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Income Inequality in 60 Seconds

Until I searched for it on the net, I thought I was the only one irritated by the AAG reverse mortgage commercial starring former Senator/Prez candidate/actor Fred Thompson. Then I saw comments with adjectives such as “arrogant”, “condescending”, etc.

Let’s take a moment to break it down. Fred is walking down the street talking about a financial instrument that only real estate owners would have any interest in. We are talking about middle class and up.

As he passes the local newspaper salesman, he asks “Jesse” to agree with his pitch. “Right, Jesse?” as he tosses change at the dude, grabs his newspaper and keeps walking.

First, since Fred starts his pitch before he is anywhere near Jesse, clearly Jesse couldn’t know what the hell Fred’s talking about. And therefore Fred doesn’t really give a damn how Jesse feels about the matter.

But let’s suspend judgment for a moment on the logistical absurdity of the ad. Let’s say Jesse did hear the start of Fred’s pitch. The answer to “right, Jesse?” should have been:

I wouldn’t know much about reverse mortgages because I can barely pay my f$&@ing rent. Do you think everyone is contemplating financial instruments to help in their retirement? Do you realize I will NEVER retire much less own a home? Do you realize I’ve peaked? Do you understand I will die selling papers on this damn street? Do you have ANY idea how I and people like me struggle every day, living paycheck to paycheck?

Keep your money, take the paper and shove it up your 1% ass. Right, Fred?

Not only does this ad illustrate income inequality in 60 seconds, it also shows how oblivious the privileged are to it. What purpose does “Jesse” serve in this ad other than to show Fred is on a first name basis with the unwashed underclass? The stark contrast between Fred in his tailored suit and Jesse is so gratuitous you have to wonder what the producers were thinking.

It prompts the rage that fueled Occupy Wall Street, a movement that fizzled as fast as it started. As we head into the election season, will any presidential candidate address the vast gap between the haves and have nots? Hillary will certainly not do so credibly. Liz Warren and Bernie Sanders don’t stand a chance.

So the poor, basically, will continue to be screwed. Right, Jesse?

What do you think? The bar is open.

Shame on Liberals: Dead Kids and Drones

Predator_and_HellfireAs we approach the four-month anniversary of the senseless slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there is much talk in the media about our tone-deaf Congress ignoring the 90% of the country that wants stricter background checks on gun buyers. Indeed, we hear lots of statistics pointing to a majority of Americans favoring restrictions on type of guns sold, and size of ammunition clips. The fault my friends is not in Congress but in ourselves.

When I was a kid, the evening news was full of coverage of protesters marching outside the White House over the Vietnam War. Who’s marching now? There are those who say the most effective thing a citizen can do is call his Congressman or Senator. I don’t buy it. Politicians respond to two stimuli: money and discomfort. Don’t get me wrong. I am not calling for violence. I’m calling for good old civil disobedience. If you’re tired of hearing about dead kids, whether it’s in the cushy CT suburbs or the inner city of Chicago, chain yourself to the nearest immovable object outside Congress and stay there. Do it until the press comes to cover it. Do it until the police arrest you, again with the TV cameras watching. The notion that you can drown out the NRA’s money with a phone call to your representative is pure nonsense.

I might be accused of being the pot calling the kettle black. I’ve never protested in my life and probably never will. It’s just not where my abilities and talents are best invested. However, I associate myself with the liberal cause because I support those who DO have it in them to protest for change.

Our current predicament only highlights what nonsense Occupy Wall Street was. Yes I’m doing an about-face on that topic because a bunch of liberals camped out in a NYC park to protest “unfairness”. We’re great about belly aching about a concept but when it comes to taking decisive action on a specific topic like dead kids, nobody is camping out anywhere.

Getting back to the Vietnam war for a moment — back then we didn’t employ the cowardly combat method of sending remote control planes to bomb our enemies into kingdom come. Now, we kill enemy and innocent alike with no risk to our own men. Now we drop a bomb on a teenager because he had the misfortune of having a traitor for a father. Where are the protesters? When Senator Rand Paul recently asked the White House whether they felt emboldened to drone-attack American citizens on American soil, he got a hypothetical yes from Attorney General Eric Holder. Only after Paul pulled off the grand old tradition of a true stand-up filibuster did the White House back off a bit. And what did we hear in the media? Nothing to see here because Obama is a nice guy who would never abuse such powers. Fortunately there were those who, like Senator Paul, pointed out that we must control the office, not the man. Obama could go crazy. Obama’s successor could be a nut job. When you enable the office, you give powers to the man holding that office.

What does it say about the liberal cause that it took a Republican, Rand Paul, to take serious issue with our drone policy?

Maybe I’m being too hard on Liberals? Perhaps the Internet has become a proxy for real protest? Whereas the Arab Spring was punctuated by social media being a driving force for communication AND organization, here in the States, we “like” some post on Facebook and think that we have made a difference. Have we been lulled into thinking electronic protest can match the power of the NRA’s money or the strength of the military industrial complex?

Have we become too cute and clever by half? Last night Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote about the changing face of protest. He cited an “eat-in” outside the FDA where protesters brought and consumed a huge vat of soup to protest the FDA not demanding labeling of GMO’s in foods. Milbank argues that these folks are opting for persuasion over confrontation. I am left scratching my head. How effective is quaint persuasion with politicians whose pockets are lined with money from the food manufacturers? How effective is gun control “persuasion” with politicians whose pockets are lined with gun money?

In the 1960’s the people pushed the President. In 2013, the President is forced to push the people. Obama has to give speeches imploring citizens to make their preferences known on the gun issue. Why do we need imploring? Where is our passion? Where are our ethics? Where is our shame?

Respectfully,
Rutherford

Photo by Brigadier Lance Mans, Deputy Director, NATO Special Operations Coordination Centre [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The True Impact of Occupy — Our New Language

The Occupy [fill in the blank] Movement has gotten some (deservedly) bad press and has temporarily faded from view. Critics pointed at the crudeness (and sometimes criminality) of the crowds. There were cries of no real message, no action plans, just slackers camping out instead of punching into work.

This observation is not particularly profound but if Occupy never has any future impact whatsoever, they have one lasting legacy. Were it not for Occupy, we would not be talking about wealth inequality in such a concise and powerful way — the 99% vs the 1%.

Almost as if a Hollywood script were being followed, who has the Republican party cast in the role of Presidential nominee? After his triple crown victory in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin, it is quite clear that Willard “Mitt” Romney will be Barack Obama’s opponent this coming Autumn. Mitt thinks a few hundred thousand dollars is chump change for speaking fees. Mitt starts the betting at ten thousand dollars. Mitt casually brags that his wife drives two Cadillacs. Mitt has a lobbyist on the payroll to help him get a permit to renovate his California mansion to accommodate an elevator for his cars.

In short, Mitt is the walking poster boy of the 1%. Let’s be clear. There is no inherent shame in being wealthy. I believe Mitt worked for just about every dime he has. It’s a matter of how you carry that wealth. Mitt seems to carry it totally oblivious to the fact that most people don’t share his experience. It is not so much what has gone into Mitt’s pockets but what comes out of his mouth that defines him.

While the Occupy movement never endorsed Barack Obama or his policies, you have to think they are tailor-made for him this year. They came along just in time to frame the debate in a way that makes some forget about Obama’s mistakes. By changing the language we use concerning wealth inequality,  Occupy has made it virtually impossible for Mitt Romney to be elected President of the United States. That is the ultimate political impact even if that was not their original intent.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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