Saturday, February 07, 2009

Culture Wars?

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
Theres a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

-- Bob Dylan, The Times They Are a Changin'
The last time those words were heard in earnest, they came with a full blown social and political revolution. Just who won that revolution is debatable. It's focal point was the Viet Nam War and the revolution was instrumental in stopping that war and in changing the way we all look at everything. The back lash to that revolution started with Nixon, flowered with Reagan and saw it's zenith with Gingrich's "Contract with America" and the election of George W. Bush, where it withered and died over the course of the last eight years like air leaking overnight from a faulty air mattress - leaving only aches and pains at dawn.

Well, the dawning is here and we are in a revolution now. It's not a social / political revolution like the 60s. It's political and economic. This time around, the revolutionaries are not naive flower children bent on stopping a war by sticking flowers in the ends of loaded rifles and dancing half naked in the streets. This time around the revolutionaries are older and (we hope) wiser. They are middle class tax payers with children and mutual funds; with health insurance and monthly bills ... and they all fear that tomorrow will be a repeat of today only worse. More than three million of their friends and neighbors are standing in unemployment lines and their biggest worry is they'll be next.

They've been listening, perhaps not paying direct attention, but they've been listening for years. They've heard the debates and they've watched the artificial economic bubble of asset inflation sold as economic growth expand and then burst. They knew who did it and they know the rationale ... they know that they bought into a line of unworkable bu11$hit. They know who screwed 'em.

They share one bit of clear understanding: tax cuts aren't worth a pi$hole in the snow if you don't have a job or if the prospects for the one you have are lookin' mighty grim! Tax cuts to corporations are worth even less. They've watched companies move operations and jobs off shore in good times - downsizing and right-sizing here at home in the process. It doesn't take a mathematical genius to figure out that those tax cuts go directly to the bottom line in hard times and won't create any jobs if the company isn't selling anything - and, frankly, nobody is buying anything. They've heard about tax cuts for a generation and they're still waiting for the benefits.

They've watched their buying power shrink out of sight, waiting for the trickle down benefits they were promised - while, all the time, watching the rich get richer.

It often takes time to consciously work through the flaws in the logic. Many people don't take the time to think through the knee-jerk doctrinaire pronouncements - like capitalism always good, socialism always bad; like a rising tide lifts all boats; like the "invisible hand" of the market will right all wrongs. They may not ever think through the arguments. After all, those bumper sticker phrases sound pretty good. However, they most certainly recognize, often with a blinding flash, when things are not working for them.

We're at the beginning of a revolution and the "tax cutters" in Congress, basking in the glory of the bygone Reagan years, praying for the resurrection of a legendary leader who never was, close their eyes tightly and throw tantrums on CSPAN that effectively end with "Bring it on!" They look to Reagan as a tax cutter - conveniently forgetting that he raised taxes in virtually every year of his administration except the year that he moved to lower taxes on the most wealthy. They praise Reagan as a "Cold Warrior" prepared to take on the world, conveniently forgetting that in 1983 he did everything he could to back away from retaliating when Marines were killed in Lebanon. They live in a selective reality, not realizing that Reagan wasn't nearly as good as they remember him to be (nor nearly as bad as some of the rest of us see him).

There's good advice for them from Mr. Dylan:
"Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled"
For the times they are a changin'!

... or watch the video on YouTube.

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