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!
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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.

20 thoughts on “CRYING POOR”

  • You summed it up quite well. secretary of treasury timothy geithner still is obama's biggest mistake. i don't and can't understand why he came in. if this new book is right he played barry like a fool. he really still has a job? its very frustrating to say the least.

  • Wow. That's a lot of examples.

    I really hope some of our conservative (sorry, libertarian! Why do I always get those two confused?) commenters turn up to tell Ed just how wrong he is, point by point.

  • So Ed, as a professional political scientist, what's your take on Hacker and Pierson's Winner-Take-All Politics? As a poli sci PhD dropout, I found it a bit polemical but interesting, and fairly well consonant with a lot of other stuff in the mix.

  • The tactic is always about predicting bad consequences of YOU when it's all about THEM.

    We are hostages protecting our own kidnappers! Stockholm syndrome!

    The question I always have is: if they leave, where are they going to go to make their profit? Europe? South America? Middle East? Yeah, right…

    It's not like they are in the US only to do us a favor…although they sure talk that way…

  • Middle Seaman says:

    Too much regulation and taxation mantra simply doesn't stand facts check. Germany, one of more successful countries, has much more regulation and at least double the taxation. In order for the 30 year lies to behave like truth, we need a camp that exposes the lies and fights for the truth. Since, we have only one party, there is no one to fight.

    There is another reason, and the some, for progress on gay equal rights. Gay came out of the closet (the AIDS tragedy help trigger it), they are us, with us, around us, they are our family, our friends, the kids of leaders, etc. How can you hate your cousin, daughter, Joe's X wife? It just doesn't work for most of us.

  • From Driftglass this morning:

    " Neither party is saying: Here is the world we are living in; here are the big trends; here is our long-term plan for rolling up our sleeves to ensure that America thrives in this world because it is not going to come easy; nothing important ever does…

    "What is John Boehner’s vision? I laugh just thinking about the question. What is President Obama’s vision? I cry just thinking about the question. The Republican Party has been taken over by an antitax cult, and Obama just seems lost. Obama supporters complain that the G.O.P. has tried to block him at every turn. That is true. But why have they gotten away with it? It’s because Obama never persuaded people that he had a Grand Bargain tied to a vision worth fighting for." [Tom Friedman]

    There is absolutely no evidence of this.

    At all.


    Or, to put it in vocabulary of GOP front-runner Herman Cain, once again Tom Friedman doesn't have any "facts" to "back this up".

    Instead, any fair reading of the last three months or three years or 30 years proves exactly the opposite: that while Tom Friedman has been busy trotting the globe gleaning the opinions of miraculously-pro-Tom-Friedman cabbies in Hyderabad, hawking his awful books to gullible CEOs and giddily sucking China's dick, the American Conservative Movement — backed by literally billions of dollars worth of ultra-Right Wing religious, teevee, radio, publishing, political and think-tank infrastructure — has been patiently engaged in a Long March towards fascism.

    They built a Base that is completely impervious to facts and reason. They have built a massive echo chamber where contrary opinions simply die in the the doorway. They have muscled their opinions onto of the timid, centrist, "we don't want no controversy" heart of virtually every media conglomerate in America.

    And for the last 2.5 years, President Barack Obama has deployed every tool in his toolkit to forge common ground with these degenerates, up to and including selling out core Democratic principles in one misbegotten attempt after another to sue these traitors for peace.

    This is fact. Clear, unambiguous fact.

    And the complete denial of this single, gargantuan fact that sits squarely at the center of our comatose politics is that which Sherlock Holmes famously referred to as “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

    "But", the inspector points out, “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

    "That," Holmes replies, "was the curious incident.”

  • What I posit to Freeportguy is this: What if the educated, ready to work, roll up their sleeves types emigrate to rising economies elsewhere? A brain drain, talent drain for us and the overlords but not necessarily an impossible theory. Anyone learning Portuguese or Mandarin or Korean?

  • Control the argument and you control the results.

    Billionaires developed a long term plan to solidify their hold. They developed "think tanks" to foster Through the Looking Glass ideas, made a concerted effort to push for conservative judges, topped it off by buying (Corporate control) media.

    That begs the question: How and when will they seize control of the internet/social media?

  • Ed: your work here is so good even other fine bloggers appear in your comments section (today, so far, Fiddlin' Bill).

    Today's essay is magisterial, beautifully written as usual. Which I suppose means I concur, find its arguments ungainsayable (as usual) and haven't seen them put nearly so well elsewhere. I hope to hell you're getting big traffic here, equal to the WaPo or Times or Harpers or The Nation or at least Utne. I'm sure you value autonomy, but have you ever submitted anything to the Times OpEd? Am I impossibly naive to ask?

    I need to remember there's a sour, silly world out there. I heard a CNN reporter who was reporting on the Occupy Wall Street phenom ask, "It will be interesting to see whether the demonstrations dwindle when the cold weather sets in this winter." Sigh.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Once upon a time, children, we had "muckraking" journalists, who got people to see the truth about what was being done to them.

    The problem is that now, instead of being muckrakers, most of our "journalists" are overpaid RATFUCKERS, who'd sell their Mothers as slaves to the Salt Mines, if it meant some more face time on TV and a dime raise.
    I wonder how Erin Burnett's Mom is holding out there?

    The 1%ers finally figured it out that if they needed a lazy, incurious, complict and compliant MSM, all they had to do was pay for it! More than they paid before, anyway…

  • This was all set in motion by the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, the FCC's requirement that opposing views be given equal time on broadcast media that use public airwaves. Notably, Obama's head of the FCC has announced that they will not seek to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.

    After all, if the corporation that owns the media outlet in question wants you to believe something, they ahould be able to do so unopposed, right?

  • Andrew Burton says:

    And, right on cue, Robert Samuelson:

    Because, you know, proposing to adjust how the highest income earners are taxed is an attack. They're under siege, poor dears.

    FWIW, my family income is comfortably over the $250K threshold. And I would be 100% in favor of reversing the Bush tax cuts at that level and generally rebalancing income raised by the government to pay for services we all use.

  • Too true, Gulag.

    The problems of yesterday went away with an invite to the party and a raise. Once those starving journalists got INTO the party and started making a LIVING instead of having a CAREER in journalism, well, then there wasn't any conflict at all.

    They covered the gossip like you would expect, but no hard questions were asked because you could be damn sure they weren't gonna risk that paycheck. I mean, how else were they going to make their LIVING if they didn't have ACCESS.

    It's like Woodward and Bernstein hadn't lived at all…nor any investigative reporter before or since…

    Outside of Matt Taibbi, Jeremy Scahill and a few others the rest are just sold out…

  • Let's not forget how the tax structure of the 90s went down the ol' memory hole. Clinton-era tax rates will ruin this country!

  • Minor quibble: I think the relevant year is not 1980, but somewhere around 1971-73. I mean, you had Carter and the class of 1974 get elected in the Watergate backlash, but that's a temporary deviation from a long-term trend already underway. A couple of things happened during that earlier window that make me . Consider:

    1) The long-term stagnation in real wages of the bottom 60% is visible as early as 1971 or '73, depending;
    2) 1970 represents the peak in private sector union membership (as % of total workforce);
    3) 1971 was the year Lewis Powell wrote his infamous memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, advocating, as a matter of principle, an all-out war by the business community against any policy against business interests (labor, environmental, etc.).

    And to Andrew Burton, I sympathize, but it's your own fault for reading Samuelson.

  • Two more spring to mind:

    Dutch Reagan and Co. said that Medicare would lead to Communism (and what have you) and in 1993, the Wall Street Journal and Usual Suspects shrieked that the Deficit Recovery Act (slight tax increase) would lead to certain financial disaster. Zombie whining from Zombie Plutocrats.

  • I disagree that there was some golden age of muckraking journalism. Most journalists have always been lazy asses who report whatever the government tells them at the time. Before you get your panties in a twist and talk about Cronkite in Vietnam or Woordward and Bernstein, keep in mind that most media reporting from the Vietnam war was positive, anti-war Vets were ignored or marginalized by the media(see the book The Spitting Image), and worst of all, the CIA and other NATO intelligence agencies maintained many journalists on their payroll and even made their own phony publications.

    I am damn sick of journalists apologizing every time they end up supporting or uncritically covering some war, and then just like with Libya they IMMEDIATELY spring into action yet again, parroting the official line.

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