Monday, April 18, 2011

Moral Wrecktitude

I mean the best for you, my friend
But your style of life must end
Surely I am heaven sent
To remind you to repent
From your ways of death and sin
So your new life may begin
Accept your meager wages
And read the Good Book’s pages
Look up to us, the chosen
Whose hearts are neatly frozen

Given the recent attacks on Planned Parenthood and even on some labor unions, I am once again reminded of an interview I conducted with a young Hungarian refugee in January 1957. After I listened to him for more than an hour, he suddenly looked at me very seriously and simply said: “You have never had to steal to eat.” I was a West Point cadet, a plebe, at the time and I chronicled the interview for The Pointer magazine. It was clear that his experience was different from mine with one similarity. I had experienced hunger and had gone from 147 pounds to much less than 120 pounds as a motivated cadet living with the discipline of plebe year. Involuntary withdrawal from food was common punishment. So, we both had felt hunger. But there were some significant differences as well. I wanted to be at West Point and food was not a motivator for me. Hungarians were made to ship their food to Russia and had no choice as to where they lived. Hungarians were walled-in by the Russians. When I did get food, it was clean and wholesome. His food was usually stolen from garbage cans and dumps. He watched the inequity of the distribution of food where Communist Party members were able to eat well and avoid the harsh pain felt by the masses. I watched upperclassmen eat full and satisfying meals and wanted to survive long enough to become an upperclassman. Hope was not only in my heart, but tangible because I saw a goal and did things to put it in reach. Upperclassmen had gone through similar plebe years while Communist Party leaders were exempt from privation. Today, we invoke the Christian admonition not to complain about our station in life (slave or free, remember) and urge the poor to be patient. Indeed, patience is a virtue fitting the poor. And had God favored them, they would be wealthy. In both cases the ideology sets the tone and the wage. It is not by accident. The pious politicians that screamed for the de-funding of Planned Parenthood knew or should have known that the Hyde Amendment (appropriately named for the Republican politician who long kept mistresses into his “youthful” 40s including the highly visible Cherie Snodgrass), denies federal funding for any abortion.
Moral superiority has been with us for millennia. The smugness of a Pharisee is noted in the New Testament: (Luke 18:11) “Thank you, Lord that I am not like everyone else, thieving, unjust, adulterous, and especially like that tax collector. I fast twice a week, and tithe everything I posses.” If you fast forward to the late 19th and early 20th century, the American equivalent was the Mugwump. Mugwumps were wealthy and gentrified Christians who were simply appalled at the lower classes, especially immigrants. They became politically active and tried to take away rights, especially to vote, from those citizens without property. Just as Henry Hyde saw no problem with keeping a mistress in a Springfield, IL apartment, he saw no problem with leading the House charge against Clinton for having sex with an intern or, more directly, he saw no problem with not supporting family planning to avoid the likelihood of abortions. In his investigation of Planned Parenthood, the following exchange between Hyde and Gloria Feldt of Planned Parenthood Is documented:
"Ms. Feldt, does it trouble you that there are so many abortions?"
"Mr. Hyde, if it troubles you," I went off script to reply, "why have you never once voted for family planning services?" Moral superiority does not worry about trifles like doing something to reduce an evil. The morally superior merely need to point it out for the morally inferior to execute.

John Kyl on the Senate floor: “Well over ninety per cent of what Planned Parenthood does is abortions.” Followed by an explanation but not an apology (and not on the Senate floor): “It was not intended to be a factual statement.” (explanation via Lemon on CNN). Planned Parenthood indeed performs abortions along with myriad health support, especially for women. Abortions account for 3% of its activity and it sequesters its funding so that federal money is not used for abortions. Birth control and STD testing as well as general healthcare including breast exams and pap smear tests are made available to poor women. Ugh! Poor women. They are morally inferior to Senator Kyl, and it is not his job to actually reduce abortions. He is responsible to teach the greedy needy about morals. Maybe some of them have to steal to eat. Shame on them again. If they were good Christian women, they would be more patient and surely more submissive to their moral superiors.

Lest we think that this concept of moral superiority is restricted to controlling economically deprived women, consider the following excerpt from Bloomberg in December, 2010 that outlines the business dealings of a major American firm in Nigeria:
“Nigeria alleges the companies, which were part of group known as TSKJ, paid bribes totaling $180 million to Nigerian officials between 1994 and 2004 to win a $6 billion liquefied natural gas plant contract. KBR and Halliburton agreed to pay $579 million to U.S. authorities in February 2009 for bribery payments in Nigeria.” Dick Cheney was head of Halliburton/KBR when the bribery took place and he soon became Vice President of the US. Maybe that was a necessary business expense and if Halliburton paid taxes, surely it also used the $579 Million it paid to our government as a tax write-off. This illegal activity aided profiteering by Cheney, of course, but it also took opportunity from firms that were unwilling to bribe and from impoverished Nigerians who had no say or benefit in the distribution of their nation’s resources.
More recently, the Swedish Ikea Corporation has located a furniture factory in Danville, VA. State and local officials there gave Ikea free land and tax breaks to locate in the Right to Work for Less Commonwealth of Virginia. The starting salaries in Virginia are $8/hour without benefits, while the identical jobs in Sweden pay $19/hour with 3 weeks vacation and full medical benefits. While the cost of living may be lower in Danville, surely the cost of medical benefits is higher than zero. Be patient my Christians and don’t talk with the evil unions who surely will lead you to sin. Be patient, your time will come at the Last Judgment and remember that the Meek will inherit the earth. Therefore, be Meek and you shall inherit the earth (or what is left after the polluters are done). The lesson: Moral superiority means that I get my share now and you can wait until earth freezes over or trickle down works, whichever comes first. Does it matter that the moral superiority is imported or homegrown? Not really, since the Swedes could not have done this without American help.

The more I study our current situation and the Paul Ryan plan to have the poor finance the tax breaks for the wealthy the more I understand the logic of trickle down economics. By changing Medicare to voucher roulette for the poor who cannot afford supplemental insurance, two things happen; first, it is a windfall for healthcare insurance companies to enrich those that will still ration care (only now for paying for expenses like advertising and an unnecessary layer of administration) and, a perfect way to keep millions of Americans in poverty and ill health since a $15,000 annual voucher does nothing to reduce healthcare costs per se, but only reduce to the government budget. The tax breaks for the rich will help them pay for increasing medical expenses and the poor will die sooner thereby becoming eligible for inheriting the earth years earlier. You must look up to the morally superior. They certainly know their scripture and they are willing to give up inheritance of the earth as long as they don’t pay inheritance or any other taxes in this life. Just what is it that trickles down? I think that it is the blood, sweat, and tears of the poor, along with a little of their urine down their pants while they strain to await their inheritance coming in the next life. I guess that atheists will have to develop another theory of morality, justice and trickle down. I call this Moral Wrecktitude where misplaced morality wrecks the lives of the poor and the incredibly shrinking middle class and chills the hearts of the rich (along with their gin).

George Giacoppe
18 April 2011

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