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Works and Days

From the Unbelievable to the Passé

September 30th, 2010 - 1:41 pm

The strange thing is that none of this has been quite factored into fossilized metrics that supposedly quantify the standard of living, poverty rates, GDP, etc. In the grocery line not long ago, two teens were chatting in Spanish to relatives by iPhone in distant Mexico. Are they impoverished or enjoying a privilege exclusive to royalty just forty years ago? Today’s Kia is more comfortable and electronically sophisticated than the Rolls and Bentley of just 20 years ago — and available to drive off to anyone with a credit card for the down payment. Surely, our social and political barometers of success and failure have simply not caught up to the technological revolution, more like horse-and-buggy calibrations trying to quantify gasoline engines.

4. The Plutocratic party?

I cannot fathom how the Democratic Party became run by those who live lives nothing remotely similar to what they profess. Yes, I know the Roosevelt-Kennedy tradition of limousine liberals, but today’s chasm between word and deed is stunning — and never remarked on. Are we to believe that prep-schooled and Ivy Leagued millionaire Barack Obama is the blue-collar face of the Democratic Party, while one of twelve children John Boehner is some sort of J.P. Morgan insider rich man? No wonder that Obama must fake his cadences, bowl, and try to eat cabbage instead of arugula.

The Al Gore, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros phenomenon is baffling. The best I can make of it goes something like this. Once someone makes enough money truly to be exempt from worries over taxation (but even Kerry proved that $1 billion does not quite end the impulse to dodge sales taxes), or is deeply burrowed within government so that almost everything is free or subsidized, then some sort of human desire to help the “other” kicks in as a sort of penance for the enjoyment of privilege.

How could Barack Obama, community organizer par excellence, send his kids to Sidwell Friends? How does Bill Gates, Sr. tour the country, hectoring to re-impose inheritance taxes? Did Al Gore need the extra Montecito home or John Kerry the $7 million yacht (cf. “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money”)? Why did the Clintons shake down corporations for gifts to their DC home and Bill’s library?

Stranger still is this new Democratic emperor/bread-and-circus alliance. The very wealthy promise largess to the poorer on the premise that both despise the culture of the aspiring, the one in condescending disdain, the other in bitter envy. Jimmy Carter laments, near life’s end, the unfairness of it all, as the ignorant never appreciated his godhead. John Kerry wails about how a slogan or two misled us from his message. Obama re-channels the poor clueless clingers trope from the Ground Zero mosque to the upcoming election. “What’s the matter with Kansas?” is the gnashing of the well-off who cannot understand why the less well-off don’t join them in redistributing their far smaller incomes.

The final irony? Lost in all this sanctimonious moralizing by the Bill Maher/Michael Moore/George Soros left is that there is redistribution going on constantly. In every extended family someone has done pretty well. What happens? He loans money to cousins. She puts up a nephew in the extra bedroom, gives a lot to her church, pays for bats at Little League, takes her daughter’s fellow Brownies to pizza, or co-signs the nephew’s car loan.

The upper-middle-class is not greedy, but they do have three reservations about the Obama pie-slicing: they want to have a little  say in the distribution; they better than Obama know how much they can afford to give; and they sense that something for nothing is not a neutral act, but a sort of evil in creating dependency and destroying initiative — all for that selfish feeling of benefaction among elites that comes from handing out someone else’s money.

No, I cannot quite believe how quietly and without audit America’s moneyed and cognitive elites became such hectoring populists — with the constant assumption they could still live, school, work, and marry largely among like kind — oh so distant from the objects of their concern.

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