This Blog is Stolen Property

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Goodbye, Cruel Blogosphere

Feemus is going on vacation!

I can't afford it, but I am going anyway. Whoo hoo.

I will not be, as might be presumed, taking time off to stalk Russ Feingold (with amorous intent) or David Brooks (with murderous intent). I will be trying to figure out how to hike with a sprained ankle. I love a challenge.

Actually, I hate a challenge, but I don't want everyone to know how lazy I am. So, shhhhh....

Later skaters. Blog at you in a coupla weeks.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Diversity Training

The New York Times' "loveable conservative," David Brooks, wants us to know that he not only loves the rich, he also loves the super-rich.

Saying that David Brooks is a jackass is about as penetrating a comment as noting that water tends to be wet. It's true, though. Water is wet.

In his latest "I Heart the Rich" column (illegally reprinted in yesterday's post), Brooks mixes things up a bit. In a refreshing change of pace, Brooks takes time out from praising his favorite group of the privileged, the "bobos," to wax moony over the plutocrats.

Bobos (bourgeois bohemians--Brooks' own sycophantic coinage) are upper-middle class and tend to work in well-paying service jobs: lawyers, doctors, stockbrokers, professors, etc. Brooks' new darlings, the plutocrats, are the flat-out stinking rich.

As usual, Brooks doesn't know his class from his elbow. He writes:

Through some screw-up in the moral superstructure, we now have a plutocratic upper class infused with the staid industriousness of Ben Franklin, while we are apparently seeing the emergence of a Wal-Mart leisure class — devil-may-care middle-age slackers who live off home-equity loans and disability payments so they can surf the History Channel and enjoy fantasy football leagues.

For the first time in human history, the rich work longer hours than the proletariat.

Here is the first example that Brooks gives of the "Wal-Mart leisure-class proletariat": A former electrical engineer at Xerox who "earned a six-figure income."*

Ok, is it me--or is a guy with an advanced degree who was making (at least) three times the average annual income not really a member of the proletariat??

And Brooks tries to make this upper-middle class professional into a moral exemplum about the laziness of the poor? This is as offensive as it is transparent.

Brooks' other example is a former steelworker. Brooks makes no mention of why he is out of work, but does add the rather Victorian touch that his wife is forced to take in sewing because of his manly failure.

It's interesting that Brooks identifies these "lazy poor" living on disability payments** with Wal-Mart. Sam Walton is just the kind of hard-working plutocrat whom Brooks praises. He was, of course, legendary for the long hours he put in and his frugality, qualities that became part of the coporate culture of Wal-Mart. He built up a whole mythos based on these characteristics. He is widely (if sometimes grudgingly) praised for his work ethic and his eschewal of luxury. He stayed, for instance, at Motel 6--details like this are typically fawning-fodder for the press.

Well, that's all well and good. But this doesn't make him ethical. It's not like he was sharing the money he saved by staying in a motel rather than the Hilton. So fucking what if he'd rather have extra money in his pocket than a mint on his pillow.

I'll be impressed with how many hours Wal-Mart execs work when they let their employees work full-time, too.

Among the many things that David Brooks doesn't get, this is one of them:

Rich people can work as much as they want. Poor people can work only as much as their employers let them. Shame on you, Mr. Brooks, for calling under-employment leisure.

Go back to drooling (God, I hope that's the extent of it) over the wedding announcements of your beloved bobos and leave the war on the poor to the experts in Congress.

*It's almost axiomatic that anyone who talks about money in terms of "figures" is a jackass. QED.
**One can feel the simultaneous disdain and suspicion with which Brooks writes "disability payments." It's the luxury of being a newspaper columnist or a plutocrat that one can work if one is not in great health. This is just not true for many members of the workforce. Brooks doesn't seem to allow for the possibility that these people truly are disabled. The working classes have, for the most part, shitty health care (or none) and no sick leave. Go into any restaurant, for instance, or to any non-union contruction site and see how many people are working with back problems, foot problems, tendonitis, etc. If they could take time off and get some proper medical attention they could heal. But they can't, so they work until they simply can't work anymore and are forced to draw unemployment insurance (toward which they have paid). Brooks' mythical "leisure" class reminds me of Reagan's paranoid parable of the welfare queens driving around in their Welfare Cadillacs.

I'm not saying that there aren't lazy members of the working class, or folks who try to work the system. Sure there are. And, you know, shame on them. Cut it out, you guys.

But who is more injurious to our society? A guy milking his disability payments or the cronyism among the rich and powerful that leads to shit like Enron, Haliburton, Bechtel? Now THAT'S working the system! Even Whitewater looks pretty grave next to an out-of-work steelworker watching the History Channel.

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Lex Pistols

David Brooks should be prohibited from using phrases like "bollixed up." It's just worse when he tries to be hip.