CRYING POOR

Posted in Rants on October 10th, 2011 by Ed

It is indisputable that the gay rights movement has made substantial progress over the last three decades. The pace of change has accelerated in recent years, in part because the chosen tactic of the anti-gay lobby has become ineffective over time. They have attempted to turn the political tide against gay rights with the timeless "If we let the gays _______, then (insert apocalyptic prediction here)!" tactic. Then, when some state or city decides to let the gays _______, we notice that…absolutely nothing happens. If we let gays teach, all of our kids will get raped! If we let gays serve openly in the military, they'll be so busy fellating each other and converting the straights that our national defense will collapse!

Although it took a while, people eventually began to figure out that, well, nothing Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell predicted actually happened. Everyone met some gay people and realized that they're not bile spitting, child molesting monsters. Americans might not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but it appears that it is possible for us to see through these cheap scare tactics with enough repetition. After 99 dire predictions that come to nothing, very few people seem to put much stock in the 100th. We have applied that logic fairly well to social issues – racial, gender, sexual orientation, etc. – throughout our history.

The scare tactics are still quite effective, though, when it comes to the politics of economic issues. No matter how many times the prediction is made and later proven false, "If we ________, then American businesses will (fail / stop hiring / etc)!" never fails to mesmerize the majority of the country and, more importantly, the media.

This line of argument has been trotted out by the top 1% in opposition to every meaningful effort at economic reform, regulation, or the creation of a social safety net. Because we are ignorant of history and even moreso of economics, we continue to fall for it despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary.

In the decades leading up to the Civil War, the southern aristocracy claimed that agriculture could not be economically viable in the U.S. without slavery.

When Free Silver was a political issue, financiers argued that removing the U.S. Dollar from a convertible gold standard would collapse the entire economy.

The meat trust told everyone that the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 would bankrupt them all and shutter the packinghouses.

During the Progressive Era, the steel and textile industries swore that they couldn't keep their doors open without child labor.

The plutocracy made dozens of dire predictions in advance of the Sixteenth Amendment legalizing Federal income taxes, none of which came true.

During the Depression, banks swore that the New Deal would regulate them to death while what remained of American industry swore that legally protecting organized labor and instituting the minimum wage (in 1938) would be the final nails in its coffin.

The collapse of both the social and economic order of the country was predicted when women and blacks were integrated into the workplace.

The Great Society and higher corporate tax rates after the unprecedented economic growth of the 1950s was supposed to lead to unfathomably high levels of unemployment.

Then something strange happened. Despite this lengthy history of failed predictions – and there are many more beyond the few I've mentioned here – we started believing whatever the top 1% told us about the economy. Right around, oh, I don't know, 1980. They told us that they wouldn't hire us unless their taxes were lowered. They told us that Big Government regulations were killing them. They told us that they couldn't afford lavishing us with things like vacation days, pensions, or health insurance. They told us that they couldn't compete anymore unless we changed the laws and allowed them to make their products overseas. They told us about their "right to make a profit" after the government socialized their losses. And here we in 2011 listening to our economic elites tell us for the 200th consecutive year that we're regulating/taxing them to death and, golly, they just can't hire any of us unless we do something to sweeten the deal on their end – holding the vast majority of the nation's wealth, apparently, not being a sufficiently sweet deal.

We used to be able to see through this. That was before the thirty year marketing campaign to make us sympathize with the poor, poor folks up at the top who simply can't get by unless the rest of us work two jobs, make jack shit, and have neither health nor retirement benefits. At this point I'm not sure that most Americans can even conceive of a course of action other than praying to our Job Creators and hoping that they see fit to throw a few pennies in our direction. Because everyone knows that if we raise taxes, unemployment will triple and half of American businesses will go under…just like what happened when taxes have been raised in the past.