Category Archives: Economy

Say It With Me … RACISM!

I just can’t wrap my mind around why the GOP won’t defend the fundamental conservatism of Obamacare: 

Republicans are engaged in a brutal civil war between hard-liners and moderates as they struggle to craft legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. The episode invites an almost existential question for the GOP: Why, after seven years of nearly endless war against Obamacare, is the party unable to deliver a more conservative policy that provides access to health care to a similar number of Americans?

Give me a minute. It’ll come to me.

As a life-long Republican who has spent months contemplating this question, I’ve come to an answer that will be hard for many conservatives to swallow: Passing an Obamacare replacement is difficult because the existing system is fundamentally a collection of moderately conservative policies.

But it was championed by a black president! HOW can it be conservative? HOW can it be familiar to, say, a Mitt Romney or a John McCain? How, when it has the fingerprints of a man named Barack all over it?

To be sure, the suggestion that Obamacare is based on conservative principles is anathema to the modern incarnation of the GOP. Opposition to the legislation has become so central to the party’s agenda that simply writing these words will surely brand me as a Republican apostate.

I can’t imagine why that would be true.

If you force insurance companies to cover people who are already sick, you need market interventions such as the individual mandate and sufficiently generous tax subsidies to prevent a death spiral. And for people with few resources, these subsidies follow the wisdom of Reagan and provide Medicaid coverage.

Unfortunately, these marketplace realities run afoul of the Republican Party’s newly developed preternatural love for completely unfettered markets — a love that is simply incompatible with reality and our party’s history.

No, your party’s history is much more compatible with virulent racism and horror stories about black people mooching off the system. You suck Ronald Reagan’s legacy long and hard throughout this piece but fail to mention that his anti-government rhetoric relied entirely on a worldview driven by fear of nonwhites.

Where you said “love for completely unfettered markets?” You meant “love for gerrymandered votes that can only be won by promising to punish poor minorities and women.”

I have many problems with Obamacare, but they don’t stem from a belief that any government intervention in markets is a nonstarter. Such a belief cannot be, and frankly has never been, the litmus test for policy in the Republican Party.

You sweet summer child. Right now the litmus test for policy is “will it piss off my liberal sister-in-law?” A litmus test based on actual government intervention would be a step UP. I swear, we’re gonna spend the next 4 years (if we’re unlucky, the next 40) twisting ourselves into knots to pretend none of what’s happening is driven by racist spite when that’s all our politics are anymore.

A.

Get Out of the Nursing Home, Grandma!

I thought we revered the Greatest Generation: 

ORANGE, Va. — Alice Jacobs, 90, once owned a factory and horses. She has raised four children and buried two husbands.

But years in an assisted living center drained her savings, and now she relies on Medicaid to pay for her care at Dogwood Village, a nonprofit, county-owned nursing home here.

“You think you’ve got enough money to last all your life, and here I am,” Ms. Jacobs said.

Medicaid pays for most of the 1.4 million people in nursing homes, like Ms. Jacobs. It covers 20 percent of all Americans and 40 percent of poor adults.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans joined their House colleagues in proposing steep cuts to Medicaid, part of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives hope to roll back what they see as an expanding and costly entitlement. But little has been said about what would happen to older Americans in nursing homes if the cuts took effect.

Add “caring for the generation that punched Nazis IN PERSON” to the things we can’t afford anymore.

A.

Someone Told People to Resent Others

This thread is worth reading, referencing as it does the ongoing “resentment politics” that have devastated Scott Walker’s Wisconsin:

As I keep saying, people do not independently come to the conclusion that all minorities are T-bone buying welfare cheats dragging on the system and burning down the ‘hood. Someone TELLS them that. We can’t just accept that outlook as the reality and address it with policy without squarely facing who is pushing the message and how they are doing it.

Because until we counter the voices yelling at them through their speakers, it won’t matter if Democrats DO come out strongly in favor of Medicare for All, if they remind people they were the only ones who gave even half a fuck about reining in rapacious health care companies, if they run ads every other second touting free community college and support for organized labor. It won’t matter if they all turn into St. Bernie Sanders, or for that matter St. Hillary Clinton as she was instead of as she was portrayed. It won’t matter if we run Obama 12 more times.

So long as there is a chorus of wingnut dickbags on Fox and talk radio (and talk radio, in Wisconsin especially, is a mental cancer) telling them Democrats want to give all your hard-earned money to lazy black women who are having too many babies, that will always drown anything else out. So long as cable news continues to poison the well of public discourse and define the narrative as “politics is broken, everybody is bad, just give up,” so long as local papers run four pages on a good day and three of those are syndicated columns talking about “Washington” being the problem, the only thing people are going to hear is what Republicans want them to hear.

It’s understandable, sure, to my fellow palefaces. Give me a choice between studying and shooting heroin, I’m gonna show you my veins. I know these people, I meet them on the regular, and you do not have to dig very far under the surface to find the jokes about people getting fat on soda and public assistance while they, the virtuous, just marvel at the destruction of their neighborhoods by “those” elements.

They side-eye every low-hanging-pantsed dude they see on a trip to the mall because THAT is who they picture taking everything away from them. It’s all one thing. They don’t separate their contempt into rural vs. urban vs. black vs. white boxes. I’m not making a joke. You can’t counter vagaries like that with specifics of policy.

You have to counter it with entertainment and right now we have no show.

A.

Why Don’t They Just Move?

Because this, you dipshits: 

Activists took to the streets in the summer of 1967 for 200 consecutive days of fair housing protests, and were sometimes greeted with racial slurs, eggs and rocks as they crossed the Menomonee River, via the 16th Street Viaduct, into the white South Side.

The Common Council eventually ratified a fair housing law in 1968, weeks after the federal government passed its landmark measure.

The racial dividing lines were already drawn, however, and barriers to black upward mobility remained. Even the neighborhood where the baseball slugger Hank Aaron moved in the late 1950s could not avoid a downward spiral. While the black population in the Rufus King area grew from 0.4 percent in 1960 to 89 percent in 1980, its median home value dropped from 9 percent above the city’s median to 23 percent below it, according to “Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods,” a book by John Gurda.

Those historic dynamics of race and housing have not disappeared, either. As recently as 2006, a city government report found that affluent, nonwhite Milwaukeeans were 2.7 times likelier to be denied home loans than white people with similar incomes.

So the bank wouldn’t give your grandparents a home loan, so they had no money to use to lift other family members up, so those family members couldn’t lift up others, and by the way even if they DID bootstrap and such, they’d have had rocks thrown through their windows. For shit’s sake, this is in living memory, this isn’t an ice age ago, so let’s stop with the “why does everything have to be about race anyway” nonsense. It has to be about race because it is about race.

A.

Can’t Imagine Why Everything’s Going to Shit

Wonder if this has something to do with it: 

States have been racing to the bottom to try to attract corporations to their state, and as a result businesses are paying fewer taxes in states during a time of record corporate profits. On average, the state corporate tax rate is 6.25%, but these profitable companies paid just 2.9% of their profits. From 1986 to 2013, state and local corporate tax rates declined 30%, the report says. And yet states continue to compete with one another to offer tax giveaways to corporations.

The report looks into 17 companies headquartered in Illinois and finds that some of the biggest companies are paying very little. Take Boeing, which has earned over $40 billion in profits during the period studied—and only paid 0.1% of that to Illinois. This comes at a time that some of the most vulnerable in the state—people with disabilities, the homelessness, opioid addicts, rape victims, low-income seniors—are watching their safety net being slashed. (And in the meantime, Illinois homeowners are paying higher property rates than anyone except New Jersey homeowners.)

Mr. A and I are currently looking for a house, which leads to lots of people assuming we want to hear them bitching about their taxes and how awful it is to pay so much. My considered opinion is that I don’t mind paying taxes because in my ‘hood it’s very obvious what I get out of it: roads that get fixed, a park district-run preschool where Kick is thriving, cops who respond to complaints promptly, and services all over the place.

If I lived somewhere else, and was paying the same amounts in taxes, and the neighborhood looked like The Hurt Locker and the public schools were crap and the bus ran once a month between two places I never wanted to go, I might be more inclined to complain, but still, what I could contribute is a drop in the bucket compared to the corporate profits that SHOULD be fueling the state’s economy.

The bribery and up-sucking to companies to get them to come here and stay here drives me wild, too. Shower them with tax incentives, as Illinois once did to Sears and others, but if they don’t pay those taxes, is it really a benefit having them here at all? Creating jobs is very good, but adequately funding schools and municipalities creates a shitload of jobs and also a pretty nice life for any employees you might have.

A.

Rummage sales are life. The rest is just details.

The reason this post is late is because I spent the last hour and a half looking up everything I could find on Carry-Lite Duck Decoys manufactured in Milwaukee.

Am I a hunter? No.

Do I care about becoming a hunter? No.

What the hell is wrong with me? A lot, it turns out.

I picked up six of these decoys at a rummage sale today, so duck decoys have become my obsession of the moment. A friend in California is a hunter and mentioned how to locate interesting and valuable decoys at one point. A friend here noted that a neighbor of his sold some for a pretty high price once.

A woman about my grandmother’s age had dumped a dusty box full of these things at the end of her driveway just as I drove up. She said she had no idea what they were, but her husband used them a long time ago. A price of six for $20, made of paper mache with a “Patent 1941” stamp on the bottom seemed like too good a bargain to pass up.

I scoured the Internet looking for various types of duck decoys and places to find them. I have yet to find one stamped like mine, so I either have a rare find or a box of shit. Eventually, I found myself going crazy so I stopped to write this post (Side note: I’ve stopped writing this a few times to go back to Google with the hope that maybe THIS set of search terms would yield an answer about who made these and when.).

It was at this point that a realization hit me: Rummage sale season is officially upon us.

This is a sacred time of year in Wisconsin, due in large part (I suspect) to the fact we spend nine months of the year housebound by snow and ice, so anything that gets us outside in sunny weather is worth doing. Neighborhoods get together to host 30, 40 and 50-family sales, in hopes of drawing massive amounts of traffic to their neck of the woods. Subdivisions are packed with trucks, vans and SUVs creeping along the winding roads in search of the next sale on the map someone at the last sale handed out.

Certain cities and towns are “known” for having certain citywide sales during certain weekends. Winneconne was two weeks ago, Omro was last weekend… I still have yet to attend the infamous “Irish Road Rummage” which is a cross between an insane asylum and an endurance test.

Rummaging was pretty much tattooed onto my DNA as a child, long before the “American Pickers” crowd made it trendy. Each summer, Mom would have off from teaching and I’d have off from school, so off we’d go every day we could find a sale. Estate sales, rummage sales, moving sales… It didn’t matter. If we were looking for bargains, at least she wasn’t making me scrape and paint the storms and screens around the house.

I still remember one find she made in the basement of a house that smelled like mold and cat pee: A 1950s-style grocery cart with two detachable wire baskets. The asking price was something like $12, so she had me haul that thing out of the cobwebs and somehow stuff it into the backseat of our 1979 Ford Thunderbird.

When we got it home, my father saw it and bitched up a storm: “The hell do you need that for? What the hell did you pay for that? Where the hell do you think you’re going to put that?”

Mom had an answer: She was going to have me spray paint it a couple bright colors and she was going to use it to shuttle stuff around her classroom. I think I was 16 at the time we bought the cart and I was more than 40 when she finally retired. The grocery cart was an integral part of her classroom for the quarter century in between.

To be fair, Dad wasn’t anti-garage sale. He just had his own way of valuing things that came from the sales. If you want to watch a 73-year-old man outrun Usain Bolt, just put some sports shit at a rummage sale and mark it “FREE!” I can’t tell you how many times we bought something on a Saturday and sold it for a profit on a Sunday at the card show.

My first and favorite big score was when I was 11. I rode my bike to a sale a couple miles from our house. I found a really cool flag I wanted and when I picked it up, I noticed a bunch of paper placemats under it with the box scores from Milwaukee Braves games. I asked the lady how much for each placemat.

“Take them all for $2.” So I did.

I had no idea what they were worth, but it was something I could show my Dad, so I tucked them carefully into a sack and rode home. He’d never seen one, so he went to one of “his guys” who happened to run a sports card place on Lincoln Avenue.

“They’re not worth much,” Leroy told my dad. “Maybe $5-6 bucks each…”

The next show, we put four of them in the auction. I watched as two guys went after these things until they finally sold for $26. The next month, we did it again. Same result.

I was thrilled to be getting $26 a month, but Dad had a better angle. He found the guy who lost the auction and asked if he wanted to buy some. We took him out to the car where we had the rest of them and Dad negotiated a price. I walked away with another $185 and a hyper-inflated lust for rummaging.

Over the years, we’d found a few things like that: Dad would see something of value, he’d ask what it would cost for all of the stuff there and then we’d resell the stuff at a profit. Still, nothing will ever top the Saga of the Beer Cans.

It was the weekend of my wife’s baby shower and we had come up from Indiana to Milwaukee so all of our family could attend. My mother took my wife for a spa day, leaving Dad and I to our own devices.

We decided to “take a walk” which usually led to us walking past rummage sales. At one in particular, we started poking around when a woman asked, “Hey, do you guys wanna buy a beer can collection?”

To this day, neither Dad nor I can figure what it was about us that said, “Hey, ask us about your beer can collection,” but there we were, looking at hundreds of cans stacked up in a row.

As if we knew the difference, the woman tossed in this pot sweetener, “I’ve even got some cone tops in there.”

Neither Dad nor I would have known a cone top from a Conehead, but for some reason, Dad asked, “How much?”

“Fifty bucks.”

“Nah.”

We started walking back home when I noticed we were both really quiet.

“Dad, I know you’re thinking about those cans,” I told him. “I can hear that gerbil on the treadmill in your head.”

“That’s only because I know you’re thinking about them too,” he told me.

We went home, looked up what the hell a “cone top” was and then decided to drive back. Just as we pulled up, a collector was there talking to the lady.

“No, no,” she said to the guy, as she pointed at us. “I promised these guys first.”

So, we essentially bought a beer can collection at that point, having no idea what we were going to do or how to sell it. Still, it seemed like we could make the money back even if we just scrapped the damned things, so we had that going for us. We had the entire SUV filled with several cases resting near Dad’s feet, when the lady said, “Don’t forget the ones on the side of the house.”

When we looked down the side of the house, we saw cardboard beer cases stacked four high as deep as the entire length of the house. It took us three trips to get all that stuff back to my parents’ house and it filled the whole garage stall.

Cutting to the end of the story, it took two trips with two SUVs to get all the stuff down to Indiana and we made more than $1,500 together from it.

Also, it was a miracle my wife didn’t murder me, even after I said, “I hope you get a lot of gift cards so we can take some of these cans home with us right away.”

Sorry, honey, but there are no “sacred cows” when it comes to rummaging.

I was once running late for church when I spotted a guy closing up a rummage sale. He had a lawn mower and a beer sign for sale, so I pulled a bootlegger turn in front of his house. He asked $3 for the beer sign and said the mower didn’t work. “Take the damned thing,” he pleaded. “Just get it out of here before my wife comes home.”

This led to me wrestling a push mower into the back of my SUV and spending an hour-long mass smelling like gasoline.

Mom and I will often be late for something but spot a sale and have to pull over. On Thursday, we were taking some furniture to a friend of hers when we noticed a sale. We almost tossed the stuff out of the truck on the lady’s lawn so we could get back there and look at the sale. I ended up with a liquor cabinet, a bench and a cuckoo clock. I also grabbed this gorgeous antique table that was about the size of dinner plate. It had an oval top with pressed flowers under a broken glass top. The top also flipped up so you could just display the art. I bought it for $12 and was thinking about how I could redo it and display it at our antique booth. As I was loading it into the car, Mom noted, “I want that. Can you refinish it for me?”

Again, no sacred cows. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up pulling out of a funeral procession at some point because Dad spotted some bobble heads for sale.

Still, it’s not all about making money when it comes to garage sales. I can’t tell you how many times I ended up with a piece of furniture or something else because Dad found it at a yard sale and proclaimed, “I couldn’t buy the WOOD to make it for that cost!” My Mom loves to pick up cross-stitched pillowcases because nobody does that stuff anymore and she loves the details. Dad finds golf stuff and other stuff he already has three of but just “couldn’t pass it up at that price.” Eventually, when he stockpiles enough of the “had to have it” bargains, we do our own sales.

Each year, we have two sales: One up at my house and one down by my folks. I usually have tons of refinished furniture, sports memorabilia and rebuilt lawnmowers for sale, most of which came to me in damaged format from other rummage sales. It’s a good gig if you get a nice weekend, as people tend to flock to us in droves when it’s sunny out. Rainy weekends kill you and make you wish you’d never thought about doing one of these things.

This weekend is what we call a “half and half” sale: Friday is gorgeous without a cloud in the sky, but Saturday is supposed to bring torrential downpours. This leads to a great amount of self-deceiving justification on the part of people like me. I was headed to work at around 8:30 when I saw a sign for a “60-house rummage” in a subdivision. I was planning to do some writing for a book I’m finishing, submit my annual report information to my department chairperson and write this post.

Yeah, but… See… Rummage!

Obviously, the best stuff is available earliest on the first day and it’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so it’s clear I can’t go out tomorrow and it’s a beautiful day… Besides, I can do that shit later…

Thus, I spent the next four hours wandering through a subdivision, buying tons of stuff I might or might not need. A Blackhawks hoodie for my wife, a dresser to refinish for $10, a set of chairs for my buddy who has a buyer for a table we own if we could find chairs, a 1973 Bucky Badger Boxing decanter (sans booze), a couple tools and, of course, the ducks.

I had to have the furniture people hold the furniture for me after I paid them because I was driving Betsy and there was no way I’d get any of that stuff into her trunk. I was having an existential argument about buying a second dresser when someone else bought it first, so that ended up going that way.

Still, I eventually got the truck, got the furniture, got to work and got everything done, including this post, so no harm, no foul.

Speaking of fowl, time to figure out these ducks…

 

P.S. — Just for darrelplant

I want to meet Mick Mulvaney…

I want to meet Mick Mulvaney, this man of billions who has the audacity to call people like my mother-in-law thieves.

She sat in a hospital recliner this week with a giant blackening scar running down her leg as a stream of people she barely knew entered and exited at a rapid pace, spewing information into her stroke-impaired mind. She looked like a child who had lost her mother at the grocery store as doctors changed orders and nurses took readings, her eyes darting from one to the other as they spoke over her in multi-syllabic jargon.

She had put off a knee replacement until she cleared 65 so that her Medicare would help cover the bills. Each day, she rose on two dysfunctional joints that had worn ligaments, cartilage and bone. Her entire left side remained frozen in a tense and contracted state, the result of a massive stroke several years back.

The doctor decided to do her “good” leg first, so it could heal and provide the most support. When my wife protested, the doctor noted it was the only way to move forward with this. He also promised she’d be “good as new” after her two-night stay in the hospital and ready to go home.

My wife knew better.

Her mother couldn’t go but short distances without pain or exhaustion and that was when the “good” leg was working. Her bladder failed her often, as she tried desperately to make it to the bathroom before suffering the indignity of asking for a fresh nightgown. She rarely left the house and her movement was mostly confined to a wheelchair.

She needed a lot of rehab and she would need a nursing home to do it, my wife argued. The doctor didn’t think so at the time, but he eventually came around to it. However, the rule of Medicare is a three-midnight stay, or no nursing home.

My mother-in-law spent most of her two days in a drug-induced haze of opiates and numbing agents as we kept trying to figure out with these people how all this would work. By the time they had us convinced if we were there 24/7, we could keep her at home, they changed their mind and set up a nursing home bed.

The cost was more than $350 per day, not counting therapy and meds. Mom subsists on about $800 of social security and a $200 pension, the result of decades in the Catholic school system.

She cashed in her state pension, earned through years of working at northwoods schools near the UP of Michigan, a total of $8,000, but the nursing home needed two weeks up front.

As these numbers and costs and such flew around her head, I saw her bright blue eyes and I almost broke.

If the eyes are truly the windows to the soul, her eyes showed terror; they had the look of a child witnessing an unspeakable act. They told of loss, panic and fear rolled into one.

This is why I want to meet Mick Mulvaney.

I want him to see those eyes and tell her how this budget he proposed can be anything but a decimating blow to people like her who have no hope but the mercy of the government.

I want him to drive out to this rural town of 3,300, many of whom voted for his boss, and call my mother-in-law a thief. This woman, who once was horrified that her father taught her child to grab a grape from the grocery store and try it before buying it, is a thief?

I want him to stand there and explain how she’s not a taxpayer who put up with so much in her life to support a family of five and worked until she was physically unable to any more.

I want him, with that “Leprechaun-meets-Jack-Torrance” look on his face, to say to her, “I’m sorry you’re hurting, but that’s not my problem. This nation has bills to pay.”

If this country is worth anything, it’s because of people like my mother-in-law. She spent her life teaching Sunday school to poor children and working with the autistic kids whom society discarded. She kept food on the table and her family in line for nighttime meals and homework sessions. She pushed herself out of pure American grit: The idea that you don’t take from others, but you work so you can give back.

When people like her break down, it’s not out of greed or laziness or a sense that they are owed something. It’s because something happened beyond their control and they need the rest of us to say, “Relax. We got this.”

Tax cuts don’t do that. Medicine does.

GDP growth charts don’t do that. Safety nets do.

This is something the Mick Mulvaneys of the world will never get: Money isn’t everything. It’s what we do with the money that defines our humanity.

Book Review: The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith

Every once in a while I’m offered a review copy of a new book. It’s always flattering when someone is interested in what a mere internet wise ass has to say. This time around, I was contacted by Diana Rissetto of Cambridge University Press and offered a copy of The Selected Letters of John Kenneth Galbraith. I accepted with alacrity but it’s taken longer than expected to review this outstanding book. Ms. Rissetto has been as unfailingly patient as I have been dilatory. She also has a most amusing and witty Twitter feed, which is a plus. One can tell that I’ve finished the book because Galbraith’s style is contagious and this paragraph is redolent of it. It’s a good thing I’m under the spell of Ken Galbraith, not Pepe Le Pew. Le sigh of relief.

The British historian Thomas Carlyle dubbed economics the dismal science. Economists are not known for their prose style or sense of humor. It’s dry, dry stuff. John Kenneth Galbraith was an exception to that usually accurate rule. In fact, he’s one of my favorite writers of his era as he dabbled in writing outside his area; especially in the world of politics where he was a committed liberal Democrat with a wry sense of humor. No other economist ever made me laugh out loud, which I did repeatedly as I read this book.

The letters have been edited and annotated by Richard P.F. Holt. He did a smashing job ensuring that we know who Galbraith was corresponding with and why. I knew most of the names but there were some sleepers. Additionally, Holt has collected memos, speeches, and other non epistolary documents. Good job, sir.

Galbraith had an active sideline as an adviser to, among others, Adlai Stevenson, Jack Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and-until they broke it off over Vietnam-Lyndon Johnson. While Ambassador to India from 1961-63, Galbraith was dispatched to Vietnam by JFK and asked for his input. He offered it to his successor as well until Johnson ended the correspondence. It was a pity that LBJ was less receptive to Galbraith’s advice on that lamentable conflict than to his suggestions on domestic policy. If LBJ had listened, he might have been our greatest President.

In addition to his political side, The Selected Letters, dips a toe into Galbraith’s personal life.  Most interesting are his exchanges with Jackie Kennedy. They’re flirtatious on both sides without being OTT. Ken Galbraith would have made an excellent courtier, which he was by analogy. He offered the Kennedys his loyalty but it was never blind fealty. Galbraith believed in plain speaking wrapped in wit when corresponding with the Kennedys. It’s a pity that the Current Occupant is surrounded by nothing but yes men, relatives, and non-entities. He could also use a decent joke writer. Believe me.

Galbraith had some close friends on the other side of the political spectrum: Henry Luce, William F. Buckley, and fellow economist, Milton Friedman. Friedman was the godfather of Thatcherism and Reagonomics but his correspondence with the uber Keynesian Galbraith was respectful and, at times, hilarious. Friedman did a better job of hiding his puckish side than Galbraith so I enjoyed their exchanges inordinately. That’s another Galbraithian word. I seem to be turning into him. I hope I don’t become 6’8″ at my advanced age: none of my clothes will fit…

I’m not known for my adherence to chronology, so let’s circle back to Galbraith’s war-time activities with the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS.) His letters home to his wife Kitty from 1945 are a must read for anyone interested in World War II. His service with the USSBS led to Galbraith being the only Harvard faculty member ever name checked by Pete Townshend in a Who song. Now that’s an honor.

Speaking of The Who, I considered reviewing this wonderful book as a Saturday Odds & Sods segment, but thought better of it. I think it’s time for a Galbraith revival. He was a witty and wise man who was usually right. He was an uncommonly good, decent, and intelligent human being; qualities we are badly in need of as we endure an uncommonly bad, indecent, and stupid administration*.

I highly recommend that y’all pick up a copy of The Selected Letters Of John Kenneth Galbraith. Ken Galbraith passed away in 2006 but he remains good company; pun intended, it always is. The only bad thing about finishing the book is that I will miss hearing his marvelously droll voice in my head as I read. For those of you unfamiliar with JKG’s cadence, here’s a 1986 interview with the man himself.

Who else but Ken Galbraith could possibly have the last word in this post?  That would be me. But I’ll use his typical epistolary closer, his Won’t Get Fooled Again as it were:

Yours Faithfully,

Adrastos

Really Disabled

When you get right down to it everybody is just mooching off the system, right?

Everybody on welfare’s driving Cadillacs and everybody on food stamps is buying candy and everybody in Section 8 housing is just dealing drugs. The homeless by the highway are scamming you and kids who need lunch money are scamming you and that woman speaking Spanish in the grocery store might be talking about you and a guy who was panhandling once had a cell phone and oh my Cylon god, basically.

WHO HAS TIME FOR ALL THIS SHIT?

I mean it, who? The other day I was trying to figure out if I could make a haircut appointment for after my kid went to bed so I wouldn’t miss any more time with her because all I do is work and we’re selling our house and moving to a new house we haven’t found yet so we go to house showings and clean our own house for showings, and I haven’t seen my friends in weeks, and I’m emotionally involved with no less than 14 TV shows right now, and seriously at the moment a mani-pedi takes more time than I have free. Every night I am almost too tired to brush my teeth, and I threw my back out again so I’m limping around trying to quote Richard III like it’s funny.

The very last thing I can do is track if some person on disability could take a shift on the factory line or not.

I’m not being deliberately dense, I know there is an entire propaganda machine dedicated to convincing elderly white folks that this is the case, and I know it’s like candy for your brain, the idea that you are Not King because of some minority person or chick and not because you suck, but when you get right down to it half these loony things only take hold because people have time to pay attention to them so I ask you, can we get America a hobby or something?

Do we need classes to teach everybody to paint and crochet or tell them it’s okay to just ignore the homeless guy instead of inventing a whole story about how that guy is scamming you? You don’t have to give him money but you do have to find something else to talk about, you know? My cousin’s brother’s friend saw a homeless guy by the roadside get into an SUV and drive away, so they’re not really homeless, why is that something you need to tell me? I knew someone who knew someone who’d heard of someone who wasn’t disabled, who just had a headache and lived on disability his whole life because SCAMMERS, and we need to stop paying for programs for which we’ve already taxed people.

How broken in the head do you have to be, sure, to think like this, but also how fundamentally intellectually bankrupt and disinterested in life do you have to be that this takes up this much space in your head?

A.

Veterans Skinning Squirrels to Survive, But Should Get To Work!

From their McMansions, Trump’s base looks down on people like these: 

The Navy veteran was one of several thousand former food stamp recipients who lost benefits when Maine, in 2015, declined to renew its waiver and reinstated statewide work requirements. He has spent much of the last year living in a tent.

“I don’t wanna worry no one,” said Keefe, who recently testified to Maine’s Committee on Health and Human Services about the impact the work requirement had on him. But, he added: “I hope they understand that people fall through the cracks.”

If Paul Ryan or Donald Trump had to spend 30 seconds living this guy’s life, they’d shit themselves and die. But they’re gonna lecture him, and people like him, about hard work, about deserving, about handouts?

A.

I’m About to Be Uninsurable

Kick has started to ask questions about books.

We read a book about Ada Byron Lovelace and she asks WHY Ada loved numbers as a child, why she couldn’t walk. We read a book about a panda that refuses to give people donuts and she asks why he’s being so mean.

She used to just sit and absorb everything I read to her. Now she follows the plot, notices if I skip pages (screw you, Wheedle on the Needle, you are twice as long as you need to be) and wants every word defined.

The other night, we read Madeline. She asked what a scar is. I told her a scar is a mark from when you were hurt, or when something was wrong and doctors had to help you. And I showed her one of the scars from the surgeries I had while trying to have her. It’s a small raised spot now, barely noticeable.

I had two surgeries trying to have her, surgeries to scrape out benign tumors in the uterus. The second was minor, laparoscopic, left only small marks. The first was major, and necessitated that when I did give birth, it was via C-section.

I said throughout my pregnancy that I was happy about the C-section, as it meant I could schedule my German child and have her born precisely when I wanted her to be. I’d heard recovery could be simpler than from a vaginal birth with complications, and I got to skip the birthing classes, so I wasn’t going to insist as some women do when their doctors recommend the procedure. I’m lazy. I get to lie down while the doctor does all the work? OKAY.

I didn’t consider this as an outcome: 

Dr. Horvath-Cosper says that, by letting states decide on their own essential benefits lists, women could be disproportionately targeted as having pre-existing conditions. “Back in 2010, it was legal in several states to deny somebody coverage because they were a domestic abuse survivor. That was considered a pre-existing condition,” she said. So was having had a C-section. “Most of the people who have C-sections identify as women, so that’s a shorthand for a gender discriminatory policy.”

Many others have said what I could say here, that being alive is a pre-existing condition, that this bill is monstrous to families with developmentally disabled children and to people with cancer and to the poor, that Republicans haven’t read it and don’t intend to and only care about delivering a win that allows them to shit all over the former occupant of the Oval Office, who happened to be black. These things are all true, and the GOP should rot in hell if this passes. Decent people should spit on them on the street.

And don’t give me that it’ll die in the Senate. That isn’t the point. The point is that this is what they’re saying about who we are and what we want. And what we want is to be mean, and small, and angry at everybody who is sick or needs help.

The way during the last election we wanted to be mean and small and angry at everybody who wasn’t white, wasn’t rich, wasn’t just like “us.” The way we all seem to be on every level of government right now. Fend for yourselves, everyone, there’s nothing we can do for you.

“That’s a scar,” I said to Kick, taking her small fingers and helping her trace the mark just inside my left hipbone. “A doctor had to make a cut there.”

“Why?”

“To make Mama better so she could have you in her tummy.”

She accepted this without question, thank goodness, and snuggled back into the story about a little girl who needs her appendix out and spends 10 days in the hospital afterward.

Thank God Madeline is French.

If she was American she’d have a pre-existing condition now.

A.

You can’t spell “PENIS” without “E-S-P-N”

ESPN experienced the journalistic version of a mob hit on Wednesday, when 100 staffers (or about 10 percent of the “front-facing” staff) found out they no longer had jobs. According to published reports, the staffers got called in early in the morning, were placed around speaker phones and had prepared statements read to them to let them know their services would no longer be needed.

The firings weren’t culling deadwood analysts or former jocks who couldn’t find a coherent sentence with a searchlight and a posse. The firings included people with nearly 20 years of experience, such as college basketball expert Andy Katz, NFL insider Ed Werder and investigative reporter Steve Delsohn.

Network President John Skipper dug deep into his “The Pointy-Haired Boss’ page-a-day buzzword calendar” to explain the firings:

“Our content strategy — primarily illustrated in recent months by melding distinct, personality-driven SportsCenter TV editions and digital-only efforts with our biggest sub-brand — still needs to go further, faster … and as always, must be efficient and nimble. Dynamic change demands an increased focus on versatility and value, and as a result, we have been engaged in the challenging process of determining the talent — anchors, analysts, reporters, writers and those who handle play-by-play — necessary to meet those demands.

Wait… Where have I heard something like this before?

Today we underwent and completed a reduction in personnel in our news division in several of our Tennessee markets, as part of a transformative strategy for the USA TODAY NETWORK–Tennessee.   We recognize that this has been a tough day, and we respect and appreciate the work of all our colleagues, especially those who have been impacted by these actions — through no fault of their own.

We’ve previously spoken about the new ways we will be able to better serve readers, communities and customers as we fully form the statewide network.   Today was the first step as we re-secure and level-set our economic vitality to support our journalism.

Right, but I thought I heard that somewhere else…

Gannett president and CEO Bob Dickey explained in a memo to employees announcing the cuts: “These moves are central to our transformation into a leading, next-generation media company. The positive impact of these efforts will take time, which in the near-term requires us to assertively manage our costs.

Looking ahead, Dickey wrote: “Over the next 18 months, we will continue to build our scale and invest in important digital capabilities and experiences — such as critical e-commerce infrastructure and significant upgrades to our digital content platforms.”

Maybe, but I remember some other bullshit phrasing…

“In essence, we are resetting the legacy side of our business so we can continue to publish a high-quality newspaper delivered to loyal subscribers’ homes seven days a week,” Silvestri wrote in an email to employees on Monday. “At the same time, we also push ahead on adding to our growing digital audiences and developing new revenue segments such as premium magazines, e-commerce, paid RTD events, sponsored content, and archive products and services.”

Reeeeallly close but…

The story, which can be accessed through this link, details the formation of NOLA Media Group, a digitally focused company that will launch this fall and that will develop new and innovative ways to deliver news and information to the company’s online and mobile readers. NOLA Media Group will be led by Ricky Mathews. Also this fall, The Times-Picayune will begin publishing a more robust newspaper on a reduced schedule of Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only … Many current employees of The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com will have the opportunity to grow with the new organizations, but the need to reallocate resources to accelerate the digital growth of NOLA Media Group will necessitate a reduction in the size of the workforce.

THAT WAS THE ONE!

Trying to make sense of this is like trying to fuck a porcupine: It’s not worth it and even if you pull it off, it still hurts. ESPN decided that it wanted to save money and it’s always easier to cut people than it is to improve anything else. In doing so, it looked like the company just started throwing darts at an employee list and made the cuts accordingly. Anyone with a brain has already made the obvious realization that a) this won’t save ESPN money in any meaningful way and b) won’t improve the product.

If anything, we are supposed to learn from the fuckups of others. When newspapers were fucking over subscribers, cutting content and wasting money on “re-envisioning content-based engagement” with readers, most intelligent observers saw this as nothing more than a profit grab: Save money in the short term, kill the publication in the long term. As that continues to come to fruition, ESPN (which had always been a cut above when it came to seeing where things are going and getting there first) decided to follow the same shitty path as their ink-stained counterparts.

In some cases, we won’t notice the missing people, just like you don’t notice when your team cuts some fourth-round draft pick during training camp. However, overall, as the team begins to atrophy and the overall quality of play sags, you start wondering what happened to all those guys (and in ESPN’s case, gals) who used to be able to help win games.

It is fair to say that it is unclear what will happen next at ESPN, but it is also realistic to say it’s obvious it won’t be positive.

Americans Can’t Have Nice Health Care

So the clear solution is to make them realize how stupid they are for wanting it! 

Additionally, neither the DemocratsObamacare nor the Republicans’ Trumpcare can truly meet the unrealistic expectations of the American public. The public has four major expectations, which are inherently mutually incompatible.

The public wants: (1) freedom to choose doctor and hospital; (2) the latest modern, state-of-the-art technology in diagnostic equipment and medical and surgical treatments; (3) no delay in appointments and treatments; and (4) minimal (or at least, reasonable) cost. People can have two, perhaps three, but in no way can they have all four. That is the reality.

Because this is the weather. It occurred naturally. Our health care system is not man-made, and therefore cannot be changed except here and there around the edges. We can’t actually make anything better.

Also, allow me to introduce you to the world we live in now, in which appointments and treatments ARE routinely delayed even if you have Cadillac insurance, and lots of places have one busted-ass hospital or none at all. If you’re a woman who needs reproductive care, you already have to drive for miles, go out of state, or get legit procedures refused because of said hospitals’ conscience clauses. Walgreens and CVS have eaten every family pharmacy, religious ownership of health care is its own clusterfuck, and your doctor’s office parking lot during flu season is like the Hunger Games.

THAT is the reality.

Neither political party wants to tell the truth, that health care costs keep skyrocketing, fueled by new diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. For example, many of those drugs are heavily advertised on TV, such as the Xeljanz arthritis drug at about $50,000 per year. Then there is the Harvoni or Sovaldi drug to treat hepatitis C, with one $1,000 pill per day for 84 days. Think of that cost, $84,000 times 3 million people.

Which is why fuck those companies, because unless those drugs are made out of fairy wings and blue diamonds, ain’t no way they actually cost that much. Stop confusing “this drug is expensive” with “this drug’s company wanted to charge a bucket of money for it.”

This is not an argument not to change things. This is an argument to nationalize the entire health care system from drugs to delivery rooms, prohibit prescription drug advertising on TV, and put people who are grifting off the illnesses of others into goddamn federal prison.

Even with negotiated lower costs, exotic, high-tech treatments will still be financially ruinous. Also, with people living longer than ever before, they are seeing more degenerative diseases (vascular, cancer, mobility), all of which take an increasing toll. We are seeing more complex multiple system diseases, many with prolonged recovery times. No wonder costs are sailing out of sight.

Just die. It’s cheaper.

I often analogize that the federal government could require an automobile to protect all passengers in an up-to-120 mph crash. We do have the technology to do it, but the cost of your basic low-priced car would probably be over $100,000. There is a cost and a benefit to everything, and medical care is no different.

Yet how seldom we hear this argument when it comes to a national defense. It’s almost like there ARE unlimited funds for some things, if we value them highly enough.

Since there is not an unlimited amount of dollars available, whether by individuals, private insurance or government programs, there have to be rational ways to decide how and where to get the most bang for the buck, and frankly, the political parties and the public must get real as to what is possible.

Perhaps we should begin classifying people by their projected recovery and usefulness to society thereafter, so as to decide who deserves medicine. In the entirety of human history that’s never gone wrong.

The best cost control is when there is a direct relationship between buyer and seller. Perhaps, for outpatient services, we should do what some European countries do — the patient pays the doctor directly, then he turns the receipt into his or her health insurance plan for reimbursement. This puts a great restraint on doctors running up the tab because they have to look the patient directly in the eye.

If you think a doctor has never lied to a patient, you might want to meet this bunch of guys in Tuskegee, Alabama. They all have syphilis for some reason. Maybe you can explain it to them.

But the way it works in our country, the patient never sees the bill, and it becomes a game between the doctor and the insurance carrier.

I will grant that when I ask my doctor how much something will cost, he acts like money is a disgusting sex act and he can’t believe I’m uncouth enough to bring it up in church. HOWEVER, the idea that patients don’t see a bill is high-larious, considering how many medical bankruptcies result among the insured.

Also, although there is no constitutional mandate to provide medical care; perhaps economic reality dictates that the government could provide a basic Volkswagen plan for everyone, and if individuals want to purchase a Buick or Cadillac level of care, then that should be their right to do so.

This would literally be Obamacare if Republican governors hadn’t decided to fuck the program in the hopes of blaming a black dude in order to win elections. But you keep going.

Bottom line: We as a nation, can no longer provide an unlimited social goody list without making sure these desires are on an actuarially sound basis.

Oh, go crowdfund your cancer treatment. I’m sure the market will make the best possible decision as to your actuarial soundness. YOU ARE MAKING AN ARGUMENT FOR DEATH PANELS.

The days of counting on an ever-increasing number of young workers, in high-paying largely manufacturing jobs, to fund seniors’ health care and retirement are over.

Amazing how this seemed to end right around the time the Baby Boom started racking up the bills.

At last, we must recognize, that just as a family needs to be realistic about finances, our federal and state governments must be, too.

Okay, so we’ll take our two unwinnable wars and all our tax cuts and cancel that shit so we can pay for Becky down the street to get a pelvic exam. Why is fucking over poor people always the answer? Why is “a well-child visit for a low-income family” always the hill we gotta die on? We can afford all kinds of stuff. We just hate admitting what we want to afford, so we say we can’t afford it and we get ALL KINDS OF MAD when someone points out that actually, what utter crap.

The people who will relentlessly police the shopping carts of the poor and crab all day about how much soda they buy never really do catch on that government shops pretty shitty, too, and should forgo a few T-bones in favor of paying for chemo. Maybe the government could sell some of its bling.

A.

Everything Is An Enormous Pain in the Ass

It’s not just Obamaphones and poor people’s choice of TVs:

It’s that it takes six calls to the insurance company to get routine drugs approved. It’s that there are fees tacked onto everything for seemingly no reason at all. It’s that when you go on the website to make a doctor’s appointment they tell you to call, and the voicemail auto-answering thing tells you to go on the website and then hangs up on you. It’s that you have to swipe or insert or insert and swipe or WHATEVER to pay for stuff. Change your password to something else, but not that password, because we’re not going to tell you what the password requirements are until you’ve screwed them up.

It’s that there are half as many buses as there used to be, for twice as many people, and they don’t clean them as much so the ride to work every morning is gross. It’s that we’re told at every turn that we can’t have nice things, unless we’re super-rich, so most of us have almost-nice things that break constantly and require a roundabout with four customer service reps until we lose it and start screaming at the company on Twitter.

That’s for those of us who can afford to be on Twitter, have things at all, or be consumed with petty shit. The rest of us are sitting at the bus stop, having gotten up an hour early only to find the bus delayed by 30 minutes because it’s snowing, and the bus doesn’t go to the one ADA-compliant stop on the train so we have to roll the damn chair down the middle of the street in the snow because the city doesn’t shovel as much as it used to. Shortage of funds, you know. Can’t salt the sidewalks. Grrr. It’s doing everything the way you’re told — job, home, family — and life STILL being just this hard.

We transfer that anger at corporate bullshit to politicians, and we should, because they’re the ones allowing companies to charge more for doing less and call in the cops when someone says screw that. They’re the ones allocating resources from one place to another, and somehow where the resources end up is never where we think they’re gonna be, and it’s that their misdeeds are presented as happenstance for which there is no redress. Washington “is broken.” Our system “doesn’t work.”

Not that people made it that way and can unmake it, not that actions and laws and regulations and requirements can be made to protect consumers more than producers, but that it’s all fucked up and bullshit, as the kids say. Easier to turn your back on it in disgust. Easier to walk away.

A.

UW Budget Cuts: There’s always a reason…

Every two years, Wisconsin Republicans come home and see that the UW burned the roast.

Or left a mess in the kitchen…

Or didn’t buy more beer…

Or forgot to pick up the dry cleaning…

There’s always a reason that when the budget comes along, and the UW System leaders ask for money, Republicans decide instead to smack it around and then cut higher ed in the state.

Four years ago, it was the allegation that the UW had stockpiled more than $1 billion in its coffers without telling anyone.

(Of course, that wasn’t true, but it was more than enough to create fake outrage and cut nearly a quarter of a billion from the System.)

Two years ago, it was the idea of an “autonomy for cuts” trade: We cut you to the tune of 13 percent and we then let you get away from us and live your lives.

(Of course, that was never going to happen. After making the cuts, the Republicans came up with the “what’s the point of giving you freedom if you won’t do what we want you to do with it?” argument that still makes my head spin.)

This time, I honestly thought it was going to be a Canadian hip-hop artist/UW-Madison professor who would be our sacrificial lamb. Damon Sajnani wrote a course called “The Problem of Whiteness” and Republican Dave Murphy lost his mind over it and threatened the U with budget cuts if this shit wasn’t stopped. Never mind Murphy is basically Exhibits A and B for what’s wrong with Whiteness…

In the end, Scott Fitzgerald realized he couldn’t fuck over the system of his alma mater just because of one class, so he needed a better reason.

And of course he found it.

Thanks in large part to some financial shell games at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, in which a former chancellor co-mingled state money and private foundation money to burnish his legacy and make his cock swell, all of the universities in the system are now being investigated.

Never let it be said Fitzgerald missed an opportunity to do his best Scrooge impression:

 

Fitzgerald stopped short of saying the university foundations issue would affect state funding for the UW System in the next budget. “When it comes to the state budget, members and finance committee members in particular, have a straight-forward process. How much is being set aside, how much is available.”

That said, “it’s human nature when you hear about something like this… ” Fitzgerald added.

 

Actually, Scott, it’s not. It’s sub-human nature to find flaws with everything in hopes of being able to make something suffer for your own pleasure. It’s the same approach kids take when they get a magnifying glass and discover they can use it to immolate ants. It’s power and dominion over those who lack the means and the recourse to fight back.

The state contributes 17 percent of the funding the UW System gets each year and yet you get to write all the rules. Every two years, you and your ilk get all fake outraged over some perceived slight, some perceived error in judgment or some stupid issue that allows you to whip people into a frenzy before you slash education.

The reason this works is because A) the universities suck at explaining anything to people who aren’t academics (and I say this as being an academic who watches the overly academic people fall all over themselves fucking this up every single time) and B) it’s so much easier to channel rage and anger than it is to marshal common sense.

I’m quite certain the cuts will come and the U will bleed and more quality faculty will flee this state like rats of the Titanic. We will then see a period of normalization until it comes time again for Ray “Oliver Twist” Cross to approach you with his bowl in hand and meekly request:

“Please, sir… more.”

Hierarchy of Needs: Asshole Edition

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is something every high school student or college undergrad runs into at some point in a sociology or psychology class. The concept is simple: You have a set of psychological and physiological needs that work in ascending order from most basic to most enlightened.

In short, you need to make sure you are fed, rested and healthy first and then you can worry about safety and security. After that, you start getting into things like friendships, family, belonging, self-esteem and reaching your potential as a human.

Given both the broad applicability of this theory and the longevity of it within the field, it always amazes me that we give people who are jerking themselves off for those self-esteem needs control over people who can’t make it off of first base.

Even more, I’m always disgusted when those people who probably will never reach self-actualization (but feel they have) are using their power to fuck over people who just want food, water and shelter.

Mick Mulvaney, who has a net worth of more than $2.6 million dollars, took time out of his very busy schedule Thursday to lecture reporters about how Community Development Block Grants are shitty things and that programs attached to them often “don’t work.”

One of those programs? Meals on Wheels, which provides food to thousands of elderly, house-bound and impoverished people each year. To wit:

Meals on wheels sounds great. That’s a state decision to fund that particular portion, to take the federal money and give it to the states and say, look, we to want give you money for programs that don’t work. I can’t defend that anymore. We cannot defend that anymore. I can’t defend that anymore. We cannot defend that anymore. We’re $20 trillion in debt.

First, you CAN defend it. You CHOOSE not to do so. There’s a difference there. (e.g. I can’t strangle myself. It’s physically impossible to do so. I could use a box cutter to lop off my wiener. I just choose not to.) Let’s not conflate the two ideas in the way that Mulvaney does so that he’s able to say, “We’d LOVE to do this but it simply can’t be done.”

Second, hasn’t every Republican since the party made a big Right turn made the case that the federal government should give money to the states for things and let the states decide how to run shit? I seem to recall there being people talking about a block-grant-based program that is supposedly great that needs to happen right now…

Third, and perhaps most importantly, can Mulvaney update the press today after he gets visited by Marley’s ghost?

Look, I get it that defending a lot of shit Trump is saying and doing is a lot like justifying the actions of a meth-addled toddler with a machine gun: No matter what you say or do, this isn’t going to work out for you. This is how we got terms like “alternative facts” and an explanation regarding on how wire tapping is actually about cameras in microwaves. If this keeps up, Trump will basically knock Bill Clinton’s explanation of not having “sexual relations with that woman” out of the top ten most incredible verbal gymnastics in politics.

However, we’re talking about fucking food here. Everyone should be able to easily grasp the concept of what it’s like to be hungry and how shitty it is when you can’t get to eat. Hell, the kids in my classes have stomachs that grumble when they don’t eat breakfast and then have to tolerate me for two hours. Now multiply that by 1,000 desperation points, add in other shitty aspects associated with poverty, weave in being too old or sick to find a way to make/grow/get your own food and then have some dick hole who’s about your kid’s age tell you, “Hey, y’know, fuck you and your hunger.”

Trump pulled his voters heavily from senior citizens (53/45 over Hillary Clinton) and from those without higher education (those without a degree went 52/44 for Trump). These are the people who are most likely to need programs like this because they don’t have cushy pensions, stock options or whatever the hell Mulvaney keeps in his Scrooge McDuck vault at home.

And if you look back at Maslow’s pyramid, you find that it’s hard to think or understand things when you don’t have your hunger sated, so these kinds of folks are likely to remain in a spiral of voting for the rich folks who continue to fuck over the poor folks.

People Ain’t Got No MONEY: Shove Your Tax Credit, Ryan

Obamacare, let’s make it worse:

So people who already can’t afford to pay their premiums will now … get a tax credit on their nonexistent money they don’t have enough of. I cannot. Nope. Look, things like tax credits are nice, if you already have money, because it gives you money back.

Eventually.

After a while.

A long while.

It gives you a long-term benefit. Long. Term. As in, down the road. A ways.

What it does NOT do is put milk on your kid’s goddamn cereal tomorrow morning. What it does NOT do is help anyone already under water on their bills right now. What it does NOT do is solve any of the problems that need solving for people not helped enough by Obamacare.

(This is, of course, by design and not a surprise so don’t come at me in the comments all IT’S A RICH PEOPLE TAX CUT because of course. What I’m saying is that even on its FACE this is a dumbass argument to make.)

The people already not helped enough by Obamacare do not make enough money for a tax credit to mean shit. They don’t make enough money for their taxes to be a worry. Their worries are along the lines of eating, keeping the lights on, and what to do if one of their tires blows. The idea they can worry about April’s problems in March is laughable. They’re still on January’s problems. Last January’s.

This is the same dumbass argument we’re having about childcare, where you can get a tax credit to pay for your childcare which is awesome if you … have money, to put aside, tax-free, for your childcare! If you do not have that money, getting a pass on getting taxed isn’t really a benefit.

I know I am meant to sympathize, always, with the put-upon Taxpayer of America, who will screw himself out of pretty much any government program so long as his bill to the guv’mint goes down by 20 bucks, but there are quite a lot of people who don’t even earn enough to pull that self-defeating bullshit. My sympathies are with them.

A.

Alms for the Poor

Seriously, why is this a thing?

Here is a short list of things I give more of a shit about than I do the grocery cart contents of poor people:

Oscar dresses (red lace whyyy).

The Remy Ma/Nicki Minaj feud.

How long a Diet Coke lasts before it goes bad.

The names of Kick’s stuffed dinosaurs and their goings-on when we are not home.

What my sister ate for lunch yesterday.

Putting my clothes in seasonal order.

The identities of our past neighbors’ boyfriends.

Winners of various reality TV shows (Shirley was ROBBED on Top Chef).

How toenails can grow at different rates despite being on the same foot.

These are all things I care about more than I care about what the person in front of me who is using a benefit card to buy groceries is buying. They’re buying caviar and a bottle of ketchup? Whatevs. They’re buying nothing but wholesome foods in bulk? Okay. I once checked out of my local bodega with two bottles of whiskey, a tub of guac and baby-bottle nipples, who the fuck am I to judge? I do not GET this. Don’t we have other things to do?

Do people who are fascinated with this stuff need a hobby? I’d like them to come help me re-organize the cabinet in which we keep Kick’s art supplies. That is becoming a six month project. That would occupy their minds so that they don’t have to think about po’ folks buying Skittles. Or Chewy Sprees. Have you guys ever had Chewy Sprees? They’re AMAZING.

Why do I need to know what brand of juice box the poor family one house over is getting? Because I paid six cents into it with my taxes? I paid for fucking Donald Trump’s election with my taxes, too, and I have no earthly idea what the fuck is going on there, either. If my intimate knowledge of somebody’s grocery cart is required because I paid for it, can someone please explain this Russia shit to me like I’m a stupid person?

The people who get het up about this sort of thing, don’t these people have Netflix? I still haven’t seen Stranger Things, and I want to watch all the movies in which Michael Fassbender takes off his clothes, and there are apparently lots of those. I need to figure out if not caring at all about The Crown is some kind of moral failing. I have six books to read and one of them uses the word “puss” like a Midwestern version of “pussy,” is that a thing?

And can we get back to how it is possible to fuck up Best Picture when it is like literally your only job all year long, to get one event right?

God.

A.

Don’t Talk to Me About Bubbles

I’m going to tell you a story and I swear every single word is true.

I work downtown in Chicago at least two days a week and on at least one of those days I eat lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant right near my office.

This place is owned by a Vietnamese family.

On the menu, which is on the wall, they advertise that some of the food is halal.

They serve Chilean wine.

Yesterday, when I was there, the older and younger cooks were yelling at each other in Spanish over what kind of music they were going to play in the dining room.

The younger cook won. Biggie. Big Poppa.

I’ve read a lot in the past week about how I live in a “liberal bubble.” How I don’t understand the world outside, the concerns of others, different from myself. How I need to do everything from “get out more” to “just move to a red state” to “talk to more people.”

Do you know how often I would LOVE to live in a bubble? When my upstairs neighbors are yelling about the Cubs game or a guy is trying to sell me video games on the street corner or the entire train car is engaged in ignoring-down someone who should really be getting mental health services or even another drink somewhere. (Nobody wants to call the cops, because we don’t want to hurt this guy further.) Do you know how often I think to myself, I’m tired of working this hard to live here?

There is no isolation here. No shield from difference. No ignoring the “other.” I can throw a rock from my house and hit four drug dealers and so can everyone else in my neighborhood.

It’s all in your face, all the time, everything that has led us where we are: Poverty. Inequality. A lack of help. An education system that is broken by racism and meanness about money. Gloriousness. Music. Food. History. Something new to learn every single second. Art in museums and on street corners, books stuffed to the rafters in the libraries.

And people. People people people.

I was at a wedding once in a small town in Kansas and the mother of the bride cornered me in the bathroom and talked about how lucky she was to live where she lived. There was, she said, no real community in the big city.

My next-door neighbor had called the week previous, in hysterics. She was hyperventilating and for a moment I thought something had happened to her son.

There was a dead mouse in her kitchen. She wanted my husband to come get it.

Same neighbor, the week Kick was born, left homemade chili and a supportive note at my front door. The woman who used to live upstairs pet-sat the ferrets and I walked her dog. Mr. A travels for work for weeks at a time and I’m never worried; there are half a dozen people in my building who’d come if I called. There are half a dozen people on the street at any given time: safety in numbers.

Kick was baptized at the church down the block. I’m an inconsistent attendee, but they welcomed us as if I parked in those pews full time. They extended their hands to our new, fragile little family and they blessed us, and I felt it in a way I’ve never felt faith before.

They have a food drive the first weekend of every month. People pile bags of food and envelopes of cash on the altar to feed the hungry.

I understand my way of life isn’t for everybody. Like I said, sometimes I’m not sure it’s for me and mine, not always. But the values that make it worth living are those in every community, large and small, across this country, values the “white working class,” the “small town America,” the “heartland,” instilled in me: Generosity, connection, joy. A profound sense of place, of knowing. A love of God, and of difference. A constant reaching out, over and over and over, in the face of every rebuff, knowing that we are more together than we are apart. Values that were so cruelly betrayed last week.

Don’t tell me I live in a bubble. Don’t tell me I don’t experience difference. It’s at the next desk in my office, talking about teaching kids to read. It’s my Iranian downstairs neighbors playing country music; you really haven’t lived until you’ve heard an elderly Persian woman yelling enthusiastically along with Kenny Chesney.

(And not for nothing, but some of us live in “bubbles” because we couldn’t get work in our red states of origin. I’ve read a lot of commentary in the past week about shallow liberals who just want to eat ethnic food to show off. For some people it’s about eating, period.)

This “bubble” is the wide world, the same one everyone lives in. We are all as isolated as we want to be. If you have three neighbors and you know them, good. If you have three thousand and you know as many of them as you can, good.

Nobody lives in a bubble, not unless they want to.

A.

300 families helped: Food Pantry Fund

THANK YOU ALL! This is a message from the St. Hyacinth Pantry’s director to everyone who donated:

I want to thank you and all of your generous friends for their overwhelming support. With the money already raised, we can provide emergency food for over 300 families this month, which is especially important during this very busy holiday period, our busiest time of the year. Separately, if anyone is in the Milwaukee area, and would like to visit the Pantry to see our facility or see us in action, please feel free to contact me.

Respectfully submitted – Steve Pollock, Acting Director, St. Hyacinth’s Food Pantry

300 families. That’s something, guys. Great job.

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