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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Republicans In Another World? - you decide!

I heard something the other day that got me thinking:  are the rich and powerful (aided by the Republican Party) attempting to live in a parallel universe so they can avoid the reality of this world?  Possibly, if you consider some of the following:

Neo-conservative Republicans have been building a separate world for themselves and their sponsors -- Big Oil, Wall Street, Big Banks, Big Insurance, agricultural conglomerates, health monopolies and more.  The prevailing belief in this separate world is that the rich  are the people who are JOB creators as long as their taxes are cut to the bone, they are not restricted by regulations and regulators, they are able to take money from the middle class and workers and feather their own nests.  The conservatives have enabled the richest 1-2% to prosper while taking away or diminishing anything that represents help or aid for the “little people” the “lower classes” and the “needy”.

They believe that their universe will be much better when there is less government control, and fewer services, and less intervention in people’s lives.  In fact, the government in their world is not less controlling: it will try to control our thinking (science is bogus); our religious orientation (prayer and creationism in schools); sexual orientation (no gay marriages and mandated classes to change gays to straights); our ability to plan our own families (no more funding of Planned Parenthood and no choice on abortion); and our open society (limit immigration and no affirmative action).  They say they want to take back the government, but they really want a government of their own choosing in a parallel universe, apart from the realities that dog real people. 

In the real world are people who live from paycheck to paycheck (perhaps 77% of us).  In the real world are people who have to struggle to find health care that won’t break them with high premiums, inadequate benefits and restricted coverage.  For millions without health insurance, it’s worse because they must use emergency rooms and acute care clinics, or even neighborhood clinics run by volunteers, or simply choose not to seek care at all.  In the real world, there are people who are challenged by disabilities who need help and services that will enable them to reach a higher level of independence, if that’s possible.  In the real world are aged and retired persons who do not have “golden parachutes“, or pensions that are in the millions.  Millions of them get along day-to-day on just their social security checks.  In city after city, students attend schools that have inadequate buildings, less than adequate materials, if any, and over-crowded classrooms. In the real world, there are families with children who are homeless, there are war veterans who are homeless, there are mentally disabled and challenged people who are living on the streets, and there are millions of unemployed persons looking for work, and many people who have experienced foreclosure on their homes.

While America moves ever closer to being less than number one in health care, public education, care of the less fortunate, and many other categories, these conservative Republicans continue to speak of “American exceptionalism”, of no tax raises for the rich, of big subsidies for Big Oil and many others, of incentives for business, while opposing Medicare and Medicaid, and many other so-called “welfare” programs for the poor and middle class, wanting to raise the retirement age for Social Security along with establishing risk-laden private accounts for those who are approaching retirement.  It is obvious that these neo-conservatives live in a “Bizarro World” (an inverted world made famous by a Jerry Seinfeld episode) unlike the real world in which the rest of us must live.  "Making the rich pay higher tax rates is both overwhelmingly popular and necessary in these tough economic times. Cutting life-saving programs while saying new tax rates for the rich are off the table is an extreme position, completely out of step with the majority of Americans." (Economic Policy Institute)

Many Conservative Republicans live in such a bizarre parallel world where they have contact with their own kind, their own income level, and their own ideology.  They tend to live in communities or enclaves where they can control who attends their churches and their schools; their social events, and with whom they will associate.  More & more the rich (including over half of the members of Congress: Senators and Representatives) are walled off from the real world, literally and figuratively.  They have the finest houses; the finest schools; finest communities; isolated vacation spots; luxurious playthings; corporate & private jets; gated communities; exclusive stores catering only to them; private doctors, lawyers, accountants, maybe even lobbyists.  They touch the real world only when absolutely necessary; sometimes at events where they raise money for charities, although these are often just more of the same with only “their kind“ in attendance!

Just ask yourself: when was the last time you bumped into a multi-millionaire or billionaire on vacation, in a grocery store or drug store, at the movies, shopping in Target or Wal-Mart, on the street, at a party, in your doctor‘s office or in your local hospital?  There's a reason they’re not where you are.  They simply can afford the most luxurious and exclusive services and products; such as vacations: “from top hotels, to homes in Monaco or the Seychelles, to private islands in the Caribbean.” (RichLiving.co.uk)

Many of them don‘t even fly on public airlines any more.  “So what does it mean to charter an aircraft? You pay for exclusive use of the aircraft rather than for the seats individually. This means that you are not restricted to a schedule. You decide when to fly, with a wide choice of departure and destination airports.  The benefits of this are a more comfortable journey, and your choice of airplane. A private jet can be booked at short notice, and will wait for you if you are delayed. The biggest benefit of all is the privacy, especially for celebrities. You can board almost immediately upon arrival at the airport via a VIP lounge, and disembark just as quickly and discretely at your destination, straight into a waiting chauffeur driven limousine” (RichLiving.co.uk)
 image  Inside of a Hawker-125 800 private jet.

Luxury motor yachts have long been associated with the rich and famous.  Everyone has seen pictures of these big boats docked in Monaco, Florida and at other exclusive locations around the world.

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Yes, my friends, “exclusive” is the operative word: “excluding, or tending to exclude all others; shutting out other considerations, happenings, existences, etc.  given or belonging to no other; not shared or divided; sole.  Excluding certain people or groups, as for social or economic reasons; undemocratic.  Dealing only in costly items; being the only one of its kind.  Not including or allowing for; ignoring.”

Finally, we come to what may be the ultimate symbol of exclusiveness: the gated community; the guarded penthouse or patrolled grounds; the protected communities.

The former first lady of Alaska, Sarah Palin, recently bought a home in Scottsdale, Ariz. for $1.695 million, according to reports. The gated home was previously sold one year ago for $803,650, according to public records. (Photos courtesy of Trulia. By Jessica Dickler)
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The great room has double-height ceilings, a stone floor and a carved stone fireplace. The staircases feature wrought iron railings.  And you thought that money you spent for one of her books was a good investment?  It was -- for her!

Maybe that is something we need to take away from this:  the money that many millionaires and billionaires have accumulated comes from YOU in the form of tax breaks and incentives for them; in the form of your purchasing of their overpriced products and services; in the form of political contributions to them or their cronies; even in the form of investments, since the labor of many of you contributes to the success of businesses and services in which their investments are made.

The accumulation of wealth in this country is not done simply by being enterprising and innovative.  It is done on the backs of ordinary people who have contributed their lives, energy and labor so that 1-2% of our total population can become rich.  It is, then, somewhat disingenuous to say that the rich deserve what they accumulate.  They can be worthy of  riches only by paying their fair share in taxes; by giving (a lot!) back through charities, and by seeking to be fair and just in all their dealings.  A Tall order that too many have simply abandoned in their quest to live in a separate world, where luxury, exclusiveness, and power are all that truly matter.