The front page of our newspaper this morning juxtaposed these stories:
Income down, poverty up
Since 2007, median household income has dropped from $50,086 to $45,929, and the percentage of families living below the poverty level has risen from 8.5 percent to 11.1 percent. Median means that half the household incomes are above the median and half are below.
That’s according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census, which releases annual estimates of the Columbia metro area and other regions around the country. The Columbia metro area consists of Richland, Lexington, Kershaw, Calhoun, Saluda and Fairfield counties.
‘It’s a great day in South Carolina’
Gov. Nikki Haley wants state workers to answer their phones, saying, “It’s a great day in South Carolina. How can I help you?”
Tuesday, Haley instructed the directors of Cabinet agencies, which report to her, to change the way their employees answer the phones.
Haley said the change will boost the morale of state workers, remind them they work for the callers on the other end of the line and help her sell the state to employers.
That's the conservative mindset in a nutshell, pretty much - put a smile on your goddamn face, talk happy and don't you dare draw attention to the tsunami of shit hanging over your head. Don't worry, be happy! Just ignore all those icky poor people and they'll go away. Meanwhile remember that everything in this country is now a business interaction where salesmanship is king, so get out there and sell, even if nobody's buying.
One of the big things that has turned my politics hard to the Left over the last 20 or so years was watching Michael Moore's movie Roger And Me for the first time. Feminists talk about having an "AHA! moment", where it suddenly becomes obvious in a kind of Zen illumination way what's wrong, and I like to think I had my "AHA! moment" watching that movie.
Flint, Michigan, a town effectively built around the GM plant there, with long employment histories and a workforce that was influential in unionizing the auto industry in the United States. These union members weren't looking for a handout, they weren't looking for an easy ride - they were looking for justice in the jobs they were willing to do, much like the hobos of the early 20th Century wanted to work, but weren't willing to stand for being exploited or abused for a paycheck. And then GM pulled up stakes, trotted off out of the country in search of cheaper labor with not so much as an acknowledgement of the people who had supplied their labor up to that point, and the city went to hell. And all the while during the movie, as we see boarded-up storefront after boarded-up storefront, as the sheriff evicts people on Christmas Day, as crime gets worse, there is this parade of Reaganesque "Morning In America" assholes trotting into town, clucking at how bad the place looks and suggesting in chirpy tones that these people just need to get up and get working, make something of themselves and just have a properly positive attitude towards life.
Ignoring, of course, the small fact that all the goddamn perkiness and cultivating a winning smile doesn't do shit for you if there's no jobs to be had.
And I looked at this and thought about it and said "WHAT. The. FUCK?" and pretty much dumped my right-wing Libertarian tendencies then and there.
And some twenty years after that viewing, and almost thirty years after the events in the film, I sit in a city that's full of empty storefronts, where the unemployment level is in the double digits and 11% of families are living under the poverty line, and what's our Teabagger governor's great idea for turning all this around? Cheery phone greetings. Happy happy happy, chirp chirp.
I had really intended on doing a long essay about these two headlines and what they implied for what was going wrong in this country, and, you know what? Fuck it. I'm just too goddamn disgusted with how things are going these days. My personal economy is a festival of seeing how fast I can goddamn run just to stay in one place, one month behind on one or more bills at a time, playing eternal catch-up. The President I helped elect seems to want nothing more than to accommodate the wishes of sociopathic fuckwads, who have never seen the government do anything they like (beyond of course bombing brown people) but sure as hell want to squeeze in there and suck at the tit. A bunch of kids get the crazy-ass idea that they have the rights to free speech and of assembly, and all they get for it is snottiness from the media and a faceful of pepper spray. And the chirpy shitheads are back once again to tell us that if we just put a smile in our voices and do our best, our winning personalities will overcome this minor dip in the economy, in the same way the élan and les pantaloons rouge of the French soldiers in 1911 would allow them to push the Kaiser's armies all the way back to Berlin.
With pretty much the same result as Autumn, 1911 - the blood and mud of economic trench warfare, the cratered wasteland of austerity budgets, seeing those around us picked off in droves as idiot generals trade insignificant bits of real estate, the butcher's bill growing ever higher, and little to be enthusiastic over and no end in sight.
It has a way of wearing on you and your humanity. Which, I suppose, is to some extent intentional.