Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fat, Dumb, And Unhappy

From the asinine statements of Sam Zell, who recently claimed the rich just work harder, to the crybabies of affluenza like Tom Perkins who insist people like him should have more votes because they have more money, to the Kappa Phi Beta club that New Yorker writer Kevin Roose discovered in 2012, never have we seen in modern America more wealthy people so detached from reality.

History, in fact, has several examples of similar times, though. The 1920s in the United States were such an example - before Black Tuesday, when the gutless yet instantly un-wealthy couldn't handle reality and threw themselves out of windows on Wall Street. The rein of Louis XVI of France was another similar period, just before the guillotines made short work of the clueless wealthy.

As the billionaires themselves revealed to Kevin Roose, and as Ryan Cooper has been highlighting over at Greg Sargent's Plum Line recently, the paranoia of these "one-percenters" has revealed more than just their insecurity. It's also revealed the dangers of inequality once again.

It all boils down to what a history teacher we once knew called "The F.D.H. Rule" - or "Fat, Dumb, & Happy Rule": If you've got far more than you'll ever need, don't be an idiot. Be happy and don't whine about how unfair your life is to the people you're taking your extra portions from. Today, we might even call it the "Slim Shady" rule: Don't piss off the people making your onion rings at Burger King.

That more Americans than ever are taking second, or even third minimum wage, fast food jobs just to bridge the basic income gap to a living wage, puts the lie immediately to the ravings of fat cats like Sam Zell about who is working harder. As Matt Bruening of Demos pointed out on Monday, the selfish rich overwhelmingly think they're deserving of every benefit, while the rest of society can go to hell.

That the UAW vote failed by a slim margin in Chattanooga, Tennessee the other day - after questionably legal outside influence by Republican Sen. Bob Corker - makes the counterintuitive point that not every working American believes he or she deserves a living wage for a hard day's work.

As E.J. Dionne pointed out on Monday, that very anti-American mystery isn't an idea that springs naturally from the Republican Party. Raising the minimum wage to a living wage level promotes many ideas Republicans have traditionally belived in: Reducing the cost of social welfare programs, fostering economic growth, strengthening families, and promoting hard work as a way out of poverty.

When push comes to shove, as it obviously did recently for one-time tea party hero 'Joe the Plumber' Wurzelbacher, even the extremists on the right head for the fair rewards of union work and more appropriate wages over the 'just take any job at any wage, shut up, and like it' meme that Republicans have been seriously pushing for the past few years.

As Ryan Cooper also pointed out on Monday, in a consumer-based economy like the U.S., the economic incentives government can use to help goose the economy into a stronger position aren't just for the wealthiest "job creators". They're also for those who consume the products and services that keep everyone else afloat.

If the members of the one percent want to truly prove they are better than everyone else, they shouldn't be fighting against simple economic incentive programs like raising the minimum wage. They should welcome and even support the change in policies to help those at the other end of the economic scale.

That the one-percenters are terrified of competing on a truly balanced playing field tells us - and the rest of the world - their braggadocio is just hollow talk from people who'd be wise to follow the old F.D.H. Rule.

No comments:

Post a Comment