Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Some More Preliminary Thoughts

This'll be probably long and rambling, but I think a lot of it needs to be said...
There's a lot of noise about cultural issues in this country. This noise is coming almost exclusively from the rich. What none of the culture warriors are talking about is *Class*. I think these two items are related.

The people who are agitating most loudly both for and against Gay marriage are people in a demographically more affluent group. The Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannities and Bill O'reillys of this world are rich - new money rich, but they are rolling in dough. Similarly, the people who are for Gay marriage are also, generally speaking, rich. The Castro District in SF, Greenwich Village in New York, The Gay parts of Seattle, are all richer than average neighborhoods.

Pro-Choicer agitators are typically the older money brahmins (or their children) from places like the Upper East Side in NY, Beacon Hill and he richer parts of Cambridge, MA, and the richer Suburbs around DC. The agitators on the other side represent, and are financed by, rich people in the south and midwest.

Ever notice how neither side gains any meaningful ground in this debate, in terms of actual legislation? I believe this is deliberate.

So, let's do a little thought experiment. Let's say one side of the culture wars wins an absolute victory. I'll represent both sides for our purposes here.

So, abortion is outlawed nationally, except to save the life of the mother. Gay marriage is banned by constitutional amendment. Prayer in schools is authorized. Parole for prisoners becomes a thing of the past. Creationism is taught in public schools, on an equal footing with evolution. The whole cultural package is enacted, in a way that permanently changes things in such a way that overturning any of it is impossible.

What will Fox News advocate for then? What will the "conservatives" get all hot and bothered about?

Or, let's say the cultural "left" gets everything IT wants. Abortion is available to all women, and the Government will pay for it if women can't afford it. Gay marriage is enshrined in the constitution as utterly equal with hetero marriage, etc., and permanently. What will NPR be wringing its hands about then?

I think the "culture wars" are a way for rich people (whether they call themselves "liberal" or "Conservative") to make huge amounts of self-righteous noise in order to avoid addressing ECONOMICS. Namely, the huge and widening gap between the rich (whatever their politics) and the rest of us. The fact that the median wage buys a lot less for working people than in 1973. The fact that the minimum wage will buy less now than back in '73. The Democrats decided to abandon labor because the (socially leftish brahmin) rich can afford to give more, and getting labor organized and powerful isn't really a priority for them.

I say, start a party for the rest of us, and run candidates for CONGRESS as opposed to the presidency. This party would be for lower payroll taxes for most people, paid for by much, much higher taxes on the rich. The top tax rate during Eisenhower's presidency was 95%. That's not a misprint. Ninety-five percent.

This party would do everything possible to strengthen labor: No More "Right-to-work" shelters for autoplants in the south. Card-Check legislation. Support the unionization of Wal-Mart. Raise the minimum wage to, say, 10 dollars an hour.

This party would be more traditional than most Democrats on public policy questions like abortion and gay marriage: remember, working-class people, wherever they live, tend to be more socially conservative, generally speaking.

All this cultural stuff is rich people making noise to distract us from their fat, cushy, elite lives. SOMEBODY has to address the issues that are of ECONOMIC concern to the rest of us. Either that, or things will eventually (and pretty soon) start getting ugly.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

And Now, the Populist Agenda

As a populist, I believe that:

The rich are too rich; the poor are too poor; the people who set the agenda in this country, on BOTH sides of the "cultural divide" (you know, red states v. blue states and all that nonsense) are two sides of the same, rich, coin; the people who get attention in visual media and mainstream press as representing the "left" in this coutry are usually pushing the agenda of genteel (and usually older money) rich people, in the form of cultural experimentation (gay marriage, etc.), while mostly ignoring the proper concerns of the historical American left (living wages, a voice for labor in the economy); the people in mainstream media on the "right" cynically push these same cultural issues, but from the opposing point of veiw -- on behalf of working class and rural people who share these values, but only as cover to pass their anti-labor legislation and rich-people-friendly tax cuts and other economic agenda items; one of the legitimate functions of government is to help balance society by keeping things fairly equal, and thus provide stability.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Back to School

I have recently decided to return to school, at Diablo Valley Community College in Pleasant Hill, California. I made this decision because I want to use the talents God gave me to try and make the world a better place; my talents are along intellectual lines.

I find I am distressed by the lack of quality intellectual discourse, and a general coarsening of dialogue in our society. I believe this is partly due to the loss of knowledge of how our society traditionally communicates and persuades. So, I aim to get a broad liberal arts education, in sort of the 19th Century sense of the phrase; Latin, Greek, Philosophy and Rhetoric, plus the foundational literary works of Western civilization (Aristophanes, Homer, Virgil, Aeschylus, etc.)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

"Trailer Trash"

Several years ago, I had a friend who lived in a trailer park next to the freeway here in Benicia, California. She had just come through a divorce, and lived there with her daughter. One day I stopped by with her ex-husband to pick up his daughter for the weekend. His daughter wasn't ready when we got there -- she was middle-school-age then, and therefore took longer to get ready than probably Jessica Simpson does before a show -- so we had a little time to kill.

We sat near the driveway entrance into the trailer park, and there were a couple of little girls, maybe five or six years old, helping each other making mud pies near us. It was the kind of scene that melts your heart to see, and we watched them and remembered a little bit what it was like to be that young and care free.

Our nostalgia was interrupted by a couple of guys walking past the entrance, who looked in and made some joke about "trailer trash" and about how mom and dad were probably sister and brother.

The two girls flinched, but said nothing, and I could see shame descend like a shroud. The girls stood up and tried to wipe the mud from their hands, but that only made the two guys laugh as they walked away.

The way we treat poor people in this country is shameful. I've heard Jay Leno use the term "trailer trash." This is appalling to me.

I heard an interview with David Brooks, the commentator for the Atlantic Monthly and author of "Bobos in Paradise" and the interviewer asked him about the trend of parents over-scheduling their kids' lives. There has been a much-noted trend of parents in the middle and upper-middle classes keeping their kids busy with soccer, SAT prep, "play dates" and all the rest. The interviewer asked Brooks if he thought that fear (on the part of parents) could explain some of this. Brooks sounded startled by the question, and then dodged it.

I think fear is exactly what is motivating many of these parents, though I think many of them are unaware of the root of this fear. The fear is inspired by how our society treats poor people -- namely, a harsh, merciless judgement that they are lazy and deserve their lot. Think about it: "trailer trash". More about this as this blog matures.

Monday, August 09, 2004

My Weariness Amazes Me

I am so, utterly tired of of the East Coast Liberal/ Heartland Conservative, Red State/Blue State garbage that our media is feeding to us. Did it ever occur to you that all the noise about gay marriage, abortion, the war, and all the rest, is just a big distraction from the real problems facing ordinary mortal Americans?

The average price of a house in America is about 175,000 dollars. The Median Household Income for Americans is around 40 grand, which will buy you about 123,000 dollars worth of house. Either incomes need to go up, or house prices need to fall for the average family to afford the average house. THAT is a real problem affecting average Americans, and neither party is talking about it.

Oakland in 1948

Oakland, California, in 1948, had about the same population as it does today, with roughly the same racial makeup (a slightly smaller hispanic community, a slightly larger Asian community) and the same mix of incomes.

In that year, there were fewer than 15 homicides in that city. Last year, there were somewhat north of 100. One-hundred-plus murders. Any ideas as to why? I'll tell you what doesn't explain it: There was little gun control in those days, and there was considerably more poverty, and the poor were poorer in both relative and absolute terms than they are today (remember, this was long before the Great Society programs of the mid 1960s.)


Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Purpose of this Blog

Hello, and welcome to the Hopeful Populist. My purpose in creating this blog is to give a voice (mine) to the concerns of ordinary mortals in the United States. Not a lot of people are saying the things I want to say. The issues I will be addressing are social and economic issues, from an old-fashioned populist's point of view. I will tackle some of the issues of the day (the war, the election, the economy), but also some things that aren't "issues" in the sense of being on the news, but are essential (in my opinion) to the survival of the United States as a place worth living in, and as a place that can honestly consider itself to be an example to the world. Issues like income distribution, the failures of both parties in the United States to do much of anything about the issues that affect most Americans (e.g. how the lack of union representation is lowering standards of living for the majority of Americans.)