It is one thing to say “We’re all in this together” and another for everyone in the lifeboat or the subway car being jolted by King Kong to agree with you. One would think that with so much loss of life and treasure in two wars occurring at the same time that citizens are taking a beating from a recession, all Americans would at least pull together in the spirit of reconciliation if not ultimately in the actions bringing reconciliation. But that’s not the case right now, is it?
Take Amazon, the biggest online retailer doing business in the state of California. Busy as they are stuffing books and itty bitty reading lights into boxes for shipping you’d imagine they still might have noticed that the state of California is having budget woes. And in understanding the pain, they would have demonstrated that spirit I cited moments ago and agreed to a measure passed by the state Legislature to collect California sales tax on Amazon’s transactions with residents of our state. The revenue would not be taken from Amazon’s pockets except in the view that collecting it would remove a huge advantage that Amazon has over brick and mortar businesses.
But rather than play a role in society where their business would generate hundreds of millions a year in additional revenue desperately needed for state services that include helping families and children, Amazon may spend millions fighting the sales tax by means of a referendum. Beyond dealing with our disappointment in Amazon’s attitude toward others in the lifeboat, columnist Tim Rutten of the LA Times has observed that “…it’s hard to imagine anything more outrageous than a company this successful attempting to buy its way out of the minimal obligations of corporate citizenship.”
Unless it would be the Republicans ignoring the pain of so many Americans during our current economic turmoil simply so that the egos bruised by the election of Barack Obama could be inflated with dry, acrimonious air. And that’s just the cosmetic layer of what is happening with the budget talks. The deeper level is an undisguised class war.
What a simpler world this would be if we made one small adjustment: That each time Republicans invoked “the American people” they were instead required to say “Our American people.” John Boehner doesn’t have a deep tan because he spends each working day out in agricultural fields, bent over and harvesting produce. He’s not getting tan on field trips with his public school students that he’s supplementing personally with portions of his own teacher’s salary. He’s getting his tan from playing golf at exclusionary country clubs with those in the upper 10 percent of whom want him to make sure the rich don’t pay any increased taxes regardless of what is happening to America. Pain? Let them eat recession.
Forget “effrontery.” Effrontery was killed and eaten somewhere back in the late 80’s at a sold-out Andrew Dice Clay concert. The hostility between Obama and the Republicans has had little if anything to do with decorum and respect, although again these are men that are hurt that this particular man was overwhelmingly elected President. Forget race; it simply kills them to be in the room with someone so much smarter than they are. And when they then behave like hurt schoolboys, it unquestionably erodes faith in government. Still, the wrestling in the White House budget talks has mostly been a bare- knuckle confrontation over whether we will have government by and for all the people or something akin to one of those old movie westerns where the cattle barons own the town and the sheriff.
To speak of the GOP as having finally given up on any pretense of representing anything other than the wealthy and corporations seems fatuous, but consider the way Republicans have been unconcerned about public appearances of late. Sarah Palin looks into the lens of the camera and says in effect “I am quitting as your governor to pursue money and fame. But mostly money.” Newt Gingrich, revealed to have run up a six-figure tab for Tiffany jewelry for his third wife, continues to drain his campaign funds so that he can fly on private jets. Newt speaks about “the people;” he just doesn’t want to have to sit with any of those people on a commercial flight. And now Boehner and Eric Cantor perform this vaudeville insisting that the blockage revolves around any tax increase rather than taxes for the rich.
If we had two authentic political parties in this country, both of them would be compelled to demonstrate to voters their ability to administrate the country’s business by first running successful Presidential campaigns. But Republicans are so unconcerned about that particular failure to execute, so blithe in having nothing but weaklings and haircuts and migraine-suffering extremists to put up against Obama that you’d think they were planning for America to have some other kind of government. One that doesn’t require leadership or vision. That’s accurate, except for that planning part. They’ve now stripped it all down to simply asserting their entitlement of class over the rest of us. As in the myth regarding Marie Antoinette, need and even hunger are pounding on their door… but for them it’s time for dessert.