My neighbor’s poodle died the other day. It’s very sad, of course. What’s worse is now I have to take my dog out back and shoot him.
He’s not ill. In fact, he’s in perfect health. But because my neighbor has endured a loss, I must now similarly suffer. (So must the dog, too, one could convincingly argue.)
Lunacy, you say? Bizarre? A little mean, even?
Well, I agree, but it’s no different than the “logic” of a hot argument currently being hoisted up the right-wing extremists’ flagpole, which goes like this: Because private sector employees’ pension plans suck, public employees’ retirement plans must also be gutted. (Disclosure time: I work as an analyst for the California state government.)
I really should say “allegedly suck,” because the proponents of this nonsensical non sequitur don’t seem too interested in supporting their assertion with pesky little things like facts.
In a rare (unprecedented?) occurrence, I will, however, concede this point to my opponents. Given the ongoing all-out assault on organized labor by America’s plutocrats, the decimation of golden years dreams wrought by nifty little implosions like the Enron scandal, and outright default as exemplified by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s takeover this month of United Airlines’ ground employees’ pension plan (adding another $2-plus billion to PBGC’s existing $23 billion deficit which most likely will be funded by you-know-who), it is irrefutable that decent (or even indecent) retirement plans are quickly becoming as rare as a coherent musing from Dubya.
Call me an uncritical thinker regarding Americans’ demonstrated critical thinking skills (or not, because it is kind of unwieldy and even the acronym, UTRADCTS, though shorter, is difficult to pronounce), but I would imagine most folks, upon learning that American workers keep getting screwed, would think: “Wow. American workers keep getting screwed. It’s time for them to unite and demand of the conscienceless corporations whose CEOs ‘earn’ over 500 times the average worker’s wage that guaranteed retirement benefits are provided for those whose efforts enable upper crust management’s continued purchases of perfectly-patterned $6,000 shower curtains: their employees.”
Plainly, I am nuts. Because, as noted, the mantra being repeated these days is that the most normal thing in the world for people who toil for a company for 30 or 40 years is to expect, upon retirement, well, nothing, really. Not only that, but anyone who is counting on retiring with even a modicum of pension-provided comfort is an enemy of the state and must be taught a very harsh lesson by, say, being subjected to water-boarding or forced to watch seven straight hours of The O’Reilly Factor. (Both interrogation techniques, it seems, have been approved by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales despite A.G. A.G.’s reported reservations about the latter as possibly being too “inhumane.”)
The folks who cooked up and disseminated this argument are, of course, none other than America’s Rovian Republicans, the uber-wealthy, corporate-suckled, PNAC-influenced nimrods who gave us Iraq, record deficits, and chronic anal retention, fronted by the ultimate silver-spooner himself, George W. “Peter Principle Personified” Bush, a guy who’s never worked an honest day in his life (though his total of dishonest ones is quite impressive). Keep in mind, too, that none of these supercilious super-privileged will ever have to worry, in the face of no incomin’ income, about someday being confronted with the heart-rending dilemma of just exactly who gets the larger portion of the Alpo hearty chicken, rice, and fish meal combo dinner some despairing night: you or Spot. (That is, if the poor mutt’s not already undergone a sympathy dispatch.)
Our local paper, the Sacramento Bee, has been beating the public-employees-are-bloodsucking-scum drum for months. Here’s a real beaut from a recent editorial: “Under current law, a 30-year school employee, say a janitor, cafeteria worker or classroom aide, can retire at age 55 with 60 percent of pay, a benefit far richer than what most workers in private industry receive.”
Yeah, boy, that’s some gilded gravy train, all right. A guy cleans toilets, picks up trash, and fends off spitballs for a measly three decades, finishes his easy street career by topping out at, let’s say, a kingly three grand a month (if he’s lucky), and then lives like a profligate Saudi prince afterwards on a stratospheric $1800 per! Man, where do I sign up to get a piece of that action?
In reality, if this pension formula is “far richer” than what average U.S. workers anywhere get after workin’ away for the man night and day during the best years of their lives, then it sure ain’t America’s custodians who threaten society’s stability; it’s the corporate top hogs who are gettin’ fatter as they gluttonously devour the fruits of American labor while contemptuously, steadfastly, and destructively refusing to let loose with a fair deal for those whose toil enables such continued excess.
Sad to say, though, the deliberate hornswoggling of the proles by the filthy rich (and richly filthy) like Bush, Dick Cheney, and just about anyone else who thinks it capital(istic) to use up, shake down, and throw away American working stiffs, is obviously working.
Here’s part of an e-mail I got the other day commenting on a recent piece of mine about Arnold Schwarzeneggeronner calling California state workers “evil” and proposing to exorcise us all by converting our extremely well-run pension fund to private fleecing plans -- uh, retirement accounts:
“…why should those who work protected from recessions be rewarded better than us in private industry? Some of my friends recently retired from the Fire department, and one from the Sheriff’s dept. Both get nearly 80% of their regular salary, plus medical benefits. To add insult, they were promoted just prior to retirement.”
By jiminy, that’s a real slap in the face, all right. (Especially when one’s “friends” engage in such despicable behavior; please, don’t invite me to that party.) When these parasitic law enforcement and firefighting guys and gals finish their careers of routinely saving lives, protecting property, and rescuing kitty cats, they should have to go out and go dumpster diving just like so many other proud, “personally responsible” Americans. (I have to ask: These wouldn’t be the same cops and firefighters Americans were falling all over themselves lionizing just a short time ago, would they?)
Just what the hell is going on here? Is such twisted thinking symptomatic of some new disorder, like, say, BALLS (Battered American Lowly Laborer Syndrome), which leaves the afflicted piss-ant worker eagerly anticipating the next full-on kick from his corporate master? If so, the sufferer also appears beset by a co-dependence so crippling that, rather than seeking relief by going after the actual offender, he instead is inexplicably compelled to assist in exposing his fellow laborer’s backside (the part of anatomy where the ever-atrophying wallet is) to similar mistreatment to make sure yet another poor overworked American ass gets Da Man’s point(ed boot).
To my e-mailer and millions of other wide-asleep Americans: Wake up! You are being heinously used and abused, and the shrinking numbers of your fairly-compensated fellow workers are not your enemies; they are your hope, and your allies. The heartless ones who exploit, have contempt for, and shaft you and your loved ones are your real foes, and we must all work together (UNIONIZE!) to assure that fair wages, benefits, and, yes, even retirement plans are guaranteed for all American workers. Once that happens, we’re all winners.
Including my dog.
Mark Drolette is a political satirist/commentator who lives in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2005 Mark Drolette. All rights reserved. Published originally in Online Journal.
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United States Government, 2005 (Part II)