Thursday, April 14, 2011

Voting is great, voters... not so much.

The greatest thing about voting is that any American adult can do it.

The worst thing about voting is that any American adult can do it.

Remember the best and brightest kids you went to school with?  The ones who aced all the tests, knew the answers to stuff you didn't even remember being taught, and seemed to be an endless well of knowledge?  They grew up and became voters.  Now, remember the kids you thought would die trying to imitate a move they saw the Coyote do in a Road Runner cartoon (For you kids today, that would be like trying to do something they saw on Jackass)?  The kids who were taking remedial math and English and still flunking?  The ones who barely made it through school, if at all?  They grew up and became voters too.

Democracy is a wonderful thing.  I love the fact that everyone in this country has an equal voice when it comes to pulling the lever on election day.  I am glad that I live in a country where everyone has the same single vote, from the garbage man to the president himself.  At the same time, though, I see kids who I literally watched eat paint chips as a boy now lecturing others on their political ideals and running around thinking they're a foremost expert on politics because they listen to Rush Limbaugh in the truck for 4 hours a day and then come home and watch Fox News all night.  I love being "schooled" on how politics, government and the economy works by someone who reads at a 10th grade level.  I know I'm going to sound all "elitist" here, but I don't care.  I'm sick of people who are frankly fucking idiots talking down to me because I don't "get" their moronic political views, when they don't even understand what they're talking about in the first place.

If you think the entire free market is as simple as supply and demand, then please don't lecture me on the virtues of capitalism.  I admit I'm no Rhodes scholar, I don't have a PhD in economics, but I do have a degree, I did take classes on this subject, classes that I did very well in I might add.  Even with my admittedly meager college education, I am aware that the free market is about a whole hell of a lot more than just supply and demand.  S&D is something I learned in high school, when we took civics and economics as a split-semester course, meaning the first semester was civics and the second was economics.  That will provide you with about as basic of an understanding of both concepts as you can possibly get.  During my 10 or so weeks of high school economics, I learned about the supply and demand curve, elastic and inelastic pricing, surplus and deficit and "guns and butter."  For you non-economics students, "guns and butter" is a term used to describe the production possibility scenario, whereby a company produces two different products.  In order to produce more of one, they must to produce less of the other, and the goal is to find the ideal production level for both guns and butter so that enough of both are produced to satisfy consumer demand.  It's also an analogy of defense vs. civilian spending, but we didn't get that deep into it back in high school.  Point being, I learned the absolute minimum basic macroeconomic concepts necessary to not stare at someone talking about the market like they were Japanese model airplane instructions, and that's about it.

If I were to have a debate about what was best for the economy based on what I knew right after I graduated high school, I would have looked like a dummy.  If I had that debate with someone who just earned a college degree in economics, I would have looked like a fucking idiot, and I'm pretty damn smart.  I know that sounds egotistical, but what can I say, I'm a sharp tack.  I understood the hell out of everything I learned about economics in high school, enough so in fact to know that I really didn't know the half of it.  That caused me to want to learn as much more about economics and the stock market as I could, which in a world where the internet was still something you had to pay Compuserv by the minute to have access to, was a lot harder to do than it is today.  Regardless, I did my best to absorb as much economics, business and investing knowledge as I could whenever it was made available to me until the glorious day came when internet access was made readily available to the masses by way of a low, monthly rate from our good friends at AOL.  After that, I really got in to educating myself on the subject.  Ultimately, a lack of job opportunity in the severely economically-depressed central valley led me to do what I should have done 18 years ago, go to college.  I majored in the subjects that had always been of the most interest to me: business, economics and accounting.  In some ways it was easy, because I had learned a lot on my own over the years, and in other ways it was very challenging, because I had learned a lot of bad information over the years as well.  I had listened to a lot of talking heads on the business news channels who had told me a bunch of "facts" about the market and the economy that were really just horseshit.  Stuff that sounds smart and official and serves to convince uneducated viewers that the market works one way when it really works very differently.  Stuff that lets people who barely understand the concept of supply and demand think they are financial experts.  See, these guys on tv are smart.  They understand exactly how the market works.  They have advanced degrees in economics and a level of understanding about the intricacies of the market, investing and business that I couldn't even begin to challenge them on.  So, when they tell you a load of crap about the free market being good for the little guy and how capitalism is what makes our country great, they back it up with so much intelligent-sounding supporting evidence that it just has to be true, and even if you don't agree, you're not going to think you're smarter than a guy who got a PhD in economics from Harvard, are you?  So, that's how a bunch of adults who, when they were kids, got swindled out of 4 quarters by trading them for 5 nickels because 5 is more than 4, end up telling me that I don't understand the free market and that they need to "break it down" for me because clearly I'm too dumb to get it.  The same people who think gas prices are high right now because there's not enough oil being produced to keep up with demand.  The same people who think welfare is a handout but more tax cuts for the rich isn't.  The same people who think immigrants are "taking" our jobs, as if business owners are being held hostage by illegals who are forcing them against their will to hire them and pay them less than they pay American workers.  "We don't want to make even more profit by hiring illegal workers and paying them sub-standard wages and no benefits, we want to give those jobs to unionized, American workers and pay competitive wages, but they MADE US HIRE THEM!"

If you think a man can be elected president in this country today without meeting the constitutionally mandated requirements to verify his eligibility, then you are a fucking idiot.  If you believe that somehow there is a huge scam being perpetrated by Obama to get elected president without adequate proof that he was born in America, then you are a fucking idiot.  If you think that the constitution requires some specific information that the president didn't already provide before he was even allowed to receive the Democratic endorsement to run for president in the first place... well, you know where this is going.  Our vetting system has never failed once in it's entire history.  Never has a president been given the go-ahead to run for office without passing the eligibility test as set forth by the constitution.  It's not rocket science, it simply requires the ability to read what is written in the constitution.  I have heard the most inane arguments from these "birther" morons about why Obama isn't eligible to be president.  I've heard people proclaim with absolute certainty that the definition of "natural born citizen" means that both your parents have to have been born in America as well.  Guess what dipshit, you're wrong.  Natural born citizen simply means born in the U.S. or a recognized U.S. territory.  It makes no distinction about where the birth parents were born.  Why do you think your dumbass congressmen are all worked up over "anchor babies?"  Because if an illegal immigrant has a baby on U.S. soil, it makes that baby a U.S. citizen and bestows legal rights to both the baby and it's parents.  How you can be both against the fact that just being born in America makes you a citizen and at the same time cling to this absurd theory that citizenship is only granted when both parents are born in America too is just baffling.  But, again, this is what happens when people who failed wood shop watch a little too much Fox News and think they have it all figured out.

I love their argument too.  "If Obama would just produce a birth certificate, then all this could be put to rest."  First of all, dumbass, the president DID produce a birth certificate.  In Hawaii, the state he was born in, it's called a certificate of live birth, but it is the exact same document that all children born in America have.  My sister was born in Hawaii and she has a certificate of live birth.  Does it look different from the one I got, being born in California?  Yes, it says "Certificate of Live Birth" instead of "Birth Certificate."  Does that mean she's not a U.S. citizen?  Of course not.  This is a purely semantical, splitting hairs argument, and the best part of it all is that nowhere in the constitution does it even mention the words "Birth Certificate" at all!  Don't believe me?  Go read it.  If you can find where it specifically states that a candidate for president must provide a "Birth Certificate" before being confirmed to office, I'll tattoo your name on my balls.  The constitution was written by a bunch of men who were born in ENGLAND!  If the birthers dumb fucking interpretation of a constitutionally approved presidency were true, our first half-dozen or so presidents wouldn't have been eligible to hold office!  Even the later presidents who were born in America were often born by midwives in their family homes, and the records-keeping process was a little hit or miss back in the early 1800's.

Second, this whole notion that Obama has to defend himself from these accusation by the birthers goes completely against the very basis of our countries judicial system.  In America, you are innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around.  That means, it's not Obama's responsibility to defend himself from a load of bullshit accusations, it's the accusers responsibility to PROVE those accusations are true.  Using the birther logic, I could accuse Donald Trump of being a child molester.  I could say "How do we know he's not a child molester?  Can he prove it?  Can he show me evidence that he doesn't molest children?  All he has to do is give a 5-minute speech and produce a document that we feel adequately proves he has never had sex with a child and all this would just go away, but the fact that he doesn't say anything just makes him look like a liar and a child molester."  Doesn't that sound absolutely fucking stupid?  Do you think anyone in their right mind would believe that was fair, legal or in any way acceptable?  Innocent until proven guilty people, if you can't provide proof that Obama wasn't born in America, then you gotta just go fuck yourselves and wait for the next Hale-Bopp comet or whatever it is you wacky shitheads do when you're not busy dreaming up wild conspiracy theories to justify your irrational distrust of a black president.  OH SNAP, NO HE DI'NT!  Yes, I did.  I made a thinly-veiled accusation that all birthers are inherently racist on at least some level.  Not true?  PROVE IT.  Show me the documented proof that you have raised such issues with the validity of citizenship of past white presidents.  My evidence that the birther movement is at least partially based on racism is the fact that no one ever came forward to challenge the legitimacy of a president's claim of citizenship before Obama, and he's the first black president.  So, I have even done something you are all so far incapable of, I have produced evidence, no matter how slight, to support my accusations.  Now, produce evidence that refutes my claims and exonerates you.  Show me the documented proof that birthers have challenged the citizenship claims of any other president in the last 30 years.  Hell, the last 50 years.  Show me evidence that you even existed as a movement prior to the 2008 presidential campaign.  Not that doing that would prove you aren't simply a radical conspiracy group founded upon racism and extreme xenophobia, but it would be a start...

What's so amazing about all of this is, no matter how insanely ridiculous the claims made by birthers and all the "Obama's really a Muslim, even though he goes to a Christian church and has gone to one his whole life" people are, Donald Trump - who espouses both of those absurd beliefs - is leading in the polls for the Republican nomination to run for president.  What's really great is, I honestly don't think Trump believes that bullshit for one second.  I think he's just using all that rhetoric to get in the news and provoke the radical conservative base, and it's working.  This is what happens when the kids who once smoked a whole joint of dog shit on a dare get the vote.

I don't know who is really, ultimately responsible for the spectacular dumbing-down of America that has taken place over the last 30 or so years.  I have my theories, though.  I believe that as corporations grew in power and gained more and more political influence, they began to gradually work towards an agenda of creating a nation of mindless consumer worker bees.  I believe that, because of the way free market capitalism works, corporations have to view people simply based on what they can get out of them.  The goal of capitalism is profit above all else.  Anyone, from Republican to Democrat to the poor, neglected third party supporters like me, will all agree that the driving force behind capitalism is the profit motive, because it's not a matter of opinion, it's a fact.  Here, I'll even give you the relevant definitions:

Capitalism: an economic system in which the means of production are privately-owned and operated for profit.
Corporate Capitalism: a free or mixed market characterized by the dominance of hierarchical, bureaucratic corporations, which are legally required to pursue profit.

Capitalism requires it's participants to pursue profit above all else.  So, corporations view every American as a potential dollar amount in their pockets, and their goal is to get as much money out of us as they can while giving as little back to us as possible, thus maximizing their profits.  Now, the better educated a person is, the less likely they are to allow themselves to be exploited for profit, that's just basic human psychology.  It's harder to take advantage of a smart person than a dumb one.  It's harder to bullshit a skeptic than someone who is gullible and trusting.  So, as corporations grew in power, thanks to the complacency of BOTH PARTIES (There's no partisan bias here, both Republicans and Democrats have helped corporations advance their agenda over the last 50 or so years), so grew their influence over government policy.  Corporations know that an educated populace is hard to control.  It's hard to tell a bunch of smart people that it's raining when you're really just pissing on their heads.  They also know that when the values of society are to save your money, spend wisely, only buy what you need and plan for a "rainy day" that this translates to you not giving them all of your money.  So, corporations had two main obstacles to overcome to realize their dream society of brainless human fiscal livestock.  The first is to convince people that saving money, living within your means and being happy with what you can afford is for suckers.  The second is to make sure the general population is dumb enough that we'll not only believe that, but also believe that they are really looking out for us and the more we let them control our lives the better we will be.  The first goal began right around the late 70's and really exploded during the conspicuous consumption era of the 80's.  Credit cards, frivolous spending and a corporate-sponsored trend of keeping up with the Joneses, living beyond your means and just charging it all to your plastic to pay off later.  This eliminated the national savings rate for the average American.  In less than 20 years, the average household savings amount went from 15% to -5%.  That means the average family went from putting 15% of every paycheck in the bank to being 5% in debt at the end of each month.  Phase 1 was a success.

Phase 2 has been a little harder to pull off.  See, it's hard to completely eliminate objective, intelligent, rational thought in the general population, because you need a certain amount of truly smart people in order to remain competitive in the business world.  Although corporations may count as individual people by law, they can't even tie their own shoelaces, let alone invent the next great product that's going to help separate the average working schlub from his hard-earned paycheck.  Thus, you have to allow people the opportunity to become intelligent and successful enough to help better exploit their dumber fellow humans.  This has the unfortunate side effect of making people aware that they're being bullshitted.  It also compels those of us who realize we're being bullshitted to try and warn other people that bullshittery is afoot.  This is problematic for the profit motive, because it leads people to do things like form unions and convince workers that they actually have rights.  It makes people think that crazy ideas like a minimum wage are fair and in the best interest of the person rather than the corporation.  Fortunately, corporations own television stations, radio stations, newspapers, magazines and websites.  Corporations can control everything you see, hear and read and they can make sure that you don't get through a tv show, a news article or a radio program without hearing ads for their products and seeing subtle little messages to keep spending, keep consuming, keep going further into debt to keep up appearances.  Keep working towards wage slavery, corporate nirvana!  Corporations can also control what you don't see, hear and read.  You don't see the damage that they cause to the environment when they dump waste, strip resources to depletion and violate environmental safety regulations.  You don't hear the stories of people in towns like Flynt, Michigan, which went from being a vibrant, thriving, middle-class town to an impoverished ghost town after GM closed it's plant there and shipped those jobs out of the country just to increase their profits.  You don't read about the huge bonuses that CEO's got paid, thanks to the bailout money they received that your tax dollars paid for.  You don't read about them paying no income taxes at all, in spite of making billions in profits.

What you DO see is Jersey Shore, Dancing With the Stars, The Apprentice and a bunch of other mindless entertainment that doesn't require you to do anything more than sit through some commercials and maybe call a corporately-sponsored 800 number to vote for someone here and there.  You don't see educational programming, that's what PBS is for... you know, the channel our government wants to cut funding for, because they make "so much money" already?  The same channel that has to hold near-constant telethons to raise money to keep operating, you know, because they're so successful and rich?

You don't see nutritional education in the cafeteria, you see Coke and Pepsi vending machines, you see Taco Bell snack bars, you see kids being taught from their childhood that buying the processed crap that the big corporations make is way cooler than eating some healthy crap made at home.  Not to mention, more of your money going into the corporate pocket, cha-ching!  And people wonder why we have such an obesity problem in America.  Hell, I'm part of that problem, I know full well what role the fast food consumption culture has had on my health.  I'm not happy about it, but at the same time it's hard to make the right choices when a bag of chips is cheaper than a bag of corn, when buying a cheeseburger at McDonalds costs less than making one at home, when a 2-liter of orange soda costs less than 2 liters of orange juice.  I'm not rich.  I'm an unemployed college graduate, struggling to find work in an area of California with a 20% unemployment rate.  We live on my wife's middle-class salary, which after paying the mortgage, utilities and other bills, doesn't leave a lot of money to go to Whole Foods and stock up on all-organic produce.  We often find ourselves choosing what's cheap over what's healthy, and I know our situation is very common and playing out in homes across the country.  I know this because the produce section in every supermarket is always fully-stocked, while the shelves in the frozen food, snacks and soda sections are often empty.  Part of it is due to income restraints, and part of it is due to being taught that junk food is better, more fun and tastier from the time we were kids.

You don't see news reports about the important, necessary services that unions have provided the middle class.  You don't hear about how things like OSHA and basic workplace safety requirements are the result of union negotiations.  You don't hear about how sick leave, vacations, a 40-hour work week, overtime, medical benefits and retirement plans are all thanks to union collective bargaining agreements.  You don't hear about how unions provide job security, that the reason you can't just be fired from your job at any time for no reason at all is because a union fought to give you that protection.  You don't hear about how you're allowed to take a lunch and spend at least 6 hours off between shifts thanks to union negotiations.  Instead, you hear how greedy teachers and city and state employees want to bankrupt the economy with their outrageous demands for basic healthcare, retirement and benefits.  You think that kids are getting a lousy education these days because teachers don't want to do their jobs, when the reality is they aren't being given enough funding and resources from the state and federal government to provide a competitive education.  This is what happens when you run the country like a business, you cut costs wherever possible and you can expensive, skilled workers for cheap labor.  Just like the blue-collar worker who blames the immigrants for "taking" their jobs because they will work for less money, they blame teachers for poor education when it's the government that is shorting your kids.

Here's a thought: if you believe the quality of American-made products is declining in this country due to replacing highly-paid, skilled American workers with cheap, unskilled immigrant laborers, what do you think happens to education in this country when you cut pay and benefits for teachers?  You think a bright, college-educated teaching student is going to take a job at a public school in America, making shit wages and having no benefits or the right to collectively bargain for benefits at all?  Or do you think they'll go overseas, where educators are still very well paid and compensated, the education level of students is higher, and teachers are still treated with the respect they deserve?

This is how corporations have been able to solve the problem of creating dumber and dumber Americans while still having a pool of bright, motivated and intelligent students for the future - they create a financial barrier to entry, the oldest corporate trick in the book!  The same way big companies like automakers, soft drink companies, media corporations, and so on protect their status at the top of the corporate ladder - they make it so expensive to enter the industry that the average business simply cannot ever hope to compete.  How many people start their own airline company?  Why?  Because it costs like billions of dollars to do it.  Same reason nobody starts a company making solar or hydrogen powered cars out of their garage.  The average American will never have enough money to ever hope to compete in these industries, so we're stuck paying whatever airlines charge for tickets, we're stuck driving whatever shitty gas-guzzler cars the automakers produce, we're stuck drinking whatever Coke or Pepsi puts out because all the other smaller companies either get bought out or forced out of business, and that's how they're running our educational system now.

Public schools provide shitty education by design.  You want a better quality of education for your kid?  Put them in private school.  Can't afford it?  Too bad for you, guess your kid is going to grow up to work for my kid.  The more expensive the school, the better the education.  Whoa, looks like every poor and lower-middle class family in America is pretty much designed to stay poor and lower-middle class!  The system works!

And this is why I don't appreciate being lectured on civics, economics, business, politics or anything else requiring a modicum of rational, intelligent thought by someone who barely made it through school.  This is why I think it's hilarious when someone who I once saw jack their pet dog off tries to take me to task on my business knowledge.  The worst thing our government and their corporate puppet masters ever did to this country was make it cool to be a fucking idiot.  The second worst thing they've done is convince those people that they're actually the smart ones.  I never want to say that the right to vote should be restricted to any U.S. citizen, but I sure as hell would like it if you at least had to pass a basic aptitude test before you could pull that lever...

5 comments:

  1. Great post Dave. Just want you to know that I read what you write. I'm an old broad, so it would help me if you threw in a few more paragraph breaks, though. Content is right on.

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  2. Yeah, I tend to get on a tangent. :) I actually threw in a couple extra breaks before I posted this, if you can believe that. :P

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  3. Old post I suppose, but you said: "If you think the entire free market is as simple as supply and demand, then please don't lecture me on the virtues of capitalism. I admit I'm no Rhodes scholar, I don't have a PhD in economics, but I do have a degree, I did take classes on this subject, classes that I did very well in I might add. Even with my admittedly meager college education, I am aware that the free market is about a whole hell of a lot more than just supply and demand."

    I just want to say, THAT was beautiful. I don't have the degree in Economics yet, but I am working on one, and this is something I've felt for a while. In other words, if all certain folks do is shout "free markets free markets free markets" those folks should probably not be lecturing people who actually did the work. I salute you for this thought alone, although much of the rest of the post I am also in agreement with.

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  4. Do you drink Pepsi or Coke?
    SUBMIT YOUR ANSWER and you could receive a prepaid VISA gift card!

    ReplyDelete