“So long as the best elements of a community do not feel in duty bound to protect and train and care for the weaker members of their group, they leave them to be preyed upon by these swindlers and rascals.” W.E.B DuBois, The Souls of Black Folks
Paul Ryan thinks he has pinpointed the cause of persistent poverty in America. No, it has nothing to do with the 2008 financial meltdown. The reason poverty persists in America, according to Ryan, is LBJ’s War on Poverty, now fifty years old. Dependence on government largesse has kept the poor down, prevented them from taking responsibility for their own lives, halted their progress and retarded their initiative; this is why the poor aren’t launching entrepreneurial ventures or investing in Fortune 500 companies. It’s all the fault of the federal government’s attempts to alleviate poverty.
Like most politicians of his ilk, Ryan believes poverty is lucrative and that people enjoy life on the dole. He obviously thinks that taking a welfare check makes for as comfortable an existence as taking a fat congressional salary and all the perks that come with high office.
Paul Ryan is an asshole. He should be horsewhipped.
The other day I was listening to Adolph Reed, Jr., a very intelligent man, talking to Bill Moyers. Reed has been in the trenches of the political left for a long time and he has a good memory; he remembers where the left was and contrasts that with where the left is today, which, to put it succinctly, is up a creek sans paddle. No one on the political left can make a cogent argument in support of the causes the left once championed: economic opportunity and justice, education, health care, a real social safety net, civil rights, equal rights, and human rights. The left is all about neoliberalism now, laughable fantasies of upward mobility for people through fealty to corporate power and profit; both parties are guilty of slapping a price tag on our lives, turning our wants, desires and dreams into commodities to be bought and sold. Both parties tell us that free market capitalism is the cornerstone of democracy, the well from which all bounty springs; both parties reduce social problems to individual problems; both parties suck at the teat of corporate masters.
Adolph Reed Jr. told Bill Moyers that American democracy has been hollowed out by corporate and individual money; political power and influence is just another commodity with a price tag that only the rich can afford to buy and sell. Ordinary voters are priced out of the game, our voices silenced beneath a tidal wave of campaign dollars. The only way to defeat organized money is to organize people, but that’s difficult when neither political party represents the interests of the majority of citizens. Don’t believe it? Then why is it that the power brokers in Washington D.C. talk only of austerity, budget cuts, deficits, and the dangers posed by entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare? Outside the corrupt Beltway, people sit around their kitchen tables and talk about jobs, wages, the cost of college for their children, the cost of medical insurance for themselves and their ailing parents, the price of basic commodities we all need to live. Consider the state of our current politics. The men and women we elect (and, let’s be honest, most of the time our choices are between Tweedledee and Tweedledum) do not devote themselves to addressing the issues we care about. They claim to, but a cursory examination of most congressional voting records confirms the real story.
The American left lost the battle of ideas with the American right back in the 1980’s. The left’s core ideas weren’t perfect, but they were responsible for keeping the worst excesses of corporate capitalism in check. If the left represented working Americans the way it should, and could articulate its ideas powerfully and clearly – the way FDR and Henry Wallace once did – nobody would pay any attention to phonies like Paul Ryan.