Friday, July 21, 2017

New Deal Recycling and Refuse Art (5/5): "Beach Cleaners"

Above: "Beach Cleaners," a color lithograph by Hyman J. Warsager (1909-1974), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1937. Warsager practiced other forms of art too, for example, color wood cut prints, and recalled, "I think the whole interest [in color wood cut prints] in the United States, that exists even today, very much came from the Federal Art Project - the graphic group. We had an opportunity to experiment. We had the printers. We had the lithographers. We had the man to print wood cuts. We had the men to print etchings - all of them, very fine printers which is so important to the making of a good print." (A recent art exhibition by Georgetown University Library backs up Warsager's claim - see "Color in Relief: Wood Block Prints from Origins to Abstraction). Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

New Deal Recycling and Refuse Art (4/5): "Junk Yard"

Above: "Junk Yard," an oil painting by Aaron Bohrod (1907-1992), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1939. In 1984, Bohrod recalled the tough times of the Great Depression: "my wife, in the thick of Depression, wasn't being paid by the Chicago Board of Education, but she got what was called scrip, which means that they would pay at a future date." Fortunately, the WPA gave him a job: "And I felt it was a great job. It didn’t pay as much money as I got when I was a worker for the Fair Department Store, but it paid something like $24 a week." Bohrod also won three commissions with the New Deal's Treasury Section of Fine Arts and painted murals for the post offices in Clinton, Galesburg, and Vandalia, Illinois (see "Artists: Aaron Bohrod," Living New Deal). During World War II, Bohrod was sent to combat zones by the Army and by magazines (e.g., LIFE) to paint what he observed, and later said: "As wars go, it was a good war. It was a war that had to be fought; it was a war that had to be won... and that was of course the last good war." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New Deal Recycling and Refuse Art (3/5): "Ash Heap"

Above: "Ash Heap," a wood engraving by Charles E. Pont (1898-1971), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1939. According to the Rochester Institute of Technology, Pont was born in France, raised in New York City, and became "a painter, printmaker, magazine/book illustrator, educator, author, and clergyman." Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, July 17, 2017

New Deal Recycling and Refuse Art (2/5): "Scrap Iron"

Above: "Scrap Iron," a lithograph by Herman R. Volz (1904-1990), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, 1939. Volz was in a non-relief, supervisory position in the WPA, and recalled that time period in a 1964 interview with the Smithsonian: "We had a wonderful cohesion with us really. I would think that the period when we were on the WPA was one of the nicest periods I have spent in America with artists. There was a friendship there, there was a kind of a direction everybody went, you know. I think it was a very decent period... our period in America of the WPA was a glorious period." When asked about a new WPA-type program for artists, Volz suggested a cabinet-level position in the White House, "because in a Cabinet post you can directly appeal to the public, you know, and making it on a Federal basis is very, very important. And put a certain amount of money aside for a cultural development subsidy, millions of it." A year after Volz's interview, Congress created the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Interestingly, the Trump Administration wants to eliminate the NEA, despite the NEA's strong 50-year support for state & local art programs. But Congress has rejected that part of Trump's budget proposal, and recently increased funding for the arts. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

New Deal Recycling and Refuse Art (1/5): "Collection Day"

Above: "Collection Day," an oil painting by Criss Glasell (1898-1971), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, ca. 1933-1934. According to her page on AskArt, Glasell was born Christine Albertina, in Austria; came to the United States with her family around 1910; graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago; and met her husband, Don Glasell, while working as an artist making hand-painted lamp shades. In addition to the painting above, she also painted a mural for the post office in Leon, Iowa, in 1938, while in the New Deal's Treasury Section of Fine Arts. She also won a first place award in the landscape-still life oil division of the 1939 Iowa State Fair art competition. Her winning piece was called "Winding Road." ("Artist Repeats State Fair Triumph," The Des Moines Register, August 23, 1939, p. 3). Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thanks to tax cuts for the rich... there are now brain-eating amoebas in our drinking water

Above: A water tower and purification system in Mandeville, Louisiana, built by the WPA, 1936-1937. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Above: A closer look at the WPA-built water purification system at the base of the tower. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

New Dealers understood the value of clean drinking water

Between 1935 and 1943, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) installed thousands of miles of new water lines and built or repaired hundreds of water treatment plants. Harold Ickes and his Public Works Administration (PWA) funded many large waterworks projects across America too, during that same general time frame, and warned us to always be careful with our drinking water:

"Water is life. Apparently this fundamental fact must be learned on the battlefront of experience again and again. When this lesson is forgotten, even for a moment, the consequences are immediate and disastrous. A brief lapse in maintaining the purity of a water supply occurred in 1928 in Olean, N.Y., a town with a population of 21,000. Typhoid germs rode into the Olean homes through the water pipes. Two hundred and thirty-eight cases of the disease resulted. Twenty-one people died... To prevent similar disasters, engineers everywhere to whom the Nation has entrusted the purity of its water supply must be eternally vigilant" (America Builds: The Record of PWA, 1939, pp. 169-170).

We didn't listen... as the children of Flint, Michigan, and millions of other children across the United States can attest to, after they've consumed lead-contaminated water for years.

Above: "Water Carrier," a lithograph by Nina Ullberg (1901-1993), created while she was in a New Deal art program (probably the WPA's Federal Art Project), 1937. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and David Wood.

Brain-eating amoebas, and other contaminants, in Louisiana's deteriorating and under-maintained drinking water infrastructure

Recently, we've heard that there is a brain-eating amoeba in some of Louisiana's drinking water. But hey, don't worry, as long as you don't get any in your nose, you'll be a-okay! Question: What happens if you're drinking some water, and someone tells a joke, and you laugh so hard the water comes out your nose? Well, I guess you'll be laughing yourself to death. Or what if you're taking a shower, and some water accidentally splashes in your nose? Ooops. ("Brain-Eating Amoeba Found In Louisiana Tap Water; People Warned To Avoid Water In Nose," Huffington Post, July 2, 2017)

Louisiana has been warned about its drinking water. In 2012, the American Society of Civil Engineers said that Louisiana's "aging and deteriorating water supply and treatment and distribution systems are not capable of providing potable water for future, and in some cases, current demands. Better planning and more funding are key elements to providing Louisiana with a safe supply of drinking water in the future" (emphasis added). Louisiana does not seem to have taken the ASCE's recommendations too seriously, as the following news reports highlight:


August 2014: "Brain-eating amoeba now in Louisiana drinking water," Washington Post.


December 2016: "Louisiana Declares Public Health Emergency Surrounding Small Town’s Drinking Water," (lead contamination) KTLA 5 News.  

Indeed, instead of taking the ASCE's recommendations seriously, Louisiana policymakers seems to have doubled-down on neglect. In 2017, the ASCE downgraded Louisiana's drinking water system from a C- to a D-, noting: "some areas struggle to meet potable water demands due to aging and deteriorating water systems, as well as threats to water quality... Approximately 58% of water systems in Louisiana are over 50 years old, creating potential for more frequent system breakdowns and need for repair and replacement of components. In serious cases, deteriorating systems can result in public safety issues such as those in the rural town of St. Joseph, LA [where lead and copper contamination was found]. It's critical for the state of Louisiana to increase funding and raise the grade of its drinking water infrastructure" (emphasis added).

Question: Given America's now world-famous neglect of its infrastructure and public health (see, e.g., "Metro Draws Global Sympathy: Transit agency's woes serve as cautionary tale on the international stage," Express [sub-publication of the Washington Post], June 5, 2017), do we really think Louisiana's drinking water system is the only system where the brain-eating amoeba has taken up residence?

Above: "Drinking Boy," a sculpture by William Zorach (1887-1966), created while he was in the WPA, ca. 1935-1942. On the issues of clean water, infrastructure, and the various New Deal work programs, President Franklin Roosevelt said, "Unprecedented advances in cleaning up our streams have been made possible by the public works and work-relief programs during the past six years... more progress has been made in abatement of municipal waste during that period than during the entire twenty-five years preceding, chiefly as a result of Federal financial stimulation... great improvement in the Nation's basic assets of water has been incident to the fight against unemployment." Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Colorado University Art Museum.

Voting against our own health

Three months ago, Louisiana journalist Mark Ballard wrote about the state's wide-ranging drinking water problems. He explained that the main issue is funding, and the inability of Louisianans to afford maintenance and improvements. A microbiologist he interviewed said, "the real issue is in the municipal/community water systems that simply don't have the resources. As many as 300 communities cannot afford to maintain and improve their water systems" ("Across Louisiana, crumbling infrastructure threatens small town water supplies," The Advocate, April 8, 2017).

But here's the curious thing: Louisianans elected Republican Bobby Jindal to be their governor from 2008 to 2016. Jindal, like most Republicans, handed out tax breaks to the rich like candy (see, e.g., "Bobby Jindal’s Anti-Tax Fervor May Have Destroyed Louisiana," ThinkProgress, May 7, 2016). Louisianans also backed Donald Trump, and now President Trump's budget calls for cuts to infrastructure funding for rural areas (like much of Louisiana), including cuts to drinking water infrastructure (see, e.g., "Heavy cuts to rural development and infrastructure in latest Trump budget," Washington Post, May 23, 2017.) 

Louisiana is also a red state, which means they generally favor Republicans. And their two Republican U.S. Senators, and their five Republican Representatives (they only have one Democratic congressman, U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond, 2nd District), are working hard to scale back Medicaid in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy. And we can be sure that these seven men will also be working hard to give even more tax breaks to the wealthy when the issue of "tax reform" comes up later this year. No matter how devastating those cuts will be to the nation's infrastructure, they won't be able to stop themselves from doing it, because (a) they're beholden to their wealthy donors, (b) Louisiana voters won't hold them accountable, and (c) it's in their nature.

As if all this were not bad enough, in 2013 it was reported that "The poor in Louisiana pay twice as much of their income in state and local taxes as do the rich." This type of problem is exacerbated by right-wing policies. When Republicans cut taxes for the rich at the federal level, the revenue burden will inevitably fall on the middle-class and poor at the state & local level, in the form of regressive taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates (see my blog post here for a more in-depth discussion on this phenomenon.) 

Drowning Government (i.e., We the People) in the Bathtub vs. Investing in Infrastructure and Public Health

Above: "Construction Workers," an etching and aquatint by Hugh P. Botts (1903-1964), created while he was in the WPA's Federal Art Project, ca. 1935-1939. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and Baltimore Museum of Art.

Grover Norquist, America's preeminent tax cut nut, and the man who famously declared, "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub," recently said that newly proposed tax increases on super-wealthy Americans was, "a cruel joke on middle income people." His rationale was that tax increases would cause the the rich to kill jobs for the middle-class. It seems Norquist has been insulated in his billionaire-funded office for so long, that he can't see what's happened all across America over the past many decades. 

You see, the rich have received tax gifts from their political & policy puppets (like Norquist) for a very long time now - in the form of tax rate cuts; preferential treatment for their investment (i.e., unearned) income; generous mortgage interest tax deductions, for up to two homes; tax loopholes; tax shelters; tax credits; tax deductions; tax gimmicks; and secretive offshore tax havens that our corporate-bought federal government doesn't seem overly concerned about. Thanks to these and other public policies the rich are now enjoying record wealth.

And so, what have the rich done with all those tax favors and all that record wealth? Created millions of awesome jobs, like manna from Heaven? Sadly, no. They've shipped jobs overseas; stagnated wages here at home; cut back on job benefits; engaged in relentless attacks on the social safety net (so that the workers they lay off will have tremendous difficulty receiving adequate help); committed record-setting fraud; and mired their fellow Americans in merciless debt.

If Norquist believes that tax-cuts-for-the-rich, and greater wealth for the rich, has aided America's working class, he's either a man who's completely oblivious to reality... or a lunatic.  

In any event, there's another way - a way that worked: During the 1930s and early 1940s, the New Deal funded thousands of infrastructure and service projects across America. For example, in Louisiana, the WPA performed 4,500 miles of road work, 2,000 bridge projects, 1,800 public building projects, over 200 park, playground, and athletic field projects, nearly 800 miles of water and sewer lines, and much more (Federal Works Agency, Final Report on the WPA Program, 1935-43, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946, pp. 134-136).

Doesn't that sound better than tax cuts for the rich, crumbling infrastructure, and brain-eating amoebas in our drinking water?

And how do we know it worked? Because thousands of New Deal projects are still in use today, 80 years later (often well past their intended lifespan), as documented by the Living New Deal.

Oh, and by the way, the New Deal was funded, in part, by higher taxes on the wealthy. 

Unfortunately, the voting habits of Louisiana and other red states, as well as the modern Democratic Party's enslavement to Corporate America, ensures that there will not be another New Deal, and thus no major infrastructure improvements, during our lifetime. Instead, expect more children to ingest lead (a neurotoxin), more children to die from brain-eating amoebas, more people to die from Legionnaires' disease, more water main breaks, and so on. The American public has made its decision (through voting or apathy) and the verdict is in: Tax breaks for the wealthy (to be used to purchase more private jets, more private compounds, and more private islands) is more important than American infrastructure and public health.

Isn't that amazing?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Ayn Rand profited from WPA "collectivism"

Above: A WPA poster, promoting the WPA's performance of The Night of January 16th, a play by Ayn Rand. Image courtesy of George Mason University, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Ayn Rand was no fan of the New Deal, writing in 1936: "My feeling for the New Deal is growing colder and colder. In fact, it's growing so cold that it's coming to the boiling point of hatred" (Jennifer Burns, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 38). 

Rand, it seems, could not come to terms with the concept of a government that was truly of the people, by the people, and for the people. Perhaps due to her traumatic experience during the Russian Revolution and/or her privileged upbringing, Rand appears to have considered the New Deal to be another wrongful taking of wealth from the "heroic" upper-class, to give to the "undeserving" lower classes. We see the same type of anxiety in right-wing politics today, for example, when U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan (an Ayn Rand discipledivides the country into "makers" vs. "takers."

But Rand's cold feelings towards the New Deal did not prevent her from making a buck off it. According to author, journalist, and professor of literature Anne Heller, "Although by 1936 Rand strongly disapproved of Roosevelt and his New Deal programs, the WPA provided her with royalties of ten dollars per performance [for The Night of January 16th], a small fortune, throughout the later 1930s" (Ayn Rand and the World She Made, New York: Random House, 2009, p. 95). Rand wrote The Night of January 16th, a courtroom drama, around 1934, and it enjoyed commercial success for a few years before the WPA, and other theater programs across the country, picked it up.

Now someone might say, "It was Ayn Rand's brilliance that benefited the WPA!" But one of the main goals of the WPA's Federal Theatre Project was to bring theatre to people who might not otherwise see it, e.g., lower-income groups. Hence, the WPA probably broadened Ayn Rand's audience, which perhaps contributed to the eventual Hollywood film version of her play, from which she also profited.

This wasn't the last time Rand would benefit from the New Deal and similar "collectivism." It is now legendary, of course, that she collected Social Security and Medicare benefits when she needed them. (Why didn't she just use her John Galt superpowers to gather the needed funds? Why did she rely on the "nanny state" to see her through tough times?). And in the early-to-mid 1940s, when Rand was sitting comfortably at home, developing her goofy ideology, many lower-income Americans who had been in the CCC or WPA (the type of people and programs that Rand despised) were working collectively in the defense industries, or fighting and dying collectively in Europe and the Pacific... for her freedom to sip iced tea, take amphetamines, and write about the superiority of all the wealthy businessmen who populated her dreams.

And I wonder how many New Deal roads, bridges, airports, and parks Ayn Rand made use of. We'll never know for sure, but you can bet it was plenty. But Rand, like so many others on the political right (then and now), seemed to be oblivious to the collective work of the labor class, and how their work benefited her on a daily basis, in terms of freedom, transportation & infrastructure, recreation, public health, public education, and overall social stability.

Ayn Rand and her imaginary friend John Galt had the freedom and tools to become successful because of the collective work and sacrifice of millions of people; specifically, the very people they had contempt for.

The Narcissistic and Willfully Ignorant Philosophy of Ayn Rand and Her Disciples:

"'The community' never gave anyone anything... It is 'the community' that should give back to the wealth-creators. It turns out that the 99% get far more benefit from the 1% than vice-versa. Ayn Rand developed the idea of 'the pyramid of ability,' which John Galt sets forth in Atlas Shrugged... 'The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.'"

--Harry Binswanger, Ayn Rand devotee, in "Give Back? Yes, It's Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%," Forbes, September 17, 2013

Note: Harry Binswanger seems to have benefited from collectivism quite nicely too. According to his Wikipedia page, he "is a scion of Binswanger Glass Co., founded in 1872 by Samuel Binswanger." The Binswanger company's website explains that "After the Depression, the company began to grow again, and in 1947, Binswanger Mirror was established to meet the increasing demands of a post-war customer base and take advantage of the building boom that followed World War II... Today, Binswanger Glass has 65 locations in 15 states and continues to expand." 

Well, golly gee, why was there a "building boom" after World War II? Because, in large part, the economy was able to expand along New Deal roads, across New Deal bridges, and out of New Deal airports. And the "customer base" was stronger, in part, because of Social Security and higher, union-obtained wages (the New Deal helped strengthen unions) - both of these things, and more, increased the ability of Americans to buy goods and services. Even Republicans understood the economic value of the New Deal, espousing several of its policies in their 1956 party platform. I wonder if Mr. Binswanger knows this... or perhaps he thinks Ayn Rand and John Galt built all the roads & bridges that brought the new customers to his family's business.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

WPA Vaudeville in San Francisco

Above: A WPA poster, promoting a WPA vaudeville show at San Francisco's Alcazar Theatre, May 1938.  Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The photos below are from WPA vaudeville performances in San Francisco. Most or all of the photos were taken in September 1936. Vaudeville is a type of theatre, showcasing variety acts, for example, juggling, tight rope walking, and music. Vaudeville was very popular in the early 1900s, and you can still get a taste of vaudeville today, for example, at Renaissance Festivals that feature comedy skits, sword swallowing, magic acts, and so on. Between 1935 and 1939, the WPA offered many work opportunities for struggling vaudeville performers, theatre designers, stage hands, etc. All photos courtesy of the National Archives:










Thursday, July 6, 2017

The WPA, The Bat, and The Batman

Above: A WPA poster promoting the WPA's performance of the The Bat, a play originally produced by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood in 1920. The play tells the story of a criminal who dresses like a bat and, according to Wikipedia's page for The Bat, it was a commercial success and led to three films (1926, 1930, and 1959). The WPA performed the play at least twice, in Los Angeles, from June 30 through July 11, 1936, and in New York on December 10, 11, and 12, 1936. Image courtesy of George Mason University, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes.

Above: A WPA poster promoting the WPA's performance of Dracula. The WPA performed the play in Los Angeles, from February 15 through February 27, 1938. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The comic book character Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, and first appeared in Detective Comics #27, May 1939. According to a May 6, 2014 article in The Atlantic, "Batman's Traumatic Origins," by Professor of Psychiatry Richard A. Warshak, Kane was inspired by Rinehart and Hopwood's The Bat, specifically the 1930 movie version of it, as well as the fictional characters Zorro and Dracula, and even one of Leonardo Da Vinci's flying machine drawings. I don't have any information that the WPA's performance of The Bat had any influence on Kane or Finger, but it seems both of them were living in New York City at the time of the WPA's production. Perhaps they saw it. We'll probably never know for sure, but the loose relationship between all of the events is interesting. The late 1930s and early 1940s brought into being many other comic book characters that are still very popular today: Superman (1938), Wonder Woman (1941), Green Lantern (1940), and the Flash (1940), to name just a few.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Let's declare our independence... from the super-wealthy


Above: "Liberty or Death: Don't Tread on Me," an oil painting by James L. McCreery (1901-1970), created while he was in the New Deal's Section of Fine Arts, 1943. This painting is in the State Department Building (also called the "Harry S. Truman Building") in Washington, DC. It's one of the last New Deal artworks, and McCreery was paid $1,200 to paint it (about $17,000 in today's dollars). It is a very large painting, 8 and 1/2 feet wide by 9 feet tall. 

What a great symbol this painting would be today, for the American people to declare their independence from their super-wealthy overlords - overlords who have sent their jobs overseas; hijacked their democracy; engaged in all manner of financial & environmental misdeeds; and made it virtually impossible to fix American infrastructure - all the while investing in bombs and missiles that kill tens of thousands of people across the globe every year. (With respect to the latter, see, "3 Ways to Profit from the Endless War on Terror," The Street, May 21, 2016, where the author gives the self-absolving, obligatory, and ultimately soulless statement: "This isn't the appropriate venue to judge whether massive defense spending is beneficial for humanity and the planet, whether it is an effective use of capital or whether it even keeps us properly safe. To use a popular expression: It is what it is." How nice it must be to wash away all sense of responsibility by simply saying, "This isn't the proper venue" and "It is what it is." And how easy it must be to say those things, when it wasn't your family wiped out by a missile.)

To "Make America Great Again," we should declare our independence from the super-wealthy, tax the hell out of them, and demand public financing for all future election campaigns for high political office. Enough of this dark-money, Koch-network, corporate free speech, Super PAC b.s. In other words, democracy, not plutocracy. That goes for you too, Democratic Establishment. 

Image above courtesy of the General Services Administration (GSA) and Carol M. Highsmith. Information about the painting gathered from the GSA and also from the Final Report of the Section of Fine Arts, Federal Works Agency, Public Buildings Administration, 1933-1943.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Republican Governor Chris Christie hits the (state closed) beach. Why do so many Americans kneel before this plutocracy?

Above: A perfect image of plutocracy: Republican Governor Chris Christie and his family enjoy a state park beach on Sunday, July 2, 2017. The beach is closed to the public after Christie ordered it closed over a budget fight with the New Jersey legislature. Meanwhile, "essential" government services, like state-run casinos, are still open. When asked if it was fair that he and his family can enjoy a beach vacation while the rest of New Jersey can't, Christie said, "That's just the way it goes." Photo taken by New Jersey Advance Media, used here for educational and non-commercial purposes (more photos available here).

In Kansas, Republican Governor Sam Brownback cut taxes on the rich and raised them on the poor, devastating the state's budget and forcing many cut-backs and closures. In Illinois, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation giving himself a $750,000 per year tax break, and then he closed the 139-year-old Illinois State Museum (it has since re-opened, but now charges an admission fee). And now we hear that the 143-year-old Southern Illinois University Museum has closed, thanks to the budget dilemma in Illinois - a dilemma caused, in large part, by tax cuts for the rich.

On Sunday, July 2, photos were taken showing Republican Governor Chris Christie enjoying the beach with his family, even though he had closed the beach to the public because of budget problems. Later in the day, he was asked if he had gotten any sun. He said no, and when photos surfaced showing him getting sun, a spokesperson for the governor said, "He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on." That spokesperson must have a background in stand-up comedy, because that's an awesome comeback. Chris Christie has been supported by wealthy right-wing donors, for example, billionaire hedge fund manager Steven Cohen. (And see, "Christie tax cut for the richest 4 percent: How do we pay for it," NJ.com, February 16, 2016.)    

These types of things are happening all across the country. The rich and their political marionettes are cutting services while raising taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates on the middle-class and poor. You see, even though the rich are already enjoying record wealth, they want more. They want more tax cuts to purchase more private jets, more private compounds, and more private islands. They want more tax cuts--especially a repeal of the estate tax--so that they, and also future generations of their family, will never have to work again; they'll just sit back and make the rest of us work for their luxury, through low wages, shrinking benefits, and perpetual debt. It's a caste system they want, and they're just about there - just a little more gutting of the middle-class is all that they need. 

And yet, amazingly, most middle-class and poor Americans keep supporting the rich and their political marionettes - either by voting or by apathy. The Republican Party, which is the party that pampers the rich the most, has been put in charge of the White House, the Congress, the Supreme Court (and soon, more federal courts), and state political offices all across America. In fact, they have so much control, that soon they may be able to call a constitutional convention to re-write our Constitution into a right-wing manifesto that not only requires a balanced budget (which is code for: "permanent tax cuts for the rich"), but also eviscerates or eliminates the general welfare clause, as well as the First Amendment's separation of church and state. Think it can't happen? Well, you might also have thought that a Donald Trump presidency couldn't happen.

Above: The Civilian Conservation Corps created Cheesequake State Park in New Jersey, for the enjoyment of the people. However, shortly before Chris Christie and his family started frolicking on the state park beach he had closed to the public (Island Beach State Park), 25 cub scouts were kicked out of Cheesequake State Park... because of the closures. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

It is very clear that many super-wealthy Americans want to be our gods. They want their taxes lowered or eliminated, even though they're already enjoying record wealth, and they want to bestow favors upon us, as they see fit, for example, through their whimsical philanthropy. In sum, they want ownership of the general welfare, even though the U.S. Constitution, and Supreme Court jurisprudence, gives that authority to Congress, i.e., We the People.

But here's what's less clear: Why do so many Americans kneel before this plutocracy? Yes, there are groups that nobly (and oft-times courageously) march and resist but, by and large, Americans either vote for plutocracy (i.e., Republicans and their super-wealthy donors), or they sit back and let it happen.

Again, why? What possesses someone to vote for a politician who closes state beaches, and then takes his family to vacation on one of those very same beaches? And why do others refuse to vote at all (perhaps because it might get in the way of watching re-runs of Keeping Up With The Kardashians), when such apathy results in paying higher taxes, tolls, fees, fines, and utility rates--and incurring more student loan debt--all to support tax cuts for billionaires? What weird phenomenon explains this?

Is it Stockholm Syndrome? Is it because they live in a Fox News bubble, and never hear negative things about Republicans? Is it because celebrity and tech distractions have made them oblivious to public policy and civic participation? Is it because the Democratic Establishment doesn't offer them a good alternative, and has become a two-faced political entity - babbling about the middle-class & poor while sipping Martinis with Wall Street? Is it because the people have been mesmerized by trickle-down economics, despite the fact that their quality of life has deteriorated over the past several decades, while the rich have gotten richer? 

Is it because they don't know American history, and thus have no point of reference to question plutocracy? Is it because they don't really believe in democracy, and actually prefer that millionaires & billionaires manage and supervise them? Is it a fear that the holy JOB CREATORS will take their jobs away if they protest too much, even though the holy JOB CREATORS are already taking their jobs away? (think outsourcing and automation). Is it because they're willing to pay through the nose, with higher and regressive state & local taxes (thanks to tax cuts for the rich at the federal level), and have their Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid cut, if that's what it takes to stop gay marriage? 

Is it some combination of all of the above?

If we don't find out what the answer is, and address it, we may soon be pledging oaths of loyalty & submission to super-wealthy psychopaths, whose insatiable greed will have us eating out of the local landfill... while they sunbathe on closed beaches, and laugh at how stupid we were to let it all happen.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

As the rich get butt implants, fat transfers, and porcelain veneers, low-income disabled Americans are scolded for getting new wheelchairs

Above: A WPA driver and a WPA nurse transport disabled children to their daily treatments in Ocean County, New Jersey, April 1936. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

In America today, the rich are enjoying record wealth. And they're using that record wealth for a variety of "important" medical procedures, like butt implants, fat transfers, and porcelain veneers. Marc Mani, a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, estimates that "$150,000 to $200,000 in a year [for anti-aging treatments] for a rich, powerful person in L.A. is not outside the realm of normal" ("Hollywood's New Thing: $199,000 A Year For 'Resting Rich Face'," Hollywood Reporter, June 29, 2016).

And we can be sure that many rich businessmen outside of L.A. are also getting their eyebrows lifted or perhaps paying for their trophy wives or mistresses to get "much needed" labiaplasties. And heck, even if you don't need a labiaplasty, perhaps you can purchase the lopped-off parts!, like one rich person did for $50,000 ("The Labiaplasty Boom: Why Are Women Desperate for the Perfect Vagina?," Alternet, February 13, 2015).

Meanwhile, as the rich are doing all these wonderful "job creating" things with their fortunes, millions of children are drinking lead-contaminated water and going without good dental care (no porcelain veneers for them). And a doctor on Fox News recently scolded low-income, disabled Americans: "Really poor people really need Medicaid. But do they need a wheelchair every two years? I don’t think so. I want to scale back the excess."

Yes, in our crazy, lunatic culture, butt implants and fat transfers are not excessive, but dental care for low-income children and wheelchairs for low-income disabled people are excessive. Hence the Republican efforts to (a) scale back Medicaid, to stop those extravagant wheelchair purchases!, and (b) give tax breaks to their super-wealthy donors, so those donors can enhance their asses.

Above: "Dental Clinic for Children, C.W.A. Activity, Omaha, Nebraska," a lithograph by Elizabeth Olds (1896-1991), created while she was in the New Deal's Public Works of Art Project, 1934. During the New Deal, all across America, millions of children and adults received quality medical care that had been unavailable to them before. Image courtesy of the General Services Administration and the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Not only are the poor scolded for wanting wheelchairs, but also for using food stamps. How dare they want to eat! Yes, as super-wealthy Americans increasingly use their "job-creating" fortunes to shoot up on heroin, millionaires in Congress are determined to make low-income Americans cut back on their food and nutrition.

The craziest thing about all of the above is that tens of millions of Americans, even millions of Americans who benefit from government programs, AGREE with Republican politicians & billionaires that the social safety net should be cut back, in order to give more tax breaks to the rich who, again, are already richer than ever. Think about that very carefully: Millions of middle and lower-income Americans put the super-wealthy into high political office (either through their voting or apathy), and then those millionaires cut back on the social safety net in order to give tax breaks to themselves and their millionaire friends - and then they use that extra after-tax money to purchase illegal drugs, get butt implants, buy private islands, and bathe in golden bathtubs. And then, to add insult to injury, the children of these millionaires & billionaires sneer at those very same middle and low-income voters - gloating on Rich Kids of Instagram, "They have more money than you and this is what they do."

Above: A child receives dental care in New Orleans, 1936, as part of WPA healthcare project. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Year after year, we have to listen to the same old "we can't afford it" Koch-funded bullshit. While the rich keep getting richer, and as more and more money is pumped into the military-industrial complex to support hundreds of military bases & adventures across the globe, boneheads from coast to coast wring their hands, wipe away their tears, and cry out to the heavens, "We can't afford Social Security! Medicare is going to bankrupt us! Holy Job Creators, save us!"

The truth is, middle and low-income Americans are being pounded into the ground with stagnant wages, shrinking benefits, crushing debt, financial industry fraud, and their own misinformed voting and apathy. And because of all that, and more, the rich are laughing all the way to the butt implant clinic.