Friday, June 8, 2012

Gone Wisconsin
     The name of the game here in America is capitalism.  Everyone grab what you can!  Did I say everyone? Not quite. We have unspoken but strict rules about who can access the grab bag.  It’s a class thing, just like in Britain only without the peerage and pomp.
    At the front of the line are big money and old money. Then comes new money and dirty money (but isn’t it all nowadays?). Showbiz and sports money follow along. These comprise the now notorious one percent. We, the 99 percent, scuffle for chump change, some neatly in office casual, others wearing sweat-stained company shirts and weary expressions. Ever more of us are dead broke.
    Our social order discourages questions about the rich. For example, it’s unimaginable to ask whether Warren Buffet, let alone any other zillionaire, has too much money. Nor should we ask why the banksters who peddle synthetic collateralized debt obligations make millions while teachers and nurses make thousands.  That smacks of class warfare, a no-no.  

       On the other hand, it’s perfectly okay, in fact, encouraged, for us in the lower 99 percent to hector each other about our means.  We are stoked to resent any benefits going to the poor, the dark, the infirm and the elderly, who, we are told, are undeserving even if the Bible says otherwise.  When it comes to sheer invidiousness, we vent on those workers who, like business people, have organized to advance their common interests.  Bankers clubs? Sure.  Unions, ugh! Unions for public employees, double ugh!
    There is an ongoing transfer of enormous wealth from the bottom and middle to the top in America. Politicians and pundits tell us to ignore it and fight amongst ourselves for the disappearing crumbs.  Admire those, they advise, who exported your job and looted your pension, for they are rugged individualists and job creators. Resent instead those in your communities who still have jobs with pensions. Blame them for the broke cities and insolvent states.            
    Over in the first world, living standards are livable because of something Americans would find weird.  It’s called solidarity. People (the human not the corporate ones) join together in unions to give themselves--and, by extension-- everyone else a boost up. The idea is that a broadly prosperous and generous society is a decent thing to have. It works very well: the advanced welfare states of Scandinavia and northern Europe are faring best in the current recession.
     But that’s apparently of no matter to the majority of Wisconsin voters. They have chosen indecency instead as their new lodestar. Goodbye to my occasional Leinenkugel.  I know it’s not your fault.  It’s just that Wisconsin now leaves a bitter taste.