Root Causes

Regular readers will likely recognize that over the years I have tried to understand why citizens on the far right portion of our politics consistently vote against their own interests. I’ve dabbled in guessing why they’re willing to believe fantastical fantasies and why they are so violent in spirit and in actions. Perhaps most important, I’ve scrambled for a foothold of understanding of why they gladly do unpatriotic things, yet consider themselves patriots. I think I’m coming to a more complete answer. Let’s start with a little walk through history.

Seattle Hooverville, 1932

Republican Herbert Hoover was elected in 1928. He had been a mining engineer, a business oriented fellow. Eight months after he took office the economy began its greatest crash and Hoover sat on his hands and watched as the savings from lifetimes of work evaporated and 25% of Americans wanting work were out of work. Their families were in terrible distress. Hoover told Americans to carry on, that things would get better, but in his complete absence of vision he did nothing to help, which led to Hoovervilles all across the country. By 1932 things had become far worse. That’s when ordinary Americans decided that a wealthy patrician understood them and their challenges better than the Republicans did and they elected Democrat FDR to be president. It turned out that they were right.

FDR invented the WPA and the CCC and mounted massive infrastructure projects like the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Hoover Dam that brought electricity to millions of people. More important than that, those projects brought honest work and good pay to Americans, which brought with it the dignity of being able to care for one’s family and oneself. FDR was so popular that he was elected to the presidency four times, with his last victory coming even as the nation knew he was dying. He was that popular.

And that’s why Republicans hated him and his projects that put Americans back to work. They have been trying to kill all social and commons programs since then. And preventing that kind of success for Americans is exactly why today’s Republicans want Joe Biden to fail.

Several Republican presidents wanted to get Social Security privatized to benefit fat cats, like the ones who brought us the Great Depression and the Great Recession. When President Johnson created Medicare, Medicaid and his Great Society Program, Republicans were apoplectic and they have tried to kill all of those programs, too. I don’t know what they want to do about President Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System – maybe they want to privatize them and let the fat cats charge tolls. Here’s the thing:

Republicans hate anything that smacks of work done in the commons and things that directly benefit the people. But the people love that stuff. And people become very angry and feel betrayed when things they’ve counted on are taken away. Think about what Republicans have to do, then, to get elected.

That’s right: they lie.

Reagan told lies about non-existent Black welfare queens living like actual queens. He told of “young bucks” – his term – meaning young Black men scamming the welfare system. His doing that makes sense, because it appealed to White fear, which brought him support. Bear in mind that Reagan opposed not just welfare, but also the Brown v. Board of Education decision. How convenient it was for him to latch onto welfare lies and appeal to White supremacy, not bothering to mention that the majority of welfare recipients were White. He just threw out hateful dog whistles that appealed to the fearful and the haters.

Then he stoked distrust and hatred of government itself, even as he was leading the government. He told Americans that, “Government isn’t the solution to the problem; government is the problem.” It was a new verbalization of opposition to all social programs. Surely, we wouldn’t want to support anything that helps those lazy, shiftless “others,” right?

As I said: lies.

Bush II was a lie spewing machine, corrupting the Constitution every day and calling it patriotism. And the patriotic thing played well. He told us, “You’re either with us or you’re against us,” and Americans lined up, not wanting to be left behind and thought of as unpatriotic. Republicans are still playing that card. They do that even as they ended programs that would help Americans.

Manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas and citizens were left with nothing. They were betrayed by their own government. (Full disclosure: Clinton was complicit in that.) They call that patriotism and rugged individualism, “right sizing” and freedom and a lot of other fine sounding names. They use their superb propaganda machine to get people to believe their fantasy, just like a circus sideshow barker. It turn out they really can fool some of the people all of the time, even as they are being betrayed.

All the propaganda and all the betrayal has stoked the anger of the people. Plus, it’s plain that Whites will no longer be a majority in this country in just a couple of decades, so Whites fear their hands will slip from the reins of power. The knowledge of that has brought more levers for Republicans to manipulate the people, like gerrymandering, the filibuster and voter suppression.

People are left in quite a confusing and simplistic mess.

Their anger is so great that they’d rather infect and kill their loved ones and die themselves, than follow simple government health guidelines crafted by doctors and scientists.

They’re so blinded by their distrust of government that they believe conspiracies too loony even for a cartoon and they agitate for autocracy that would make them serfs to the ultra-wealthy.

Their sense of betrayal is so overpowering that they refuse simple and obvious realities and reject as cheating anything that doesn’t go their way.

Their fear and anger are so great that they metaphorically have a middle finger extended at all times just to feel powerful.

All of that is orchestrated and overheated by big money puppet masters who manipulate fears and anger, so that the people blindly follow leaders and a party that literally have no policies other than to obstruct and disempower everyone but themselves.

So, the people cheer and send contributions to politicians who stand against the very things that would help the people, like the infrastructure bill and the good jobs that will bring; like voting rights, gun safety, reasonable cost pharmaceuticals, child care, medical insurance and broadband. With every vote or obstruction to voting on those issues and with every manufactured barrier to voting and with every appeal to fear and anger, the manipulators appeal for donations to Trump-fearing GOP sycophants in congress and in the states and municipalities. Those dollars are then used to further diminish the future of the voters and the voters’ children.

But the people don’t see that, because they are so angry. Worse, they don’t realize they’ve been hoodwinked for generations. And that is why our citizens on the far right of the political spectrum consistently and unknowingly vote against their own interests, leaving them nothing but their rage and whatever weapons they own in order to feel powerful and in control of themselves.

It’s all about anger, fear and hopelessness and how easy it is to manipulate people who feel that way.

Do you doubt that? Watch Adam Kinzinger’s short video and his appeal for Country First.

A Tale of 4s In 2021

Unemployment dropped from 6.2% to 4.2%.

– Wages rose approximately 4% – the final annual numbers aren’t in yet.

– The economy is so strong that there are 4 million more job openings than Americans seeking employment.

– We added 4.6 million jobs. Or is it 6.2 million? Not sure, but it’s a good number.

Republicans, please stop telling Americans how awful our economy is and how the Democrats are ruining it, because that’s just another Republican lie.


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Potpourri v4.0

A partial compendium of Trumpian distractions designed to keep your eye off the ball. Click the image for a larger view.

Reading time – 3:03  .  .  .

I just re-read Thomas Friedman’s essay on artificial intelligence and it brought back a question I heard posed in connection with self-driving cars and trucks: How will we deal with one million truck drivers when they’re suddenly put out of work?

We’ve experienced a loss of jobs for a long while, primarily due to automation and, less so but still significantly, due to outsourcing to cheaper labor. There’s a difference in perception and reactivity between slow changes like those, and the sudden change that AI is bringing. We haven’t done well dealing with that long term loss of jobs, so how will we deal with a much more sudden loss of one million jobs?

That’s just one complex issue stacked onto so many more in our rapidly changing world. Nobody in the history of the world has faced globalization as we’re experiencing it and it has impacted us in dramatic ways. Nikil Saval’s essay in The Guardian is a must read on this issue.

Most importantly, we have to recognize the impact globalization has had and will continue to have on an extremely fearful citizenry. That fear has already led to Brexit and the rise of what’s being called populism around the world, both of which are isolationist tactics designed to return to an unattainable past. We have to find solutions and admit that they don’t lie in fictions about a fairy tale past or in an imagined dystopian future, and our solutions can’t be found by demonizing others. This is truly hard stuff that will require us to work together to find solutions.

He’s nuts. No, I really mean he’s nuts. Dan Wallace lays it out for you with a simple clarity befitting a centrist with a penchant for – what else? – clarity.

You know about the Muslim ban. You know about the rejection and even jailing of people applying for asylum in the U.S. You know about our state-run kidnapping of children. You know about voter suppression, mostly of people of color and of poor people, which is done to fight nearly nonexistent voter fraud. Read this report about the most recent effort at governmental discrimination. All of these are battles in the war against “others” to perpetuate control by those in power.

If you’d like to learn what all that “othering”, all that denial of rights leads to, read this piece at Harper’s Bazaar. Systematic discrimination has a logical and diabolical end and you won’t like it if that shows up here.

Speaking of state-run kidnapping of children, that problem is worse than you might suspect. The number of migrant kids in federally contracted facilities is 5 times what it was last year at this time – 12,800 kids. You need to read this piece to understand that more fully. For now, give credit to our government for its astonishing ability to swat at symptoms instead of root causes, to make innocents suffer and to provide disincentive to relief for those kids.

One last comment on this. These kids are being held in “federally contracted facilities.” That means that they are privately owned and run prisons, like our state and federal detention facilities built to house the largest number of prisoners in any country ever.

Many of these prisoners are serving absurdly long sentences for minor drug offenses. Had they been white, hundreds of thousands of these people would never have been jailed or would have received minimal sentences. On the other hand, this ongoing insanity is an excellent way to suppress the vote of poor people and people of color, which benefits the wealthy. And it does one more thing: it’s good for business, like the prison business, which makes for great campaign funding.

Finally, there are tens of thousands of tons of plastic garbage floating about our oceans and the mess causes many problems. Dealing with that is a vexing issue, but someone is at last doing something about it.

A 2000 foot long floating boom has been constructed that is designed to encircle the plastic garbage so that it can be recovered and recycled. It’s headed for its first real world test right now and you can read about it here. Pretty cool!


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Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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