Monday, September 21, 2009

POLITICS: I Want MY Country Back, Too

It has become a rallying cry of the tea baggers, the health care opponents, the 9-12 Glen Beck followers, and now I'm joining them in shouting loud and clear:

I want my country back.

I want my country back from what is euphemistically called the "low information voter." What are "low information voters"? Simple: stupid people. People with very little education. People severely lacking in logical analysis abilities. People who do not have the reasoning skills to conduct basic research and synthesize factual information. People who really can't distinguish between statements of fact and opinion.

Lots of Americans lack logical analysis abilities, but you really can't hold advanced thinking development against a seven year old. It's just not fair. The low information voters I'm talking about are over the age of 18 and have the right to vote. Drive through the southeast, stop at a roadside diner, and you're bound to have your hands full of this peculiarly American voter.

But that's not completely fair either: low information voters can be found in every hamlet and urban center in America. It's certainly not limited to any region of the country, though if you look at education level rankings across the country, the trend is clear: the American south, specifically the southeast, is our least educated population. Alabama, Arkansas, the Carolinas, Louisiana, Mississippi – people in these states reach a lower level of education than most others. Lower numbers of high school graduates, lower numbers of college degrees. And as we've learned over the decades, there's a direct relationship between level of education and how much money one makes.

So, as to be expected from simple logical analysis, many of these states (Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, etc) are the poorest states in America, the median incomes considerably lower than the median income for the vast American middle class. Ironically enough, these are some of the same states that receive the MOST aid from the federal government. Meaning, for every dollar in taxes someone from Mississippi pays to the horrible federal government, the state of Mississippi gets $1.84 in return in federal aid. Talk about redistribution of wealth! I live in Illinois. For every federal tax dollar I contribute, Illinois receives only .77 in return. Why should I pay .23 cents of every tax dollar to people in Mississippi? What have they ever done for me? Isn't this socialism? Or communism? Or fascism — it's gotta be some "-ism" because it makes me mad, right?

Why all this statistical juggling when I started out talking about wanting my country back?

It's about the rational over the irrational. It's about intelligent, thinking Americans (the vast majority of us) standing up to the minority of "low information" Americans who, as a direct result of their ignorance and their fear, are so easily manipulated by the mouthpieces and special interests of the corporatist far right (a really small minority). The vast majority of the birthers, tea baggers, and 9-12-ers we've listened to spewing their ignorance since Barack Obama was elected — especially in the past few months of the health care debate — are regrettably pawns in a corporate far right wing game. Guys like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity know this, as do alleged leaders like Senators Jim DeMint (of South Carolina – what a surprise!) and John Boehner of Ohio. These guys are happy to use the ignorance of these low information voters against them and their best interests. Real sweethearts.

Check out some of the people at this town hall in Arkansas this past summer. It's a real cross section of what we've been hearing from the far right in this debate. Made up sources, regurgitated "facts" from Sean Hannity, and unfounded fears presented as "facts." One lady, who appears at about the 1:10 second mark, is so upset that she kind of loses it, overcome by emotion and tears and fear for her (not our) country.

You kind of feel sorry for the woman because she's obviously been so riled up by lies and disinformation that she's reduced to fearful tears over some fabricated reality she's had described to her. Good thing for her the Muslim-communist state Obama is supposedly trying to impose on the U.S. isn't actually even real. Phew. Hope she hasn't spent too much time and effort and stress and tears worrying about it . . . Same for the over 65-ers in the town hall audience who apparently don't see the EXTREME irony that they reap the benefits of a government-run health care system – Medicare – yet there they are saying they don't want government-run health care.

My personal favorite was a clip of a 9-12 protester who said he wanted to stop Obama's socialist fascist communism from taking over the country. Think that brainiac has any idea what any of those terms means?

These movements have caught on like wild fire in the American southeast – no surprise there. There are lots of stupid people who are more easily manipulated by fear and disinformation. If you don't have the analytical abilities to delve into the complexities of a problem or an issue, you're probably more willing to just believe what you hear on TV or the radio. And in certain areas of the country – wow, again in the southeast – the only voices of political talk you're going to be able to hear are from the very puppet masters who make their living by manipulating and enraging listeners against their best interests. Why should a guy like Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck take the time to explain the details of something as complex as health care when it's a lot easier to anger and scare old people and stupid voters with words like fascism or death panels or unfounded claims that Obama is taking away all our freedoms. One conversation doesn't make for great radio or high ratings; the other gets pissed off stupid people to call into radio shows and regurgitate what they've just heard from the host. Which is excellent for ratings and ad revenues.

Thomas Frank's excellent book What's the Matter With Kansas makes the point (among many) that the conservative movement in American has become expert at getting low information voters to vote against what's best for them. Conservatives use primarily fear and disinformation to control people this way. For example, since the mid-1970s, conservative and far right politicians have run against a woman's right to choose, promising their followers that they will get into office and stop abortions. No matter that America has been a solidly pro-choice country for the past few decades – these right wing manipulators rev up their base with fear and anger over choice and get elected. Of course, in the past 30 years, little to nothing has been done by these conservative leaders to actually outlaw abortions. They know they can't do it. But they also know it doesn't matter: stupid people will believe what they're told and as long as you keep those stupid people angry and ill-informed, they'll continue to support your candidacy.

That's what's happening now with the health care debate. Conservative and far right "leaders" are scaring the shit out of stupid people and ginning up their anger with disinformation and completely made up issues (like death panels). Throw in some fuel about fascism and Muslims and you can really get dumb people's panties in a bunch. See, it doesn't matter if any of it is factual or if it even has to do with health care because the ends justify the means. Think about how warped this has become: you've got American voters protesting in the streets to ensure that the health insurance industry in this country can continue to screw those very same voters out of premiums and coverage – all at a higher cost than the high costs we pay now. I mean really – you've got to be pretty fucking stupid to fight against your own best interests. But there they are, wrapped in American flags and shaking misspelled signs.

If health care was actually reformed in this country, those very same angry idiots would benefit greatly. Their kids would benefit greatly. Our entire economy would benefit greatly. But to the far right and apparently many conservative and and some so-called "liberal" politicians in Congress, that kind of "for the people" action is to be feared. What they really fear, of course, is losing the economic stranglehold they enjoy over this country. By making sure the government of the United Corporate States of America serves its corporatist masters at all costs, our political leaders assure their elected positions – to hell with policies that could benefit the American public.

Fighting against and breaking that corporate-government stranglehold is an idea that could instantly unite everyday Americans from all across the political spectrum. Only problem is, how do we get the really stupid people to understand it?


  1. Great piece MCH.
    The ingorance frieght train filled with people with exploding heads plunders on . . .


  2. Anonymous9:42 PM

    Hate from the left is no different from hate from the right.

  3. Anon: You are correct.
    But I don't see the vitriolic (and even dangerous) hatred coming from the left. We saw some towards Bush -- lefties calling him a Hitler were equally out of line -- but it really didn't approach the paranoid stuff we're seeing now. And certainly no racial animosity.
    That's why the depressing thing is so many of these birther, 9-12 people are being played like pawns by the mouthpieces and some Congressional "leaders" on the right, who know exactly what they're doing. In 2002 it was "Freedom Fries." In 2009, it's Obama making us a communist country.

  4. Anonymous10:23 PM

    The fact is still there...the money to pay for everyone's health care has to come from somewhere. I think the main issue alot of these "stupid" people have that I have experienced is knowing that there are people who give NOTHING to this country who will be paid for. I know everyone should be willing to give when they can...and that's what the government has been forcing us to do for a long time with programs for people who refuse to even try to contribute. I know there are many many people who try and just can't get ahead. That is extremely unfortunate. I've had a good bit of experience in social assistance and know it to be true that there are many people who take advantage of the system as well. The "stupid" people you speak of see this too because as you said, the southeast experiences the majority of these government benefits. The people against the public option have these same fears. The system we have to screwed up. It sucks. So instead of taking our money and overhauling a program with an increasingly unpopular option, lets try and fix the system we have. Regulate health care costs. If costs of medical care are down, the price of insurance should go down. The government can step in and control the price of gas...something most people either have to have or use a service that requires it. People should have health why can't the government govern the prices of it like they do for gas? This might be a little simple but I'm sure there are ways we can regulate the current system to make it better. The program President Obama is pushing has a lot of cost involved and that's what scares the tax payers. Lets sit back and try and think this through instead of calling people names and taking sides just because it's what your side is proposing. In a perfect world there would be no parties...peopel would just sit down think/negotiate changes understanding that people have different beliefs and values. No one should be judged on their opinions and values. Let's work together people and not take sides. Think.

  5. Anonymous10:27 PM

    the system we have IS screwed up*...and peopel = people. Wow...I must be some stupid southerner.

  6. Anon: thanks for the conversation. And don't sweat the typos -- to err is human.

    I couldn't agree with you more -- it would be great if we had a system where the government controlled the cost of health care. But that is definitely socialism -- verging on communism. And I'm not calling you those "isms." Not in the least. But we are so tied to the appearance of capitalism that government control of health care pricing would seem impossible at this point, That's what a single-payer system does: the government controls the pricing and pays for it with taxes paid by everyone who can. That's like our Medicare system and it is definitely how the VA works. And both programs are loved by the people who use it. But if we tried to pass a single payer system like you suggest in this country, Congress and the insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical industries would freak out.
    That's why, to me, what Obama's trying to do is SO modest, such a small step in the big picture. A public insurance option would allow those who can't afford current insurance a chance to buy some, and it would certainly help small businesses to improve their employee health care for less money. And, if enough people start to sign up, the private insurance companies would actually have to change their policies. They've had free reign to raise premiums and debt services for 70 or 80 years in this country. You can understand why they are fighting this tooth and nail.
    If you want to rally people behind a single payer style system where the government controls pricing, count me in as a MAJOR supporter.

    Two other things: 1) the government does NOT control gas prices -- that's why we get screwed at the pump most summers. All the government can do is release reserve oil to try to drive the price down a little. But Wall Street and OPEC decide how much gas will cost in raw terms. Look at last summer -- $4 for a gallon of gas. And what happened? Why the people wisely said screw that and changed our behavior. Look at this summer: lower prices because ever since last summer the cast majority of people stuck with their changed behavior. And Jimmy Carter was laughed at in 1979 for suggesting people drive less to help combat high oil prices. But it worked as it should over the past year.
    2) Are people who can barely afford a place to live and food really so heinous that those of us who can can't help out? And yes, there are people who game the system, but the actual numbers are shockingly small. I know what you're saying -- it pisses everyone off to some degree that there are some people who don't contribute. Especially when things get tight financially. like now. But did you hear much of this in the mid- through late- '90s when the economy was on overdrive? Very little. People in this country, I think, believe quite seriously that we are our brothers' keeper. But when our money gets tight, there are those talking heads out there that like to use it to drive a wedge between us.

  7. Anonymous12:34 PM

    I'm going to have to disagree with you on the VA care thing. I have family who are screwed year after year by that system. It's really a nightmare to the people I know who depend on it. I'm sure it's different for some though.

    responding to "1)": I was under the impression that the government could control gas prices. I heard of countless cases of stations being fined for gouging. Is this on a state level? Maybe that is my mistake.

    responding to "2)": One reason you didn't hear as much of this issue in the 90's is because the system was a little different. It was still taken advantage of but not to the point that I believe it is now. It's hard to support a government program that gives people a card with hundreds of dollars on it monthly to care for their family and you see them check out at the grocery store buying snack cakes, chips, candy, and other junk instead of providing their children the nutrients they need. The system has gotten soft and has too many holes that allow people to take advantage of it. You get awarded for being lazy and doing the wrong thing it seems now. Like I said before...there are people who just can't get by despite every effort. These people should be able to take advantage of government giving. The government has gotten soft on who they give aid to though. It's hard for people to believe health care will be different. I mean Obama says that health reform won't pay for illegal immigrants to have care...but how will they be stopped? I'm not condoning Joe Wilson in any way. With that said, I can see how his opinion is valid. Are care providers really going to go through the trouble of insisting that someone in need of care show them proof of citizenship? I doubt it.

    You make some very valid points and I like to believe I do too. Just difference in opinion and how we view the world. That's natural. In my opinion, if you break it down the way I do, poverty is directly related to education and parenting. I believe if efforts are taken to improve our school systems, improve the teachers/mentors/counselors in the schools and improve parenting skills, this country would be a lot better off. We'd either have a bunch of super educated people running the country who have a better head on their shoulders to come up with a plan that works or we'd have a bunch of well educated, EMPLOYED people who can afford health care. Statistics show that if children 8 years of age can read on an "8-year-old level," they are extremely less likely to ever see the inside of a jail, less likely to ever apply for government assistance and more likely to be successful in life. 8 YEARS OLD! Isn't that insane? But it makes total sense. I mean think about often do you see a kid change who they are between the ages or 12 and 18? Not very in my experience. If we want to change this country, we need to start with that.

  8. Anonymous1:23 AM

    Freedom isn't mutually exclusive to Republicans or Democrats. Freedom is a bond we all share.

    I Want My Country Back, video release

    1. Don't know if this is Jimmy Copens writing as ANON or not, but I couldn't agree more -- especially if the protest images in the video (unions, 99%, anti-war) are a reflection of you and your song's beliefs. Not a bad song, either. The lyrics could use some work (dragging out the phrase "I want my country back" so slowly sounds a little awkward), but the music has a quiet strength and the solo is succinct and serious -- a nice short punch to the spirit of the song and the accompanying images. (I've been a music critic for about 25 years now -- hard not assess the song on its merits.)
      Here's my theory: let's get the 99%-ers. the Tea Baggers, and the large majority of disillusioned moderates all together to wrest control of our country from the 1%-ers and corporate interests and their bought and sold politicians -- of both parties -- and vote into power guys like Dennis Kucinich who actually believe our country has become coporatized and no longer serves anything but the elites. Imagine if poor rural folks and poor urbanites and middle class labor and non labor voters banded together and demanded a Constitutional Amendment declaring corporations are NOT granted the rights of people, overturning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling? That one act alone would alter the course of this country. But can it happen?