Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rand Paul: America’s Poor Are Lucky to Have it so Good!

July 10, 2010
Rand Paul: America’s Poor Are Lucky to Have it so Good!
Joshua Holland

Here’s some authentic frontier gibberish from Rand Paul (via TPM):

“The poor in our country are enormously better off than the rest of the world,” Paul said. “Doesn’t mean we can’t do better, but we have to acknowledge and be proud of our system of capitalism, be proud of our American way.”

Here’s how he got to that conclusion:

One of the important lessons that came out of the Cold War — and this is an important description that I don’t think comes up enough — the Cold War was won by America because the engine of capitalism defeated the engine of socialism. The Soviets used to show a propaganda film — they wanted to show how horrible America was and how our poor were doing so poorly. They filmed a building in the poor section of New York with some broken windows and they said, ‘Oh this is how the poor in America lives.’ But it backfired on them because the Soviet citizens looked at that video closely and they saw flickering color television sets in all those windows.

Like the nonsensical claim that 50 percent of Americans pay no taxes, this is a zombie lie that will never rest. It can’t, because people like Rand Paul aren’t really defending American “capitalism” — they’re defending the great economic inequality that results from capitalism when its not balanced by a real social safety net. It’s axiomatic that the poor have it better off in countries with less inequality and greater ‘transfer payments.’ But more to the point, greater inequality leads to more people living in poverty — and we lead the developed world.

That’s what their “populism” is supporting. Economies with a more equitable distribution of wealth produce fewer millionaires, yes, but many fewer poor folks. So, the Right simply argues that our poor folks have TVs! And dishwashers! They’re doing great!

Half of all American children require food-stamps at some point before they hit 20 — a statistic that would shock the citizens of other advanced countries. But a dedicated consumer culture produces a lot of excess goods. You can get a TV at a yard sale for a dollar. Right now, on Craigslist’s San Francisco site, there are free dishwashers, a freezer, a stereo system and many, many television sets available for nothing. A few days ago, I saw a 50-inch wide-screen TV that would have gone for a few thousand dollars ten years ago sitting on the street with a sign that said, ‘works fine.’ Perhaps Rand Paul, who worships at the Church of Big Business, never heard of the term “planned obsolescence.” It’s right there in his GE Bible.

In my deftly written forthcoming book (DWFB?), I look at one of the silliest of these arguments (in the context of the Right’s well established mythology about European decline). Here’s a little taste:

One of the most entertaining claims to U.S. superiority is this: we live in bigger homes. As the Wall Street Journal was happy to point out, “The average living space for poor American households is 1,200 square feet. In Europe, the average space for all households, not just the poor, is 1,000 square feet.” Case closed!

Well, not really. This is a simple matter of population density: in the EU-15, there are 120 people per kilometer; in the United States, we only have 29 people per kilometer. And that average obviously includes large ranch homes in sparsely populated rural expanses. I live in a tightly packed U.S. city, and given that most middle-class people here can’t even dream of affording 1,200 square feet, I don’t think our poor folks can, either. I’m a member of the American middle class, and I live in a studio that’s maybe 375 square feet.

We’ve been locked in class warfare waged from above for decades, and all of this is simply corporate propaganda intended to keep the suckers in line. It’s also very successful.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer with AlterNet.

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