I knew it was only a matter of time before I was publicly identified as a scourge to society, and now it has happened. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, I am evil.
No one’s called me that since my first marriage, I don’t think. Or was it my second? Come to think of it, maybe it was both; I can never remember. Oh well, it doesn’t really matter (sometimes a failing memory is a good thing); Arnie has certainly left no doubt where he stands, even if he needs lifts to do it. (That’s a cheap crack, I know, but I’m wicked, remember?)
The basis for my purported iniquity: I work as an analyst for the State of California and belong to the state’s largest public employees union, the California State Employees Association. (Apparently, I am one of those lucky demons that doesn’t spontaneously combust in daylight.)
Arnold leveled his charge during a speech at the recent GOP state convention. Gary Delsohn of the Sacramento Bee reports: “Vowing to pass four broad government-overhaul measures at a special election later this year, Schwarzenegger said public employee labor unions and other foes are amassing $200 million to fight him.”
(Part of Arnie’s grand plan to “help the people” is to gut the smooth-running state employees’ and teachers’ pension plans a la his Bushmaster’s Social Security privatizing scam. The estimated tab for this irregular election is between $50 million and $70 million, which is some kind of special, all right.)
Delsohn quotes Schwarzenbraggart thusly: “They [teacher and public employee labor unions] have been fighting all along. This is nothing new. The only thing is that politicians up until now were worried about tackling those kind [sic] of problems.
“That's why they fixed a little here, a little there. But now we're going to the source. We're going right there where all the evil is, and we're going to fix this problem once and for all.”
Piling on the charm, Arnie accused his political opposites in the Democratic-controlled legislature of being on either “sleeping pills” or “medication.” He then said the evil people “know that my approval rating is in the 60s. The legislators’ (are) in the 30s…and you will see all those TV ads and those radio ads and those newspaper ads just to try to bring my poll numbers down.
“Those poor little guys … The reality is that they’re not going to get my numbers down…”
I must say, I’ve not seen humility like this since, well, never, really. I learned, too, from Arnie’s speech that being governor is not about serving the people; it’s about polling well. (For the record, those untouchable figures have slipped ten percentage points since September 2004.)
Those in attendance ate up old Arnold’s old act, naturally. If there’s one thing (in addition to grabbing power) in which today’s well-heeled, black-hearted extremists in GOP garb delight, it’s the chance to somehow cram an extra million or three into their already-overstuffed pockets or hold onto every single dime they have, no matter the cost to others. (Maybe especially because of the cost to others.
There’s no disputing California is in dire fiscal straits: The state has had a deficit of billions of dollars for several years running. Never mind, though, that the shortfall was begat by the double body blow of first the stock market tanking (especially the high-tech sector headquartered in Silicon Valley) which in turn reduced the state’s tax receipts, and then the monumental gang-rape we Californians all received in the form of a fabricated energy “crisis” four years back that screwed us collectively out of at least $9 billion, spearheaded by none other than Dubya pal Ken “Still Free and Not Evil, No Sir” Lay of Enron. (It’s such a small world: E-mails confirm Schwarzenliar met with Lay during the seamy reaming; Arnie says he can’t remember.)
Nonetheless, Arnie is now stumping to paint teachers and public employees as responsible for all ills that bedevil our once-great state, and is doing so by employing a tactic much beloved by fascists and contemporary Republicans (sorry for the redundancy): scapegoating.
Marking a (false) common enemy is the second-oldest trick in the book, with the first oldest originally turned by a member of a profession that, interestingly, shares many of the same business practices favored by politicians today.
So, what, exactly, do I cook up in my little cubicle that has Schwarzenshyster proclaiming my malevolence? Well, it is vile, but here goes: I grant credentials to California’s public school teachers by utilizing my knowledge of arcane regulations, evaluating college transcripts and other sundry materials, and then determining whether applicants qualify for any of the 49 types of educator-related documents issued by the state. At night, I return to my creepy house on the hill and feed the bats.
Pretty diabolical, huh?
Here’s the really wicked part: I actually believe I should be fairly compensated for it. More evil still, I think the state should honor its contract I signed by providing my promised pension when I retire.
So, whaddya think: a silver bullet, stake through the heart, or cross to the forehead?
This is the first piece I’ve written on Schwarzenreneger, as most of my past energy has been directed toward exposing the fascists in the White House. Heady from that success, I thought I’d for once do a little California soul-searching and focus on our inner governor.
I’m not swimming in completely uncharted waters, though, since obvious similarities exist between the man who would be president if only he were elected as such, and the man whose presence as governor is unforgivably weird even by West Coast standards: each speaks strangely, hails from a foreign land (Arnie from Austria, Dubya from Texas), and is obviously full onboard with GOP members’ and its (lame) braintrust’s all-consuming quests for evermore power and wealth, regardless of who suffers.
It is that last part that is -- well, how do I put this? -- somewhat problematic, but only, of course, in the very narrow sense that it obliterates everything good and decent in a given society.
Bizarrely, that’s the point. Despite all their barely-intelligible rhetoric (on a good day), Arnie and his partner in bad grammar are uncomfortable with working folks living comfortably. In some weird neo-survival-of-the-fittest-ism, they’re intent on making an already difficult existence for the grossly over-burdened lower and middle classes even more exhausting, perhaps because they figure it’s hard to storm the Bastille when you’re spent from working three jobs and your feet really hurt. (That can only be counted on for so long, however.)
For instance: George W. Bush is doing his utmost to enact confidant Grover Norquist’s plan to “starve the [federal government] beast”; Arnie says, likewise, “we don't want to feed the [state government] monster.” Bush has gone full-bore after organized labor; Arnie is doing it now. Bush has targeted trial lawyers (but not corporate ones) as destructive to society; Arnie constantly rails against “special interests.” (In Schwarzenworld, however, those who’ve thrown a record number of dollars his way aren’t among them, yet, strangely, nurses are. This from a man who, in a recall election costing California millions of dollars only months after the regular election, [correctly] belittled former Governor Gray Davis as an extreme example of a pol-for-hire.)
And, then, of course, there is Bush’s fantastically corrupt push to privatize Social Security, with Arnie mirroring that move by trying to do the same with the state employees’ pension fund (managed by CalPERS) worth $182 billion, and the state teachers’ retirement fund (managed by CalSTRS) valued at $124 billion.
I went to a town hall meeting recently that was hosted by GOP Congressman Dan Lungren, with Social Security as the main topic. It really was a wonder watching him comparing, with the straightest of faces, the federal employees defined contribution pension fund (the Thrift Savings Plan) to private retirement accounts. There’s only one problem: no similarity exists. One is a huge account, run by a handful of knowledgeable investment experts and holding immense fiscal sway; the other is a vast sea of millions of lone, unconnected investors akin to free-floating plankton just waiting to be consumed by schools of hungry plankton-consuming creatures that look a lot like, um, big Wall Street investment firms. (Note: This is an excellent example of an analogy that has imploded. Unfortunately, the neighborhood analogy repair shop was closed by the time this column was submitted for publication.)
The GOP plan, in a nutshell: Cut the power, grab the money. Dilute and loot. This is why unions are especially reviled: with their strength in numbers of people and dollars, they are among the very few real threats left to total Republican/fascist domination.
Cal PERS and CalSTRS aren’t unions, of course. However, they just happen to oversee tons of cash legally committed to thousands of union members who are overwhelmingly opposed to Arnie’s Bush behavior. Never mind both funds are healthy, well-run, and have superbly fulfilled their designated purposes for years. For the new robber barons, that is entirely beside the point, which Schwarzenstealer himself emphatically underscored recently when he summarily dismissed four appointees from the CalSTRS board who dared join six other (of twelve total) board members in opposing his rotten scheme.
Here’s something I’ve often wondered as I’ve watched the Bushies and minions like Schwarzenmugger go about their dirty business of dismantling our society: What does their ultimate dream world look like? Do they see it as clusters of spotless gated communities, full of soirees and endless discussions of stock options, while the unwashed masses outside scramble to bury their dead? Do they expect their high walls to magically stop disease and unpleasant things, like unwanted pregnancies and Jerry Springer? Does their unsurpassed arrogance allow them to believe they somehow will avoid breathing poisoned air or find fish to eat that contain no mercury? Might they think the rejoinder “Let them eat cake!” will actually work this time?
Considering how things are shaping up, with the ever-richer rich buying macmansions and real mansions and monster mansions, could they possibly be thinking that maybe the days of castles and moats and drawbridges and private armies and fiefdoms and serfs weren’t so bad after all, that perhaps that sort of lifestyle actually has a kind of quaint attractiveness to it and a return to those days might be a good thing?
Well…yes. And they’re in luck, because this sort of neo-feudalism is taking shape right now. A friend says America’s current moneyed extremists harbor nostalgia for the good old days -- like the 13th century. You know, when it was a lot easier to call someone evil and have it stick.
Yes, ‘twas a time, verily, of mystery, magic, and mountains of wholesale hokum. In other words, perfect for the Bushies and ilk, and one can almost feel their yearning for that simple(minded) era when one considers their actions in this age (the one we actually live in):
Learned scientists issuing credible warnings about the environment? Fie on them! And then fire them, and send in the faith-based shills. A trusted servant publicly refuting part of the king’s war rationale is wedded to a loyal agent of the realm? Out with her name and off with her cred! Protesting citizens declaring the emperor wears no clothes? Strip them bare of their rights (and signs), then arrest and persecute them! Wicked traitors all, and may plague and pox visit all their vile hovels (especially the gay ones’). Hie away the heathens, but not ere their kin and lucre are confiscated so the unmolested global slaughter and pillaging may continue, all in the name of peace and some weird religion, of course.
Perhaps, though, these power players have not pondered this particular point: even the public appears peccant. For example, I’d wager that a fair percentage of the state’s fiendish peasant-citizens believe having licensed teachers in classrooms is actually a good idea, that educators should first complete state-accredited teacher preparation programs, and, yes, that skilled analysts should indeed then determine whether or not prospective teachers have met legal credentialing requirements before instructing California’s little Stephanies and Stevies (or Starshines and Stokeleys; it is California, after all).
I’d also propose that my fellow Golden Staters are so debauched they actually prefer having breathable air, clean water, highways and bridges constructed and repaired, dams maintained, social services available, professionals licensed, vehicles registered, trucks weighed, roads patrolled, education provided, the disadvantaged cared for, prisoners housed, consumers protected, certain businesses regulated (I could name a few), polluters stopped, natural disasters responded to, parks open, crimes prosecuted, the state’s interests protected against the feds (not that that would ever be necessary, of course), fisheries nurtured, bays dredged, (sane) laws enforced, and so on, and, going sinfully all the way, I’d even assert they are so depraved they support fairly compensating those who perform these and other duties.
Not that a lot of the above is going swimmingly well in California right now anyway, mind you, much to residents’ dissatisfaction and disadvantage, yet for the Bushes and Schwarzengaggers of our dark time, even the current low level of service is too much, for in their greenback-fevered craniums, every dollar that goes toward such populace-desired government services is one less dollar not yet siphoned off to them and their crooked corporate cronies.
Beware: this is not just a “California thing.” If it works here, it will come to a town or state near you -- like the very one in which you live -- to convince you what a great idea it is to stick it to public employees by making their jobs and futures insecure, making Wall Street and Big Business wealthier, and, oh yeah, by also reducing the quality of just about every public service you currently expect and deserve, since folks generally aren’t real keen on working for a government employer who a) can’t wait to “privatize” everything in sight, b) doesn’t respect contracts, and c) thinks it the height of cleverness to grinningly call Americans “evil.”
So, then, who is truly wicked? Well, after the reading of forbidden texts, examination of pulsating pentagrams, and viewing of lots of Buffy reruns, leading demonologists agree: The calculated, cruel, treasonous destruction of a civilized societal structure and total disregard of citizens’ well-being are far more evil than, say, public employees providing crucial services and then, my pretty, expecting just recompense in return.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go boil some newts.
Mark Drolette is a political satirist/commentator who lives in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at: email@example.com. Copyright © 2005 Mark Drolette. All rights reserved.
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