John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

Many more of us have joined the ranks of the statistical poor this year than in previous years – so say the federal bureaucrats who keep track of such things.

Not such a surprise, really, given the fact that we are in the middle of the Great Recession, brought on by profligate gambling by the investor class, many of whom were actually betting that the housing bubble would burst and send the economy into a tumble. They won that bet, although probably a majority of them are not much happier about it than those of us who lost jobs, homes and hope for the future.

But, to return to the numbers, the bureaucrats are saying that the number of people living in poverty is higher than at any time in the last half-century.

You doubt that? I don’t. I know I’m poorer than I was two years ago, thanks to salary cuts, benefit cuts and the simultaneous and inexorable rise of the price of everything.

According to the statisticians, 43 million people in the U.S. are living below the poverty line, which lies somewhere well below the amount of money that those Wall Street speculators can spend on a vacation.

But, add the statisticians, that number is more than 3 million fewer than might have been added to the rolls of the poor, thanks to President Obama’s decision to ramp up federal spending on everything from unemployment checks to money for public-works projects around the nation.

Of course, the Teabaggers and their Republican sponsors will tell you that Obama’s health care legislation, stimulus spending and other programs aimed at reversing the Great Recession are driving our nation into wrack and ruin.

According to recent news reports, the Teabaggers are not the true grassroots upswell of righteous indignation that they would have you believe in. No, the Tea Party is the creation of the Republican party, and is funded largely by the deep pockets of many Republican renegades. Do your own research if you don’t believe me.

Much already has been made of the fact that there are very few people of color in the ranks of the Teabaggers, and while there have been no studies about this phenomenon that I’ve seen, I’ve got my own idea as to why that is.

The Teabaggers, you see, are soldiers in the army of the status quo, although they certainly would not agree with that description. They are believers in the mythic American Dream, the one in which everyone has a chance to be fabulously wealthy and powerful, failing to fully understand that it is inherently impossible that everyone can be at the top of the heap.

Which means, of course, that it is in the interests of those who are already at the top to keep a steady population underneath them, doing all the hard work, eating the bad food that is offered to them as part of this scheme, and generally staying in their place without quibbling.

When enough people get tired of this arrangement, what happens is called a revolution, and the results of that kind of change are never very predictable.

What puzzles me about our current status is that so many of the people who are, in effect, the planking upon which the well-to-do get to dance, are the very people being lured into this Tea Party thing.

They buy into the lies about Obama, from the whole “birther” joke to claims that he is a radical Muslim (Obama bin Laden, anyone?), a communist (truly a pathetic mischaracterization, as he is anything but) and a tyrant along the lines of Hitler.

One thing is certain, however. Those 43.6 million trapped in poverty are not among the relatively thin ranks of the Teabaggers. They have their own anger, their own cause for despising a system that by its very nature holds them in thrall.

But they know, full well, that the very government actions that the Teabaggers condemn are the programs that have helped them eat, sleep in a bed, go to school and in general live a life with at least some pride and dignity. Not much, and not enough, but better than it might be without the assistance.

One problem with all this is that too many of those at the very bottom of our society are so disheartened they don’t vote. This means the decisions of democracy are made by those who have no idea of what it means to be at the bottom, and don’t really care.

Welcome to America, 21st century style.