Saturday, April 16, 2011

Paul Ryan's Holy Bible

Many of the uber-rich aren't just "greedy", they're downright cheap. And mean too. To call them "stingy" or "miserly" or "thrifty" or "fiscally responsible" would be a gross understatement. The simple fact is, many of the uber-elite just don't like to share. They're just dirt cheap. No amount of money could ever buy them any real "class".

The old classic Gallo wine commercial: A rich guy sitting on huge lawn in front of a Versaille mansion sipping on a gallon of screw-top jug Chablis. The rich guy's guest says incredulously, "But Worthington, why are you drinking Gallo? I thought you were rich!" The rich guy winks, raises his glass and says, "How do you think I got to be so rich?"

Although we know that was utter nonsense (It was just a marketing gimmick to show us that the middle-class could afford a "quality wine" like Gallo, that the rich also enjoys). In real life he would have been drinking a good $500 bottle of wine, but it doesn't underscore their penny-pinching ways when it comes to others.

I know from personal experience what scrooges many of these rich people can be after bartending in Las Vegas for the last 20 years. I saw mega-bucks being won and lost on the tables, in the machines, and in the Race & Sports Book all the time. Many of these rich and pompous people treated the employees like "things" rather than real people. The disrespect was unbelievable.

Steve Wynn, a rich man I worked for at the Golden Nugget, wanted to discourage tipping at his properties altogether, figuring it would be more money put into his slot machines or left on the blackjack tables. While I worked there for 14 years I served many famous and wealthy "celebrities". Once Mrs. Kroc, who had inherited the McDonald's chain from her late husband, was betting heavily in the Barracat pit and overheard a young cocktail waitress humming the Burger King jingle. She became so "offended" (poor darling) that she had the young girl fired from her job. I admit that the cocktail server may have acted a little immaturely, but do rich people really have such thin skins? People with that kind of money and power can be extremely ruthless, especially to the "little people" -  the "things".

Once while I worked at the Stratosphere Tower when Carl Icahn owned it, I served him coffee when I was bartending at the showroom bar. He came in to see the matinee show. The bastard not only wouldn't only make eye contact with me, but he didn't even say thank-you or leave me a tip. And the word on the Las Vegas Strip was that when Barbara Streisand was in town doing a show, the hotel employees (the "things") weren't even allowed to make eye contact with her.

When Kirk Kerkorian first opened the MGM Grand, he was bitterly opposed to his employees having union representation, even though most of all the other casinos were already unionized. I was earning $15 an hour, but if not for the union, how much would all these tight-wads have paid me? The minimum federal wage of $7.25 an hour, or $15,080 a year. Can you live on that? The Tea Party and the Republicans (and especially Glenn Beck) make all the labor unions out to be a bunch of Socialists trying to take over the government, when the unions are the only voice left to the average American worker. Congress doesn't listen and the corporations wouldn't pay you a penny more or give you any other benefits if they didn't have to (corporations are NOT charities in case you didn't know, they are nothing but a profit-driven machine).

In a recent Newsweek article I read that Ayn Rand's "totalistic philosophy was Marxism flipped upside down. Rand viewed the capitalists, not the workers (the "things"), as the producers of all wealth, and the workers, not the capitalists, as useless parasites."

I contend that the mega multi-national corporate conglomerates with limited liability just duck the laws of society, avoid their share of taxes, and bribe our leaders for laws favorable for their robber baron-like profiteering. They don't have a soul, so "they" could not possibly feel empathy or sympathy for the poor or working-class. And their wealthy corporate officers are the same way. These are the powers that Paul Ryan is beholden to.

Conservatives asserted that the events of the Obama administration eerily paralleled the plot of Ann Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, in which a liberal government precipitates economic collapse (but in reality it was during a conservative government that our financial collapse happened). It's been said that people like Warren Buffet and Alan Greenspan (former chairman of the Federal Reserve) have both cited this book as one of the most influential reads of their life. But Alan Greenspan was complicit in deregulating the markets that brought about our economic downfall.

And this is how we get the Tea Party darling Paul Ryan. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”

Ryan is not merely referring to the alarming gap between government outlays and receipts (every policy change of the last decade that increased the deficit—the Bush tax cuts, the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—Ryan voted for.) He is also invoking Rand’s almost theological certainty that when a government punishes the strong to reward the weak, it must invariably collapse. That is the crisis his Path to Prosperity seeks to avert.

Viewed as an effort to reduce the debt, Ryan’s plan makes little sense. Many of its proposals either have nothing to do with reducing deficits (repealing the financial-reform bill loathed by Wall Street) or actually increase deficits (making the Bush tax cuts permanent). Ryan’s plan does do two things in immediate and specific ways: hurt the poor and help the rich. Rolling Stone magazine makes my point very well.

From the Huffington Post: "In the Tea Party fantasy world everyday Americans are oppressed by bureaucrats with eyeshades who go to work on the Washington Metro. They are abetted by crunchy academics who spend their days dreaming up 'social engineering' schemes in their offices at Yale or Harvard. And their oppressive regime is supported by liberal news anchors and the nihilistic denizens of Hollywood who spend their nights in hot tubs surrounded by Playboy Bunnies. That is the Tea Party version of class warfare; everyday Americans versus these elites.

This is a very convenient mythology for Wall Street. It ignores the existence of the real "elites" in America. They aren't the bureaucrats who go to work on the Metro but rather the men and women who go to work in chauffeur-driven limousines, jet around the country in Gulfstream G-Vs, and make more on the first day of the year, before lunch, than a minimum wage worker makes all year long."

Ryan casts his extreme budget cuts as an incentive for the poor to get off their lazy butts. He insists that we “ensure that America’s safety net does not become a hammock that lulls able-bodied citizens into lives of complacency and dependency.” 

Paul Ryan doesn't account for, nor make the argument for, the 11 million Americans who at the peak of the recession, were collecting either state or federal unemployment insurance benefits because there was only 1 job available for every 5 people out of work. The "new poor", especially after their UI benefits expired, needed Medicaid and food stamps just for their very survival. Many worked for 30 or 40 years before being laid off during the Great Recession. They weren't lazy and looking for a government hand-out, they just wanted a job - especially one paying a "living wage". But people like he and Glenn Beck label them all as cradle-to-the-grave "freeloaders" and shouldn't be on the "government dole".

The Tea Party and Paul Ryan want to discard these people like trash. They don't believe that unemployment "benefits" are really insurance dividends, proceeds on a claim when filing for a loss (such as a lost job). But UI is "insurance" and is NOT welfare or a "government hand-out" for lazy people who don't want to work.

Medicaid is health insurance for poor people who can't afford the high insurance premiums that profit-driven corporations charge large employers or the wealthy, those who can pay. People collecting unemployment benefits earn too much money to even qualify for this form medical coverage, that's how poor one has to be to qualify. And/or only if you are disabled and can no longer work, can you receive this type of medical coverage...but only after rigorous evaluations by the Social Security Administration, and ONLY if they approve you. It almost seems as though Paul Ryan wants to keep the poor and crippled people from getting any healthcare at all. Offering an elderly person a "voucher" when they get sick is like giving someone a quarter for bus fare when they need to get from California to New York.

Ryan would provide individuals under the age of 55 with a voucher for healthcare, and says it would then be indexed to inflation and be increased for those with lower incomes. But the highest increase in prices has been in the two most basic staples: energy and food. And those aren't even included in the cost-of-living index. A person's electric bill could double next year, and they'd be screwed. Also, White House budget director Peter Orszag argues that health care costs alone will rise faster than the value of the voucher.

20% of the U.S. population lives on $19,000 a year or less for a household income, but the government doesn't define "poverty" unless it's under $10,000 for a single person living alone. One out of seven children in America go to bed hungry at least once a week (millions rely on food stamps), but Paul Ryan wants to deny these downtrodden Americas as well.

The class tinge of Ryan’s Path to Prosperity is striking. The poorest Americans would suffer immediate, explicit budget cuts. Middle-class Americans would face distant, uncertain reductions in benefits. And the richest Americans would enjoy an immediate windfall.

Les Leopold, writing for the Huffington Post - "The super-rich are experiencing an economic boom while the rest of us are coping with serious economic difficulties. Even during the depths of the Great Depression there was some equality of suffering. Of course, the wealthy weren't exactly standing in bread lines wondering if they'd ever work again. But the rich and the poor both felt the crisis. This time around, it's a Tale of Two Cities: the super-rich are doing just fine, thanks to taxpayer largess, even as the rest of us are staggering through the highest sustained unemployment level since 1937."

But what is the biggest elephant in the room is defense spending (Why call it defense, when we always use it for offense?). If you include all the hidden costs, according to economist Robert Higgs, the government is currently spending at a rate well in excess of  $1 trillion per year for all defense-related purposes (i.e. Our nukes are budgeted under the Department of Energy). Yet corporate whores like Paul Ryan never mentions any real cuts here...just cuts for the working-poor and the absolutely poor taxpayers like myself - we are the ones who must make all the damn "sacrifices" while the wealthy lobby for more tax breaks.

As usual, this morning on Fox News' "Bulls & Bears", the liberal on their panel was out-numbered 5 to 1 when discussing the budget cuts. Evidently, unbeknownst to me, all these free social services are much too easy to get and actually encourages people not to find work and to rely on government handouts. The deficit doesn't have anything to do with the lack of tax revenues from wealthy people or excessive military spending. According to Fox News (as always) it's always the poorest people's fault.

Paul Ryan was born in 1970 and ended up going to college on his father's death benefits from Social Security. Although his father had been a lawyer, Ryan says that to make ends meet, his mother "returned to school to study interior design". But before being a government employee, Paul Ryan worked for the family business, Ryan Incorporated Central, a construction firm that was founded by Ryan's great-grandfather in 1884. (So why did mom have to go to school to "make ends meet"? And did she actually get a job afterward just to feed and cloth poor Paul? Even though his family already had the financial means?)

Unlike Paul Ryan, most people need Social Security benefits for such mundane things as food, rent, and heat. But unlike Paul Ryan, they can't save this money for such things as vacations or new cars...or as in Ryan's case, a college education. So I believe him when he says, "I know how these social programs work."

He has received his congressional salary and federal healthcare from taxpayers since 1999. Over his last 12 years in congress he has received about $2 million in government salary alone. In a magazine interview he explains: “If we don’t turn this thing around really fast, we’re going to be a big welfare state." (Note that he never mentions anything about the "corporate welfare" that taxpayers pay in government subsidies to large businesses - like his own family-run construction business perhaps? But it's OK to use my money to fund his college education, but then later deny me benefits that I busted my ass for over the last 40 years. Paul Ryan is just another typical Washington hypocrite.

In his most recent article Two Cheers for the Welfare State, once a Reaganite (like myself), David Frum tells us how the financial collapse of 2008 drove him further to the left. "GK Chesterton once wrote that we should never tear down a fence until we knew why it had been built. In the calamity after 2008, we rediscovered why the fences of the old social insurance state had been built. I strongly suspect that today’s Ayn Rand moment will end in frustration or worse for Republicans."

Ann Rand's novel was first published in 1957, but because I haven't yet read it, I can't know it's premise. But it makes me wonder how it might have been written and interpreted after the Great Recession - even though Paul Ryan may now consider it to be his 2nd Holy Bible. But when I have a chance, I do intend to see the movie Atlas Shrugged, Part One (the first installment of a planned trilogy). My food stamps will have expired by that time so I'll have to ask Paul Ryan to pass the popcorn; but for some reason I get the feeling he doesn't like to share his things with "things" like me.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Bud When I worked as a bartender, the largest tippers were the blue collar workers, construction, maintenance,truck drivers, etc. However, the blue collar workers were still making well above average wages,union wages. But they spread the wealth and the economy was good. The rich never tipped the true percent, if they tipped at all. Of course,they were the rudest and most demanding. I think that anyone who worked in the service industry saw how things really were even back then. Also, to anyone who has never worked in the service industry, it is very hard work sometimes for very little compensation.