Sunday, April 15, 2012

You're feeling sleepy ... 'job creators, job creators'

Richard Wilkinson on economic inequality

All is well!
(Kevin Bacon, in the movie Animal House)

A story in every pot

The congressman's facial expression was, for me, an Orwellian blankness, as he stated that further tax cuts for the rich would be good for the “job creators.”

While I did wonder at first if Representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, a Tea Party favorite, actually believed in his proposed draconian budget--a Gilded Age erotic dream--I concluded that he most certainly believed in what he said, at least a good part of it. Ryan is a true believer.

Over the past ten or twenty years there has been considerable research on how the brain functions and processes information and, while we hardly have a definitive understanding, we are a lot closer to knowing what takes place.

Naturally enough it was only a matter of time before we started speculating on political ideology and the how and why we choose particular sides. See 'The RepublicanBrain': Probing the Limits of Left and Right and Understanding theIdeological Divide Between Liberals and Conservatives.

At the same time, a healthy skepticism is necessary when we even hint at some sort of neurobiological determinism in deciding, for example, whether or not a person can accept the science of climate change, economic fairness or discarding the status quo. Of course, those of us that want to develop a new narrative ought not to dismiss these neurobiological possibilities too quickly.

Writing the bestseller

No one said it would be easy to write the new tale. It never is. The “old” European-American story began in the 17th century with the Puritans, many of whom believed fervently in communitarianism, but by the time our Founding Fathers were putting together the country called the United States in the 18th century, these privileged white men were focusing on and fearful of too much concentration of power.

For our founders, “democracy” back then meant preventing “mob rule and the triumph of passion over reason to serve the ambition of the demagogue.” The spirit of 18th century European Enlightenment guided these quite extraordinary individuals.

It was Alexander Hamilton in June 1787 at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia who said, “Your 'people,' sir, is nothing but a great beast.” In the 21st century we've arrived at the pinnacle of pathological individualism that's fraying rapidly around the edges.

Of course our new story must have as a central component actual fairness and the actual opportunity for all of us to seek the “dream” if we choose to do so. As well, the story is incomplete if there is no expectation of civic responsibility and shared sacrifice on the part of everyone without exception. Thus the story begins. “It was a dark and stormy night.”

I can pay one half of the working class to kill the other half.
(Jay Gould, 19th century speculator and financier)

We are safer here than in that little boat.
(John Jacob Astor, standing on the deck of the Titanic as it sank, April, 15, 1912)

It's war. It's like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.
(Steve Schwarzman, Chairman of Blackstone Group, world's largest private equity firm, angry at President Obama for suggesting the 1% should pay more in taxes, 2010)

I hope Obama's teleprompters are bullet-proof.
(Foster Friess, multi-millionaire and initial supporter of Rick Santorum for president)

War is Peace, slavery is Freedom, ignorance is Strength.
(1984, a novel by George Orwell)

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