Alas, my rage could no longer be contained. I had no choice but to resurrect Chronically Pissed as an outlet for my ire. The old domain - www.chronicallypissed.com - is in internet limbo, so for the time being, you will have to come here: http://www.chronicallypissed.com/cpii/ (I'm not at all sure why that works, but apparently it does). Anyway, here goes...
We've been using our primary babysitter for about two years now. Let's call her Anna. She's a senior in high school and lives directly across the street. We pay her $7 per hour. I don't really recall how we arrived at that rate, but it seemed (and still seems) fair enough. About a year ago, her little sister, whom we'll call Brandy, turned twelve and became available for babysitting as well. Brandy charges $5 per hour because she is younger and less experienced. Another neighbor, Chelsea, also recently turned twelve and also charges $5 per hour.
The unspoken understanding that has developed naturally dictates that we always ask Anna first. If she is unable, Brandy is usually available and willing. If neither is able, we call Chelsea. As much as we adore Anna, having Brandy or Chelsea is a bit of a bonus for us, as it saves us $2 per hour, which adds up pretty quick when you're hiring sitters for upwards of 25 hours per week. (No we're not out drinking and carousing. We both work primarily at night.)
We could, in theory, begin to ask Brandy and Chelsea first. Our finances have grown significantly tighter since we first started hiring Anna. Every penny counts these days. If our household was a corporation, we would most certainly have dropped Anna for the cheaper, less experienced labor. If we were capable of being coldly calculating, thinking only of the bottom line, we would do just that. It could potentially save us around $2,500 per year - no small amount of money in a household that grosses somewhere around $50k annually.
So...why don't we make the shrewd financial decision?
Because we're not dicks.
Maybe we're stupid and maybe we're destined for financial ruin, but we're not dickish fucking assholes. We value loyalty, consistency, seniority and experience. We care that Anna counts on the income she has come to expect from us. She cares that we value and rely upon her. We value knowing that Anna would never walk away from us for an offer of $9 per hour. It's a win-win, even if there's some loss involved on either side.
Ah, but there's a crucial word: loss. In the situation I just described, there's not actually financial loss in real terms. Anna is generally babysitting for us so that we can work, which meanse that we're making money. Anna isn't really losing money by turning down a slightly better offer because she's still making money from us. The "loss" is a theoretical one, but the capitalistic obsession with that abstract conceptualization of the word is destroying the American Dream.
The modern corporation must grow, grow, grow. Failure to grow is considered a loss. Just today, Google's earning dropped and its shares plummeted. Google did not stop making money last quarter. In fact, they posted a profit of $2.2 billion in the third quarter alone. Apparently this was not enough - and they knew that. In August, Google laid off 4,000 from its Motorola Mobility unit. Google could surely have kept those workers on and still made a healthy profit, but that would have spelled doom to the analysts and traders who insist upon rapid, upward trajectory.
You and I are expected to save so that we can weather a rainy day, month or year without too much trouble. Corporations are not allowed to do this. They must squeeze every penny out of every rock in the pursiuit of endless growth. What's the softest place to squeeze? The minions who make the product. Reduce wages, halt wage growth, cut benefits, reduce hours, layoff thousands, ship jobs overseas - whatever it takes to make a profit for the shareholders that exceeds the profit from last quarter.
Except it hasn't. And it won't. Because they're just playing a big game of Monopoly. All they want is to see that number - that number that represents their net worth - get bigger and bigger and bigger. It is an unscratchable itch. It will never be big enough. There is no such thing as "too much."
If you are a person who sees nothing but virtue in the unfettered acquisition of wealth, here's the question you have to ask yourself: Mustn't there be some level of wealth concentration that would be bad for society, essentially restoring an oligarchy and putting an end to whatever remains of our democratic system of government? How wide can that gap between, say, the top 10% and the bottom 90% grow before things fall apart?
The free market is not working right now because people like MItt Romney have constructed a reality in which They set the rules. The rest of us are simply expected to play by those rules and take whatever scraps they see fit to throw us. If we don't, then we are obviously lazy, freeloading assholes leeching off the bloody teat of Lady Liberty.
Now they'll tell us that the free market is the ultimate solution to every problem and that we must let it reign supreme over all the land, but think about it...that's a pretty convenient bit of ideology for the folks who run and benefit most from the market, isn't it? And, as we've seen, they're all for intervention when their asses are on the line, but when it's an out-of-work single mom (or, worse yet, a brown out-of-work single mom)...well, you know how they feel about that.
Look...I'm not a communist. I don't hate capitalism. I don't begrudge wealth, even if it is not high on my list of priorities. I grew up thinking that the social contract struck up over the years between the middle class and the American economy was a pretty great fucking bargain. It went something like this: We'll work hard making, selling, installing and fixing your widgets in exchange for the opportunity to raise and support a family, have a little liesure time and be able to afford some of the widgets we're breaking our back to make, sell, install and fix. (Plus, if we work hard enough or have a great idea, America will reward us with fame and fortune! Except that socioeconomic mobility has plummeted from it's heyday in the 40's and 50's.)
But something happened on the way to heaven. The fat cats got carried away. Technology made wealth all the more abstract to them, the workers all the more remote. They no longer had to look at our faces on the factory floors. Their wealth became just a collection of digital figures on a screen. Freed from the bondage of human interaction, they began to seek out ways to grow their resources beyond that which was rational, reasonable or required.
In order to accomplish that, they essentially just began to overvalue themselves and undervalue the rest of us. In order to grow their wealth at the desired rate, they simply said "Oh, well...we just can't afford to raise your salaries at a rate that is commensurate with the growth of our wealth," and "Mmmm...I'm afraid the benefits you used to get are just not economically feasible for us anymore," and "You know...there are some poor folks in Indonesia who will do your job for pennies on the dollar. Sorry!"
Now that would have all made some kind of sense if, in fact, their wealth had been stagnating and corporate growth had been flagging. On the contrary, the opposite was happening. Our productivity was increasing and their wealth was increasing, while our wages were stagnating or declining.
They compounded the effects of this growing disparity by insisting that their taxes be slashed to historic lows, buying political power at bargain basement prices and convincing Red America that it was all intimately connected to god, guns and the big, bad guv'ment.
Further entrenching their wealth, they've created a system in which they get paid wether they succeed or fail. Whether it's Alex Rodriguez or Vikram Pandit, the wealthier you are, the more insulated your wealth is from the contigencies of life, including your own negligence, misconduct, or failure at your job. When the rest of us hit a rough patch, we get exactly shit, regardless of whether we brought it upon ourselves or were the victims of misfortune. They get golden parachute contracts, we get at-will employment. They walk away with millions, we get lectured about being unwilling to take responsibility for our lives.
Mitt Romney thinks this is all pretty great. I would too if I were Mitt Romney - but 99% of us are not Mitt Romney. I'm not saying that Barack Obama is our savior. Far from it, given his tack to the center (as required by the most obstructionist congress in modern political history). I'm simply saying that Mitt Romney has only one core principle: the idea that he and his buddies should be free to acquire as much wealth and power as is humanly possible with as little intervention as politically possible.
The tax code is our only tool for reigning in these fucktards. They are squeezing the lifeblood out of us and telling us that it's our own fault for not having more blood - and they will continue to squeeze until we say "enough already." If they will not fairly distribute the resources of the nation on their own through on-shore hiring, fair wages and decent benefits for the working people, we have no choice but to do it for them.
To be sure, re-electing Barack Obama is not enough, but electing Mitt Romney is a move in the polar opposite direction.