Sunday, June 14, 2009

Good Deeds Punished

Are we a Nation of Nitwits? Or am I just stuck spending time with the wrong sorts?

These are the questions I ponder as I listen to the folks I meet throughout my days who feel quite comfortable in sharing snarky political opinions about President Obama. These folks really don't like Obama. And why should they? Him being a big government Socialist who caused the Great Recession and all. Except of course for those days when he is being a big government Fascist who caused the Great Recession. Or those days when he is a big government Muslim . . . well, you get the idea.

So Clever!

Yesterday's experience was pretty typical. I was dealing with an elderly couple who were, of all things, refinancing their home mortgage. They were very old to be doing this, which brings to mind a few questions about personal responsibility and the virtue of thrift. But, thanks to Fannie Mae, such concerns can be set aside because our federal government has allowed folks like them to get a brand new mortgage loan on their home at 4.5% interest, which they are scheduled to payoff in full at the age of 114.

No wonder they have such negative feelings about the government.

These folks are supported by government welfare payments called Old Age Insurance Benefits or Retirement Insurance Benefits. This "insurance" apparently is designed to provide protection against the risk of becoming old or becoming retired. Go figure.

Old Age Benefits come from the federal government's Social Security Administration, which sounds suspiciously socialist to me. So we can all understand why these oldsters would be hostile to these Big Government programs. And much to what I am sure is their chagrin, the oldsters are also forced to get socialized medical insurance through Medicare, yet another government scheme to destroy Capitalism and redistribute wealth.
With all of this government intrusion into their lives, no wonder they feel resentful about it.

Of course like most of the folks I deal with who are over 65, they wanted to know if they needed to renew their exemption from paying school taxes. That's right, here in Georgia schools are funded through property taxes. But if you are over 65, you are exempt from this. This may seem shameful to people who care about things like children, or their country, but it was the only way that the people of Georgia who do care about education could get the oldsters to vote to fund the schools. It was a deal.

As one elder put it to me, "We want to make sure we get that exemption, especially since our kids are out of school now." Of course this is a perfectly sensible and self interested view. If you assume that self interest is perfectly sensible.
This is the Republican Party view of good democracy in a Capitalist America. If everybody votes for their own self interest, then that will translate into better results for all of us, and the country as a whole. It seems to sound OK. The fact that it doesn't really work, and that we all really know this, hasn't dampened our collective enthusiasm for repeating it as a sort of conservative mantra.
Like the senior citizens I met yesterday, most of the old folks I deal with don't like President Obama. Maybe because I'm a middle aged white guy, they assume I share their "Fox & Friends" worldview, and they feel free to share the Fox-ignorant-talking-point-of-the-day with me. Usually I say something non-committal, like, "We'll see what happens" or "I hadn't heard that." There really isn't much that can be said that would make a difference. Folks like this don't do much actual thinking for themselves. They listen to what fits into the established mail slots of their brains, and things that don't fit simply don't register, and fall by the wayside. They sit in front of their televisions nodding along with Glen Beck and sharing his frustration at how the federal government and unions and liberals are ruining the country, in complete self-denial that they themselves are living on the dole.

"Fair & Balanced" - and Friendly!

But of course the real frustration on my side of the fence is that they are us. These are Americans. It is embarrassing to realize that this is true. Their muddled mind mush of beliefs that our country was founded on principles of Capitalism, but also Christianity, while failing to take note of the inherent conflicts this implies, or what this means to us today, really brings up the word "stupid." That all of these folks at the bottom of the economic food chain love Capitalism so much is testament to the power of repeated suggestion. I doubt whether 99% of these folks know a true capitalist who would accept their call. And I doubt whether half of them actually know what a capitalist is.

So how do Fox and Rush and Hannity get away with selling such obvious baloney to our citizens? And why are we as a people still so gullible in such large numbers? Here's one explanation from a long ago anti-communist that still rings true,

". . . because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying."

Karl Rove could not have said it better.

For a better written take on Fox News, check out an interesting take by Deepak Chopra by clicking HERE.