How are things in The Shining City on the Hill? Not very good, I'm afraid.
We did manage to pry that nest of vipers out of the White House. Now we wait to see what will be done about getting him out of our hair for good. I'd love to see Trump impeached, and stripped of his benefits, and screwed into the ground by one prosecutor after another, but I doubt if anything like that will happen. America prefers to sweep mistakes like Trump under the rug. This is done in the name of preserving confidence in our democracy. Or, God forbid, “unity.”
Watch carefully...I'm going to say this with a straight face, “Joe Biden is our president now.” Whew! That wasn't easy. If you had suggested to me in, let's say, 1998, that when the year 2021 came around I'd be happy that Joe Biden had just been sworn in as president, I would have laughed myself silly. The very notion would have seemed like a cruel joke. But, as luck would have it, the world loves cruel jokes. I am, indeed, happy to see Joe and Dr. Jill in the the White House. It means that the vipers are gone, and that was cheap at any price.
I'm planning on giving Joe an unlimited “Get Out of Jail Free” card for as long as he's in office. That's right, it's Endless Honeymoon time in Fred World for our new president. It's the least that I can do under the circumstances. The viper is gone, but the wolves are still hungry. Honeymoon, you say? The wolves gave good old Joe less of a honeymoon than they gave President Obama. At least Obama got a few hours, maybe even a day. Joe got zero minutes. The wolves, Fox “News,” Rush Limbo, One America whatever it is, and the truly Satanic Newsmax, swung into high gear immediately with the same old “Democrats want to kill Republicans,” and “they want to start a war against white people,” and “Venezuela,” and innuendo about that poor asshole Hunter Biden. But what they say about wolves is true: when they get their teeth deep into the haunch of a prey animal, they never let go. They'll be back on “Bengazi!” within a week.
Trump is down in Florida, staring down the barrels of numerous dangerous situations. Just as he had decided on an attorney to represent him in his pending impeachment (!), his tax lawyers quit the pending case in the Southern District of New York. Technically, he's only allowed to “live” at Mar A Lago for seven days at a time, for a maximum of twenty-one days a year. He got some slack on that deal as president, but his neighbors do not seem to be very warmly disposed to him as a failed, disgraced EX-president, and a suspect in many potential prosecutions, not to mention a defendant in multiple civil suits.
Trump's bully act worked for decades on stiffs in the real-estate business, accountants, small-time lawyers, contractors in the building industry, and various poverty-stricken public officials in various cities and countries around the world. I wonder it the sheen has worn off, however, now that he has failed so spectacularly as president. He tried to bully his way to winning reelection. Failing by a wide margin, he then tried very hard, and failed abjectly, to bully his way to remaining in office despite having lost that second election.
Even those poor fools who had fallen under the spell of “Q” are beginning to wonder if Trump will become the God-Emperor of the earth after all.
There has never been a single definitive version of this country that we simply refer to as “America.” Change is the rule in these United States, it is not the exception. The changes have often been revolutionary, causing divisions in society along the lines of who is benefiting from the changes, and whose ox is being gored. The great tension in American society has been the one between ordinary working people and the super-rich investment class. For purposes of convenience and obfuscation, it is usually presented in terms of differing values, or in racial terms. Anything that keeps the working stiffs in their places and lets the investment class keep all of the money is okay.
The yawning chasm between the stiffs and the billionaires is growing by the day. I'm seeing ads on YouTube for private jets. Not just renting them, ads from a company that makes and sells them. A whole catalog of them. If that ad can be so casually placed on YouTube, you know that there are way too many people in the world who have way too much money.
The original set up was that only white men over twenty-one who owned property could vote, and the entire Senate was appointed by those rich white men in the various states. To make that original situation worse, the mere presence of the totally disenfranchised slaves in the south was added to their population numbers for political purposes, enabling the south to wield power far beyond their voting numbers, populations, and economic importance. That nonsense went on until the Civil War.
The intersection between the expansion of the country towards the west and the expansion of the voting franchise to include just any damn white man over twenty-one caused the first real revolution. That was the election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency. He achieved his majority from the solid support of the low-rung working people in the western territories. What a party that was! Literally. Old Andy invited everyone back to the White House for a party, and they all showed up, too. Drunk as skunks, they wrecked the place and stole whatever wasn't nailed down. That class of person still votes! Those were the same Yahoos who “took back” their Capitol building last week.
Then there was our Civil War. That brought about some revolutionary changes. A bloody revolution, it was.
It went on like that, along those lines anyway, and there were more and more people, and there was more and more money, and the rich investment class grew in numbers along with the working class, and as has happened so often in the history of the world, the worst aspects of human behavior began to control the actions of the rich people. Give those people an inch, and they take a mile. Give them the moon, and they long for the stars.
By the turn of the Twentieth Century, America was a place of poverty, filth, disease, child labor, and early death for working people, along side the mansions made of marble and gold for the rich. Medical care, such as it was, could be had on an ability to pay basis. Poor women died in childbirth; poor babies were still-born; workingmen injured on the job received the cost of the first emergency ward visit if they were lucky, and then got the kiss-off from the job. For many readers, this will have been the history of their own families. It is the history of mine.
The Roaring Twenties! That was a wild example of “irrational exuberance” in the financial markets, and it ended like they often do, with wiped out investors landing hard on Wall Street. I mean landing on the street itself, or the sidewalk, or a passing taxi. 1929, wasn't it October? Republicans caused that, lest we forget, and they were responsible for the financial disaster that spread around the world over the next couple of years. And then, in 1932, a ray of sunshine appeared in American politics. He was elected to a total of four, four-year terms as president, and he personally saved us from two horrendous tragedies: the Great Depression, and World War II. Franklin Delano Roosevelt! He was a one-man revolution, and a friend to the poor.
The modern Republican Party is a revolution unto itself. Those Goddamned Republicans fought Roosevelt tooth and nail at every step. They opposed every stimulus program. Austerity was their mantra. They opposed every step necessary to prepare the country for the coming war. America first, they said. Those lousy bastards would have put the children back in the factories and coal mines, and made deals with the fascists and militarists to keep us out of the war. Where would we be then? A second rate power in a world of three huge totalitarian regimes? We all owe a debt of gratitude to old FDR, but what does he get? Those anti-American, anti-democratic, anti-worker, Republican bastards are still trying to unwind everything that the New Deal did to help working class Americans. They still live and breath to take back everything that was “stolen” from them and their rich benefactors for the good of the country.
Those 1930s Republicans had their own wolves to help them, by the way. About five families owned all of the most influential newspapers in the country. There were multiple “special” editions every day in every major city, all with their teeth firmly planted in FDR's withered thighs for his entire thirteen years in office.
And now we are forced to watch this constant struggle between good and evil play out in real time, on a daily basis. Do I complain too much about Republicans? Oh, excuse me. The Democrats for the last forty years have been going wishy-washy about helping anyone but their own individual greedy selves. They beg for their share of the scraps that fall from the tables of the billionaires. They've been busy trading away New Deal advances in the name of unity. Let's overhaul welfare! Let's save Social Security! They have become “Republican Light,” joining the Republicans in their quest to steal every last advantage from working people in the name of globalism, competitiveness, or neoliberalism. As we speak, they are only slightly better than the Republicans. As we speak, they are once again talking about “unity,” so best keep one hand on your wallet.
What's a poor working man to do?
Your vote: Are you happy with the power of your vote? The single happy result of the presidency of Trump was that Americans learned about the true power of their votes. The lack of power, I should say. You only get to choose between the two survivors of primary season. Experience tells us that neither of them will be a particularly worthy candidate. The vote of one person in Wyoming is worth about five times as much as the vote of one Californian. The Senators representing about thirty million people can control all of the important decisions to be made by the Federal government. Winning the popular vote counts for nothing in our system. No, we are blessed with an Electoral College. Etc.
Your medical care: Are you happy with the quality of the medical care that you and your family are receiving? The entire American medical establishment now exists for one reason: to maximize short-term profits for various corporations. Wealth generation has completely overpowered health results on the to-do list. Here too, the single happy result of COVID-19 has been to shine a bright light on the total inadequacy of our health care system. America spends twice as much money on health care compared to the other fully developed countries, and American medicine is achieving third-world results.
I'm horrified by the stories that I read about people's experiences. Not just people with very little ability to pay and junk insurance, no, I'm talking about Yale professors with Platinum Plans and no limits. Big-time New York lawyers with doctors for brothers-in-law. Ours is a system where doctors are misdiagnosing; doctors are making mistakes; doctors are ignoring symptoms; doctors are failing to order tests, or ordering the wrong tests. Don't even get me started about disparities in billing, or surprises in billing. If you are happy with that situation, you, my friend, are easy to please.
Your children's education: Educational opportunities for working class children have been drying up for a long time now. People's memories are so short that it's ridiculous. “And how about that new zombie show on Netflix!”
Here's a shocking statistic for you. I graduated from law school in 1991 (yes, I was a late bloomer). My tuition was $14,500 per year (minus 25% as a merit-based scholarship). By 2011, that tuition had risen to $42,780. Same school. By 2020, tuition at my alma mater was $57,560. Okay, it was thirty years, but recall that for all of that time, our leaders have been telling us that we live in a “low inflation” financial environment. That was their excuse for the stagnant wages.
Just for laughs, I looked up the current tuition for resident students at my undergraduate university. That was Queens College of the City University of New York. I received my BA in 1985. Tuition for my last year there was $75 per semester, and most of that was a Student Union fee. That was $150 for the entire year. Now tuition, for residents of NYC, is $6,930.
Beyond questions of money and access, the quality of a typical American public school education has gone steadily downhill. All that our children are learning now is how to pass standardized tests, and forget music classes, or a chess club.
In the meantime, our growing class of rather rich people, as opposed to the super-rich, send their children to private schools, where the education is excellent. Those children perform superbly on entrance examinations, and many of those families can afford the new sky-high university tuition.
Your “retirement” security: Anybody out there trying to make it on Social Security? I didn't think so.
Your air and water quality: Trump has been driven into the snow since I started this piece, and good old Joe Biden has already reinstated the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Is it just me, or is support for fossil fuel subsidies fading? This subject is closely tied to the climate crisis.
I'm afraid that our failure to deal with the rapidly degrading climate will be similar to a couple of the people who came to my law office seeking help with something. They needed help alright, and they had big cases that were clearly winnable. They had, however, waited too long. I would always make a couple of calls to ensure that I was figuring the dates right, but in the end I had to tell them, “if only you had come to see me six months ago.” There are some dates that you do not want to blow.
Your taxes: Will Joe also be rolling back last years titanic give away to the rich masquerading as a tax cut? Will he return the corporate taxes to the old levels and preserve the cuts for the wealthy classes? Or visa versa? Time will tell.
Your wages: Many European countries feature fair wages and fair taxes. The media wolves in America love to harp on Scandinavian taxes. The choice should be an easy one though. Would you prefer: A) pay 30% of your wages in taxes and get nothing in return; or B) pay 50% of your wages in taxes and receive free medical care, a life free of worrying about paying for retirement, five weeks of vacation every year, no worries about job lay-offs or periods of unemployment, etc. Oh, and bear in mind that you'll be receiving wages thirty or forty percent higher than you're getting paid now. Yeah, I'll take the higher wages and taxes, please.
Before tackling a final edit of this post, I watched a nice video on YouTube. Several minutes of overconfident assholes dumping their mostly bullet-bikes up on Mulholland Drive in Malibu. High side, low side. One guy went off the road and up the steep hillside. He made it thirty or forty feet in a rather entertaining wobble before he hit a lump that might have been a boulder. One guy was saved from a flying lesson by a guard rail. I was a regular up there myself for quite a while, and I learned a few things that these guys should have spent more time studying.
I chose my roads, and my days of the week, very carefully. I liked roads north of Malibu. Fewer motorcycles and cars, and usually no Highway Patrol. On a weekend day, I might head over to the Crest Highway. Almost no traffic; almost never any police. I would always go over a piece of road slowly and carefully first, checking for gravel, oil patches, bad road, or speed-traps. I picked my spots. Then, having satisfied myself that it was safe enough, I'd go over it a couple of times way too fast. Those were good times.
Why would I talk about that now? My system applies to other things just as well. I want to remind you that nothing is stopping you from leaving America if you're getting sick of being talked down to and treated like a dog. There are plenty of nice places in the world to live. Where, and doing what, will depend on your particular profile, but the approach to the research is the same. Look around; take your time; keep notes; find good ex-pat chat rooms for different countries. Don't rush off somewhere because one YouTuber says it's great.
You'll still be American; there's nothing unpatriotic about moving out. More and more people are doing it every year. Mexico is getting popular, and a new “retirement community” industry is growing there to make it easy. They're close to the border, so you can drive across to Texas to use your Medicare. It sure beats working seasonal jobs in Amazon warehouses and on farms. If you've been lucky to build up some wherewithal, you might find that you prefer luxury to mere prosperity.
It's worth a thought. It's going to take our dimwitted politicians a long time to straighten out the mess that they've made. You might as well be comfortable.