle of wits between weaponless combatants. He didn't know whether to laugh or cry that the whole thing appeared as though Limbaugh demanded and the Boner delivered. Breathtakingly full of shit.

He wonders how much money would it take to buy one state back from these thieving ALEC droids? How much for the whole country?  More than we've got, maybe. He starts shutting down to leave.

As he waits for the screen to die, his tired mind starts running a dreary, familiar treadmill: how did they convince so many people that government and public workers are the enemy? He's read letters to the editor and comments online bordering on and sometimes crossing the line into threats of physical violence. The idea that private sector employees are somehow going to be better off because some punk-ass governor busts public employee unions is a lie, but it's a very successful lie.

We are all being taken for a ride, he thinks, and they have us at each others' throats while they steal everything that isn't nailed down.

It's simple, he thinks, grimacing with a final sip of acrid coffee: private sector workers are being screwed by the corporations and companies that employ them, not by me. If a private sector employer takes away their contribution to health insurance and 401k's, cuts wages, or better yet just sends jobs overseas and gets a tax break for doing it, the government is not doing its job.

"And that would be," he says aloud to the empty computer screen, "because the government is no longer here; it has moved on."

There is no answer, just silence at the end of a very long day. Or the beginning of a very dark night.