Overweening Generalist

Monday, August 15, 2011

Universal Basic Income: A Screeching Angry Radical's Few Takes

In current-day Unistat, a populist and - from what I can see after some shovel-work - a beige fascist movement calling themselves the "Tea Party" are listening to their billionaire leaders (I know, rest of the the civilized world, it's insane) and buying F.A. Hayek's The Road To Serfdom (1944). (Because someone like Glenn Beck told them to.) I have much respect for Hayek's intelligence, although I disagree with a lot of so-called "Austrian economics" as of this date. I find Hayek far more interesting than Ayn Rand. But how many of the Tea Partiers will understand Hayek, much less read him? Is it a fetish? You own the book, you carry it around. You show other Tea Partiers that you have it in your hands; you are part of the Movement to "take back our country." Maybe by simply holding the Glenn Beck-sanctioned Hayek in your hands you will feel enough of a surge of Patriotism that the vibrations could harm a vegan poet at fifty paces!

I suspect that if the ordinary Tea Partier actually gets to pp.89-90 (of the version I have from the library; I assume there are many others), they might find a quizzical passage:

"[...] the security of a minimum income" or the "certainty of a given minimum of subsistence for all" should be "provided for all outside of and supplementary to the market system."

How, dear Tea Partier, do you square that with not getting rid of the Bush Tax Cuts? I also don't hear a peep from you guys about dramatically slashing the military budget. (Well, barely a peep.) Indeed, your leaders have you rooting for anything that makes life even more difficult for about 90% of the population...one would assume you, Dear Tea Partier, are in that 10%.

Because if not, you're being taken for a ride.

Oh, I get it: now that a half-black man is a symbol for the nation's father in your pea-brain, suddenly you are for fiscal responsibility for you and your neighbors? Wha???

In the vastly underrated 2006 movie The Good Shepherd, directed by Robert DeNiro, there's a section of dialogue:

Joseph Palmi: Let me ask you something... we Italians, we got our families, and we got the church; the Irish, they have the homeland, Jews their tradition; even the niggers, they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have? 
Edward Wilson: The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting. 

Matt Damon as Edward Wilson plays a mid-20th-century Yankee-Yale-Skull and Bones-CIA WASP type, who seems a composite of many characters I've read about in histories of the CIA and the wealthy old money East Coast establishment. The movie reminded me of Mailer's book Harlot's Ghost. Do you believe "the rest of you are just visiting" is a lark from the pen of a screenwriter? I say: think again.

Well, the Super Rich have always hated the citizen's social security. They've even succeeded in steering the corporate media debates about "entitlements" in a way that assumes that Social Security is part of the national budget. Which it is not. It's part of the "liberal media agenda," I guess. Of course!

Well, it's going to run out at some point. The money you paid into SS with every paycheck, so you will have some safety net upon retirement? You may have heard something about this. That's gonna run out sooner of later. Sooner if the Unistatians keep thinking and electing the same types of people they have for the last 31 years...And the Super Rich want that social security money. And they'll get it. They get everything. God DAMN! Just take a good hard look at the Unistat economy since 1980: sustained by socialism for the rich - especially military expenditures, which serve to protect the ruling elite's interests all over the globe - and "voodoo economics," coined by George H.W. Bush until Reagan tapped him for Vice President. Cut taxes for the rich because it will create jobs! That's like theology (like "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?") now, but I hear ordinary working-poor Unistatians say that all the time. "Yea, but if we tax the rich they'll stop creating jobs and they'll move the existing jobs overseas." Uhhh...Yes, my friend. They were already going to send their jobs overseas. It's called "free trade" and "capitalism." And also, my fellow citizen: those tax cuts never really created any jobs to speak of. They are ruinous of our economy. These people take the tax cuts, lay off workers, their stock goes up...Please stop watching TV!!!

I used to hear Michael Parenti repeat these lines in talks: "All the rich want, all they've ever wanted, was everything. And they don't want to pay for it." I used to think that was a bit of poetic hyperbole in the overall rhetoric of Parenti, but since around 1999 I've wondered. And since 2008? It seems sound in every way. I think Parenti is right...

The 10% that have benefited (I'm pulling the 10% and 90% numbers  - like this long parenthetical I'm about to let loose with - out of my ass, like every "expert" does; only I admit I am no expert, and that I'm making numbers up as a rhetorical device; most of the "experts," on the other hand, are full of merde, and if you don't believe me, follow a few of them, note what they predict and then note how often they're wrong a year or two down the pike. Be prepared to have your mind blown! Report back here with your findings, please!), and the ten percenters use far more of the existing infrastructure anyway. In the interest of basic fairness, they should pay more and they can pay more.

And don't tell me the corporate tax rates in Unistat are higher than most other counties: they are nominally higher, but the problem is: they hire 100 (again: out of my ass) lawyers in order to use every loophole that the corporations themselves have basically written into US law under Republican administrations. With loopholes and dazzling accounting shenanigans (i.e: crimes), they don't pay much in taxes at all, given their profits.

Alright, my BP (blood pressure, not British Petroleum...do you have corporations on the brain, for some reason?) is high and I'm all worked-up about the idiocy of the Unistat system and the hordes of potential brownshirts rooting for their own demise, but thinking they're only rooting for the death of: immigrants, homosexuals, liberals, environmentalists, beautiful artists who embody "Hollywood values," "elites" who have no real power but do have education and can speak in well-articulated sentences which makes it seem like they're tryin' to make you look bad, and people of color. We live in a Black Comedy.

Yes: so these screeds that never quite made it to the level of "argument" were meant to be made in service of the idea of some sort of Universal Basic Income, which I also wrote about here and here. Oh well. I don't know about you, but 31 years of Reaganomics, then neo-liberal economics under Clinton, then fascist Neo-Conservatives have me on the road to serfdom...(Where have I heard that phrase before? Someone help me out on this one; I've probably been smoking too much good dope lately...which that communist-elitist-Nazi-secret muslim named Obama the Tea Partiers hate so much? He wants to prevent me from smoking pot! Even though I live in a state where the voters...oh, never mind.)

As my rioting Londoner friends might say, "Ta!"

Here's our dearly departed Professor Carlin, 25 seconds on why the rich will get our Social Security: We never really belonged to Their Country:


Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

The difficulty with your comments about the Tea Party is that they are largely a grassroots group, united by a concern about "big government" but little else. So you get social conservatives, a certain number of libertarians (waving signs that refer to Ayn Rand) and probably a few other folks.

And as much as I dislike social conservatives (and most of the Republican Party), I don't think it's fair to call them fascists. I've covered Tea Party rallies for my paper, and they just didn't seem that way to me. The point they raise -- about 40 percent of every federal dollar spent is borrowed money -- seems like a fair one. But I would cut out defense spending, welfare for corporations, etc., and concentrate on preserving and improving the "safety net."

michael said...

I have read quite a lot on the history of fascism, and I stand by my comments. All kinds of "well-meaning" plain folk get caught up in this stuff. The problems are ALWAYS: they side with the message that the wealthy want to them to side with, and clamor against their own interests while waving the flag. They mean well, but they're idiots, politically-speaking. The point they raise about the 40% and borrowed money is interesting, because they seemed to not care while Bush and Cheney and the NeoCons started a phony $3trillion war, and allowed the banks the wreck the economy via deregulation. Now that Obama's in there, suddenly it's a big deal.

I know: when you cover the Tea Party they're not out of something like Nazi Germany on the History Channel, but their ideas and the people who have them focusing on those ideas: I call that fascism. You have a different semantic.


michael said...

I also don't fall for the Grass Roots line. They are largely a product of Fox News and AM radio loudmouths. The Tea Party is more AstroTurf than Grass Roots.

michael said...

Tom: It occurs to me this was a good place to use E-Prime on my part, since there clearly is no Aristotelian "essence" of "fascism" any of us can register with our nervous systems or with extensions of our nervous systems, such a machine called a Fascist-o-Meter.

The Tea Party seem to me as anything but progressive or for the immediate needs of most of the country's citizens, whose needs seem to grow more dire every day. In my reading of history, I tend to agree with a semantic formulation of Wilhelm Reich's version of "fascism": that it seems a default position over the last 3000 years. Democracy or a reasonable distribution of wealth seems always an uphill battle, and the Ruling and Ownership classes seem to have always used some version of Divide and Conquer, and to activate the fear response in the population, which, to say the least, doesn't make anyone "smarter."

When you say things about the defense budget, corporate welfare, and the safety net: these seem to me, in my readings and listenings of them, ideas that Tea Partiers would consider anathema. Indeed, just when the time appears unbelievably ripe to get rid of the Bush Tax Cuts: we hear nothing about this from the Tea Party, and I think this speaks volumes about where they REALLY come from as a "party."

Do we need to mention that some but not all of the Tea Party seem most actuated by "Get the n***er out of there!"? Does it seem out of bounds to mention the politically very right wing billionaire Koch Brothers provide a large slice of funding for this "party"?

Tom's fantastic blog - for others interested - speaks to issues surrounding a writer that influenced both of us enormously, and is found at:


Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...


A significant number of Tea Party folks are libertarians -- they favor cutting the defense budget, legalizing pot, etc. Whatever you think of Ron Paul and his ilk, they are not "fascists."

It seems to be that all of this overheated rhetoric between the two parties (I have met people in Ohio who solemnly tell me that President Obama is a "Communist") is political theater, designed to conceal the fact that it doesn't make much difference which establishment politician is elected president. Of course it makes SOME difference, but how does Obama's foreign policy differ from what John McCain's would have been?

Thanks for the kind words about my blog. I think Overweening Generalist is the most exciting new blog of 2011.

michael said...

Of all the Republicans running, I find Gary Johnson the least unappealing, followed by Ron Paul.

I got the term "beige fascist" from Terence McKenna, and surveying the uses in context: simmering and not yet violent. But the character structure (see my Reich influence?) seems there. I have no doubt that there are some folks in the Tea Party that I'd like personally; I just doubt it would be more than, say, 2%.

I have read some Tea Party stuff on cutting the defense budget and a little bit on legalizing pot. But it seems deeply buried under "Elect John Galt" and "Keep Your Filthy Government Hands Off My Medicare"- level stuff. That's the quality of mind that creeps me out, frankly. And they follow around and jump up and down over Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachmann? Rick Perry? He'll have to answer to them. I consider Perry a far stupider version of W, and I never thought we'd see that!

Your riffs on political theater seem spot-on to me.

I wrote Obama an email last week saying, in effect, thanks for making me look like a fool.

Thanks for the kind woids about the OG!