Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Night Music

On Gun Rights

The right to bear guns:

Two drivers are dead after a "road rage" incident in the Ionia, Mich., area escalated into a shootout, WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids is reporting.
Witnesses told the station that one driver was following the other too closely Wednesday evening shortly before 7 p.m. when the first driver pulled into a car wash and the second followed him.
The driver of the second car then fired shots, and the first driver returned fire, leaving both of them dead, witnesses told the TV station.
The right to bear guns:

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said a mass shooting at a South Side park shows why assault weapons should be banned, saying it was a "miracle" no one was killed when someone opened fire with a high-powered rifle at a pick-up basketball game.

"A military-grade weapon on the streets of Chicago is simply unacceptable,"  McCarthy told a news conference this morning, 12 hours after a 3-year-old boy and 12 other people were shot during at Cornell Square Park. All are expected to survive.

"It's a miracle there has been no fatality," he said. "Illegal guns, illegal guns, illegal guns drive violence."

And of course the Navy Yard massacre in Washington, D.C..

If the Newtown kindergarten children's deaths made no difference in gun control, then nothing will.  I have read that the fact that some people misuse guns should not infringe on other people's right to have guns.  That would cover not only the use of guns to kill others on purpose, but also the use of guns to kill others by accident, including by toddlers.

The concept of gun rights is interesting, because the debate usually overlooks any right of others not to be shot by people who have guns.   It also ignores the fact that guns are tools and can be difficult to use correctly, that they are dangerous tools which should be stored safely and which should be removed from those who cannot use them properly.

All that is because of the religious aspect of guns, the idea that owning a gun is necessary and sufficient as a form of protection.  Perhaps "religious" is not the right term here.  What I mean is the idea that the object, "a gun, " in itself is somehow protective.  But even the police, who train in shooting, still make big mistakes with that.  Under conditions of panic, can you guarantee that you would shoot more accurately, with the minimum damage to get the outcome you need?  And can you guarantee that the gun wouldn't be taken away from you and used against you?

Solutions to this dilemma in the US are not forthcoming.  Perhaps requiring people to have insurance for their guns, the way we do with cars, would help a little. 

The point of the two quoted theories above is that the damage in those cases would have been far less without the presence of guns.  That "people kill people, guns don't kill people" is only true in the same sense as "people mow lawns, not lawnmowers" in that we could also cut the lawn with nail scissors.


Feminine Machismo

The things one learns!  That is something Cardinal Timothy Dolan referred to when describing the new Pope's attitudes towards women and the church:

Turning to the issue of the role of women within the Catholic church, Dolan summarized the pope's sentiments. "He warned against the feminine machismo."

"The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions," Pope Francis told the magazine, explaining that in his view, "the church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. ... We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman."
Yes, I know that Pope Francis might be a refreshing change from the previous Old Boys' Club in the Catholic Church, and it's fun to hear about something like "the feminine genius!"

But what is "the woman and her role?"  Dolan says a bit more in the attached video, implying that "feminine machismo" happens when women try to be like men.  That's not a good thing!  Because then everyone has machismo, I guess.

Still, the way I read this is that "the woman and her role" matter, in a sense different from "the man and his role."  There's no "theology of the man" in the church, either, because "man" is the default setting, so all theology is about him.  You only realize this when you read enough to come across some shocking statement (also in the Bible or the Koran) where women are set apart and given stricter rules for existing.

And that's why "the woman and her role" is probably shorthand for essentialism, the idea that all women are the same with each other, and that there can be a general theology of the proper place of anyone with the xx-chromosome.  And that place might not be a powerful one, given that machismo warning.

Pope Francis could be a good guy, for a pope.  I'm reserving judgement until I see him walk his talk.  The fact remains, nevertheless, that the Catholic Church explicitly excludes women from priesthood and from almost all truly powerful positions.  The fact remains that it is celibate men (or apparently celibate men) who determine the church's views on the sexual lives of women, what is allowed and what is not.  The fact remains that those views are not good for poor women.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Threat of "Obamacare:" Large Uncle Sam Puppet Will Look Up Your Ladybits

This is worth reading.

The conservatives are trying to make young women opt out of "Obamacare" because Uncle Sam will look up your vagina!   

I was giggling when I read that post.   Let me count the reasons why:

First, as Matt points out, it is preposterous to suggest that having no insurance is better than having insurance with a large puppet looking up your ladybits.

Second, there won't be a large puppet in the examination room.  I swear!

Third, this is absolutely hilarious, given that conservatives reallyreally want to insert probes (transvaginal ultrasound) in women's vaginas as a precondition for getting an abortion, and those probes are not medically required.   Women are not supposed to mind that but they *are* supposed to mind a large puppet ogling their birth canals.

Fourth, I think whoever designed this campaign has never been to a gynecologist!  The average woman (well, I, at least) has faced much more unpleasant crap in those examination rooms than large puppets getting an eyeful.

Which brings me to this:

Chris Moody at Yahoo reports on one of the groups leading the boycott charge, Generation Opportuniy, an organization funded by the legendarily youthful Charles and David Koch who have nothing but the best interests of younger Americans at heart.

The Koch brothers, again.

Royal Austerity in Holland

I read this with my morning cup of coffee:

King Willem-Alexander delivered a message to the Dutch people from the government in a nationally televised address: the welfare state of the 20th century is gone.
In its place a "participation society" is emerging, in which people must take responsibility for their own future and create their own social and financial safety nets, with less help from the national government. 


"The shift to a 'participation society' is especially visible in social security and long-term care," the king said, reading out to lawmakers a speech written for him by Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government. 

"The classic welfare state of the second half of the 20th century in these areas in particular brought forth arrangements that are unsustainable in their current form." 

Rutte may be hoping that the pomp and ceremony surrounding the king and his popular wife, Queen Maxima, will provide a diversion from the gloomy reality of a budget full of unpopular new spending cuts he revealed later in the day. 


The king said Tuesday some costs for the care of the elderly, for youth services, and for job retraining after layoffs will now be pushed back to the local level, in order to make them better tailored to local circumstances. 

The king earns an annual salary of around 825,000 euros ($1.1 million), though maintaining the Royal House — castles, parades and all — costs the government more than 100 million euros annually. 

Then I realized that nobody had participated in making me that coffee!  Nobody!  And neither had the welfare state.  Drat.

More seriously, perhaps the new king of the Netherlands is so beloved by the people that they see nothing funny about a guy costing the government more than 100 million euros per year talking about the need to cut back on the care of the elderly, youth service and job retraining.  For that's what it means when those services are sent down to a local level.

The wider angle to all this, the death of the welfare state, serves nicely those who are wealthy, of course.  And I get the arguments people like Mark Rutte make (though I disagree about the possible consequences of austerity politics). 

But what they seem to completely ignore is that almost all the good things in the recent century have come from countries which were welfare states.  Free education guaranteed  educated labor, good health care guaranteed relatively healthy and energetic workers and old-age pensions took care of the burden of how to care for the elderly. 

If we begin to scrap all those institutions we are going to go backwards, to a world in which I, at least, have no desire to live.  I thought the idea was to lift the rest of the world to the same relative standard of living as people in Europe and North America now enjoy, not to send even the Europeans and North Americans back to a life of always-looming poverty.

For that's how I  read the argument that the welfare state is over.  And what on earth is a participation society?  What are people doing today, if not participating?

The immediate concerns this provokes have to do with the distributive aspects.  The services will be curtailed and someone else will be expected to cover the gaps.  That "someone" else in most cases will be the immediate family of a sick or elderly person, assuming he or she didn't save for the needs before.  And in practice this will affect women even more than men, given the traditional patterns of care-giving.

I get that the welfare state is not actually in the process of being killed.  But the propaganda here is to start accepting that idea, slowly but surely, not just cuts in existing services or a determination not to expand them. That's something to be very concerned about.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Added to the List: Mass Shootings: Also Caused By Working Women

That list is long, about all the stuff women in the labor force cause and the stuff feminism has caused:  Unhappy women, latch-key children, the destruction  of the traditional concepts of masculinity, alcoholism among young women, the hook-up culture, the death of the patriarchal family and the outright destruction of the Western Civilization.  And now mass shootings!  Clearly, we need to revert to the gender norms of Iraq or Afghanistan to get rid of all that violence!

Joking there, though the people saying all those things were not joking.  They were Very Serious.  The most recent example, the one about mass shootings really being women's fault, even though almost all mass shooters are men, comes from a wannabe politician:

Former New Hampshire state Sen. Jim Rubens is jumping into the race to defeat Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen Wednesday. Before he even reaches the starting blocks, Democrats are questioning his ability to reach women voters.
The reason? A 2009 post on his website that connects the rise of working women with what he says is a rise in mass shootings and other violence perpetrated by men.
“The collaborative, flexible, amorphously-hierarchical American economy is shutting out ordinary men who were once the nation’s breadwinners in living-wage labor and manufacturing jobs,” Rubens wrote. “Because status success is more vital to the male psychology, males are falling over the edge in increasing numbers.”
A “collaborative” and “flexible” economy is one that has opened the door to more women working, Rubens wrote. And the nature of the changing economy has had a detrimental effect on men, including an increase in violence.
“The collapsing number of male jobs in the increasingly female-centric economy just adds to the already harsher impact of OverSuccess on males,” he wrote, referring to the title of his 2008 book.
It’s a view Rubens still holds today, and he seemed surprised in an interview Wednesday that anyone would care about it.
“The point of this, if you read the whole thing, is that manufacturing jobs, which have been the basis for higher-wage working men during the post-World War II era have been in decline,” he said. “Men are more sensitive than women to external indicators of status, which is one of the points in my book — which you might want to read so you can understand the whole point of this — and it’s very important to all people, women and men, to have jobs, functions, and roles in life that are fulfilling and productive and engaging.”
The loss of manufacturing jobs that men often held in favor of “collaborative” jobs that favor women, Rubens said, “has increased stress in males.”
“It’s a tiny fraction of males that become stressed for whatever reason and engage in acts of extreme violence,” he said. “If you look through individual psychology of mass shooters over the past 10-20 years, you can see that in the profile. Often its a person who has been subjected to extreme stress in the form of social rejection, job loss and associated mental health issues.”
Tweaking the tax code to add manufacturing jobs would be one way to reduce this “stress” on men, Rubens said.

A female-centric economy!  This guy is gonna win biiiiig!  At least in the alternate reality he inhabits.

Now, it could be argued that he isn't blaming working women as such.  He is just blaming the economic culture which makes it easier for women to hold jobs than was the case in the past.  And so I was exaggerating at the beginning of this post.  But, sweeties, that's the only thing that works in writing, these days!  Click magnets.

In any case, I think Rubens' deeper views are pretty obvious:  If we only returned to the old (mythical) male breadwinner  days, then male violence would really really drop.  Just ask people in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan!   The point, naturally, is to take a problem in which women are almost as common as teeth on hens (as perpetrators of mass killings)  and then turn that into a problem in which women have a large role to play.  Note, also, that if the latest mass killing had been by a woman, then an anti-feminist probably would have written that it was caused by feminism which turns women into killers etc..

It's one of those you-can't-win arguments.

Mr. Rubens has now cleaned off the offending blog post.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller Recommends The Monitoring of Wombs..

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is advocating the testing of all pregnant women in Indiana for drug use.  Well, at least he was advocating for that on the twelfth of September.  You can listen to him here, starting at slightly after 54 minutes.  There's also a transcript of that part of the discussion.

A snippet from it:

MR. ZOELLER: One of the things that’s the most shocking, and I, you know, the whole thing and the number of, you know, 718 deaths last year attributed to drug overdose, prescription drug overdoses, uh, but the rates of addiction, and the one that really bothers me the most is, uh, women who give birth to babies that are addicted –

MR. MCCONNAUGHAY: That’s – that’s gonna play right into a question we got, ‘cause I told you we got a few questions that actually followed you here from Indianapolis –

MR. ZOELLER: Yeah. I hope – I hope those questions are coming –

MR. MCCONNAUGHAY:  So let’s knock them down as quickly as we can but, uh, please ask Mr. Zoeller that, uh, mandatory drug screens for Indiana men seeking to donate sperm and buy Viagra. After all, that drug use can lead to mutations in their sperm which can cause birth defects, uh, costing the state money and harming babies. Basically they’re saying, those who wanna get these things, should they be required to go through drug testing?

MR. ZOELLER: You know, that’s not something that our prescription drug abuse task force is focused on. It’s mostly the, uh, I mean the rates of, uh, babies born addicted to opiates is the biggest, I mean the problem literally screams out at us the same way the, the babies scream for six weeks. It can be un- I mean, that you can’t comfort ‘em enough because they’re addicted to drugs.

Now the last exchange between the interviewer (Mr. McConnaughay) and Mr. Zoeller is fascinating!  Or rather, Mr. Zoeller's answer is nonsensical.  He's just focusing on pregnant women, not on the men who may have participated in the creation of that pregnancy, because he has decided that a particular focus is relevant.

Mr. Zoeller's idea in the above is clearly to require all pregnant women to be screened.  There doesn't have to be any grounds for suspecting that any particular woman has been misusing prescription or other drugs.

What would be so bad about that?  After all, it's for the good of the fetus and the blood is already being drawn for other purposes?

Let me propose a somewhat different but related example.  Suppose that we were able to screen for pedophilia.  Should all prospective parents be screened for it?  Or should all men be screened for possible tendencies to rape?

Many similar examples could be found in which some other person might benefit from forced screening for various problems.  The point is that it is pregnant women who are singled out for this type of treatment, not, say,  prospective parents of both sexes, even though sperm quality might be affected by drug use, too.

But is this what Mr. Zoeller is now proposing?  Al-Jazeera for America seems to think so,  whereas Fox seems to argue that Mr. Zoeller now only wants mandatory verbal screening:
Some women fear Zoeller’s push means mandatory drug testing and punishment for women who fail a drug screening. A national petition has already gotten nearly 4,000 signatures from people demanding Zoeller apologize to all women.
However, Zoeller’s spokesperson said he is not in favor of mandatory universal drug screenings for all pregnant women.

Well, he certainly was for it only a week ago.

What's wrong about the proposal more generally?  Mandatory drug screening would scare away those pregnant women who are most likely to have used illegal narcotics.  Because the use of prenatal care in pregnancy is a good thing, this outcome is not desirable.  Yes, Mr. Zoeller tells us that the results would not be available for law enforcement.  But I'm not terribly convinced of that, and doubt that Indiana women are, either.

I Cannot Stop Laughing. A Debate About the End of Men.

No, this is not the Onion (a satire site), but a real debate about whether men are now obsolete.  And have a look at the people in it!

Paglia is ba-a-a-a-ck!  Dowd is in it!  And of course Rosin herself.  I'm less familiar with Moran, but I have a guess that the debaters were not elected on the basis of how much they have written on the arguments Rosin posed in her book or of their ability to verify or falsify their facts.  In other words, this is going to be a stylistic debate, possibly accepting the idea that  facts exist to at least imply that men are now obsolete, that the so-called patriarchy is in its death throes and so on.  And notice that Paglia, who appears to be on the 'against' side of the argument that men are now obsolete, seems to make an essentialist point there!   It's Mother Nature which oppresses women. 

OK.  Now I stopped laughing.  And then I got very angry (thunder sounds in the distance), because having a debate of that kind is an obscenity in a world where we have Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and survey results like this.

It is also an obscenity in a different sense:  It starts with a what-if-this-is-the-way-the-world-is,  and then never explains why it would have to be that time.

To clarify:  Women are closer to equality than women have ever been, in a small handful of countries in this world.  But nowhere do we see a matriarchy, nowhere is a matriarchy at all likely.  Yet this debate and Rosin's books assume that we are at the dawn of a (global?) matriarchy.  If that's the case, shouldn't we stop worrying about those matriarchs in India and China and Africa and so on?  Shouldn't we take the arguments of the misogynistic types of MRA folk seriously?  Pressing a little harder on those wimminfolk?

In short, what is obscene about that is the actual situation of this world's women, compared to make-believe world in the debates.

And yes, as many have pointed out on Twitter, all those four women* are white.  But I also question the selection on the grounds of expertise.  It's not enough to be a famous woman to debate a topic; one needs to know quite a bit about it, too.  My guess is that Dowd will apply schoolyard arguments, that Paglia will apply Paglia arguments and on and on.

*And they are also all women.  This particular topic would seem to be one where the debater doesn't have to be a woman.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Music for September

Good News on Home Care Workers

Home care workers are finally required to be paid at least the minimum wages:

The Obama administration announced on Tuesday that it was extending minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly two million home care workers.
Advocates for low-wage workers have pushed for this change, asserting that home care workers, who care for elderly and disabled Americans, were wrongly classified into the same “companionship services” category as baby sitters — a group that is exempt from minimum wage and overtime coverage. Under the new rule, home care aides, unlike baby sitters, would be protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the nation’s main wage and hour law.
In an unusual move, the administration said the new regulation would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2015, even though regulations often take effect 60 days after being issued. The delay until 2015 is to give families that use these attendants, as well as state Medicaid programs, time to prepare for the new rule.
Industry experts say most of these workers are already paid at least the minimum wage, but many do not receive a time-and-a-half overtime premium when they work more than 40 hours a week. About 20 states exclude home care workers from their wage and hour laws.
“We think the workers providing this critical work should be receiving the same basic protection and coverage as the vast majority of American workers,” said Laura Fortman, deputy administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. “We’ve seen a lot of turnover in this industry, and we believe that this new rule will stabilize the work force.”
The nation’s home care workers usually earn $8.50 to $12 an hour, according to industry officials. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
According to the Obama administration, almost 40 percent of aides receive government benefits like food stamps and Medicaid. Ninety-two percent of these workers are female, almost 30 percent are black and 12 percent are Hispanic.

Bolds are mine.

I understand that paying more is not fun for the families or for the states which pay for Medicaid.  But all workers must have the same basic security and all workers should be treated the same.  All full-time workers should be able to live (however frugally) on their earnings.

Home-based workers -- servants and such --- were not initially covered by Social Security old-age provisions, either.  It looks like certain groups always get their dinners last, after others have eaten.

When a dear friend was dying his home care workers were incredible.  These were strangers who came into the house to take care of him so that he could die at home and to help his wife who had just broken her hip and was herself bed-ridden.  They came as strangers but soon became friends. 

I cannot say enough about their professionalism, kindness, skills and helpfulness or about the way they did the pastoral and psychological care that is needed at end of life.  Incredible people! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Speed Blogging, Mon 9/16/2013: On Women

Note:  Not all these are from the last few days.

First, the Taliban in Afghanistan is waging a physical war against women in the public sector, by killing female police officers, by burning down girls' schools, of course, and by killing other women who have used their voices.  These moves serve deeper desires to keep women restricted to the home and to make sure that women don't vote, for example.

Second, good news about teenage pregnancy rates in the US.  They are falling, and the most likely cause seems to be an increased use of contraception.  So what is being reduced are unintended pregnancies.

Third,  a rumored death of an eight-year-old bride in Yemen has created a debate about child marriages in that country.  What makes the debate more difficult are the religious arguments:

In 2009, Yemen's parliament passed legislation raising the minimum age of marriage to 17. But conservative parliamentarians argued the bill violated Islamic law, which does not stipulate a minimum age of marriage, and the bill was never signed.
Activist groups and politicians are still trying change the law, but more than 100 leading religious clerics have said restricting the age of marriage is "un-Islamic."

Fourth, and as usual (for this debate is one we always have), Hanna Rosin argued last month that the gender gap in wages is total hogwash because men and women mostly work in different occupations and even industries and that the actual pay difference for  identical work is very small.  But one recent report suggests that the story isn't that simple.   If you want to learn more about this all, have a look at my gender gap three-part series, available here.

Fifth, and finally, this piece and the picture attached to it are hilarious.  Talking about it properly cannot be done in speed blogging, and in any case I must refresh my mascara and learn about Syria, to be a proper feminazi. 

But a quick look at the pic might be something we can fit in here:  A room full of pretty and thin young white women, one being available as a keyboard table and in the middle of it all, one lucky guy!  It has the flavor of those nineteenth century European paintings about harems. 

Nah,  I just don't care enough about the Goldberg phenomenon to take it seriously, though naturally I'm willing to contemplate posts on fashion, makeup and dating should that make me, too, very rich.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Language Of The Class Wars

Here's what is interesting about the newest round of battles in the American class wars:  As the haves are truly beating down the have-nots, the language the henchmen and henchwomen of the haves is strengthening, becoming cruder, more accusing, more totalizing and more objectified.

Why that would be the case beats me.  After all, they are winning, soundly, the haves.  Just look at the most recent evidence:

The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of the country’s total income in 2012, the highest level recorded since the government began collecting the relevant data a century ago, according to an updated study by the prominent economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. 
The top 1 percent took more than one-fifth of the income earned by Americans*, one of the highest levels on record since 1913, when the government instituted an income tax. 
The figures underscore that even after the recession the country remains in a new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Depression of the 1930s, if not more so.

Pay attention to that last sentence.  Incomes are now as concentrated as they were in the years preceding the Great Depression!   The top 1% of earners took in 19.3% of all household income in 2012*, the largest percentage since the Twenties, and 95% of all income gains since 2009 went to them.

So if I was the referee in these class wars I'd give the last few rounds (well, most of them) to the rich.  The rich are getting richer at a nice gallop, the poor ---   well, they are takers, and anything that might help them, such as the unions, are leeches.

That's what I hear from the conservative media.  On Labor Day, Fox News channel told us that the day was about the takers and the makers, the makers being people who have jobs, I guess, and the takers being everybody else.  But ultimately the takers are viewed as anyone not earning enough to pay federal income taxes.  That group includes retired people and students at schools and colleges and stay-at-home parents, too.

The language of takers and makers is not something we should just snort at.  It's an attempt to frame the current existing income and wealth inequality as just, perhaps not even sufficiently tilted towards the rich, because those who have more money got it due to  their good work ethic and hard work.  Those who don't have money, even if they have three jobs, made bad choices and are takers.

A few examples of how the right talks about all this.  First the Labor Day story I refer to above:

Second,  the usual brush the Fox people grab when they wish to describe the less wealthy consists of "lazy, dependent on government, deserves their fate."  For example:

Fox hosts Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera cited a U.S. census study which found that many poor Americans own appliances to paint entitlement recipients as lazy or unwilling to work. This analysis ignores the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans receiving entitlements are elderly, disabled, or were members of working households.

Third, here we are taught about labor unions, one of the few institutions which help the have-not side in the class wars:

Fox News continued its assault on the labor movement during a Cashin' In panel discussion that characterized unions as parasitic "vestigial" lobbying organizations that do nothing for their members and harm the economy. As evidence of their claims, the panel referenced a decades-long decline in union membership, but ignored the sustained political assault behind the drop as well as the empirically established economic benefits of a robust labor movement.
On the September 14 edition of Fox News' Cashin' In, host Eric Bolling introduced a segment about union membership drives and protests taking place this month, asking whether the effort was "bad for workers."
Fox regular Jonathan Hoenig explained that the membership drive was necessary, because unions are "parasites" that "need new blood."

I could go on for hours with that list of examples.  The point is that the rich are already winning. So why are the Fox talking heads so adamantly fighting for even more on their plates?  Is no amount enough?

What makes all this propaganda is not that there weren't lazy unemployed people or bad trade union representatives or no people who have worked hard and become rich.   There obviously are.  It is the totality of the slander which becomes propaganda:  Every poor person is lazy and unwilling to work, every person needing help from the government is a leech (with the exception of any viewers of Fox News who might be on Medicare and Social Security, naturally), there are no hard-working poor people in the whole wide world!

It is this propaganda which the Wallet Right needs, to get politicians who are willing to put even more in their wallets, by painting everyone but the top 10% of earners, say, as parasites, leeches and undeserving.

What makes me tear up about this is that the natural consequence of such politicians in power is to open a  chute in the floor where those 10% work, leading right down into the hell of the lazy and undeserving.  Because the more we change welfare and tax policies to benefit only the well-to-do, the greater the number of people who slip down those chutes when something bad happens in their lives.  A major illness, a bout of unemployment, a death or divorce in the family, and down slips Mr. or Ms. Smith, to join the parasites, the takers!

And once that fall ends, the bottom layer will offer no trade unions, hardly any food stamps, no Medicaid to help with the health care costs.  But there might be bankruptcy laws which treat a family losing a second home better than one of "those takers!"

I get the hind-brain feelings which Fox News flames day in and day out.  They have to do with the feeling of outrage that others get stuff for nothing when "you" work so hard, that others get food stamps and "you" have to pay the grocery store prices, that others get to stay at home with their children while "you" can't afford good daycare and so on.

But that's a hind-brain feeling, not an actual comparison between how that person's life would be if he or she was really poor, and the way to reduce the misuse of any system is by policing the misuse, not by getting scissors and gleefully ripping through the safety net which lies below all of us.

Because ultimately the safety net is there for all of us.  That the Fox News is denying this, altogether, and turning the safety net into some sort of a sticky spider web of total dependence is what they excel at.  The implication is that for people to work hard they need to dance on that tightrope without the government safety net!  To truly crash down and die, if they fail, to starve to death on the streets, to get their fair desserts.

What's hilarious about that are the Heads Which Talk on Fox News.  If you have millions in your bank accounts you already have a safety net!  You yourself are not motivated by any of the fears you wish on other people, you yourself can rear your children as lazy and unwilling to work as you wish, and they will still be AOK.   Rush Limbaugh can crack jokes about the diets of the poor, and nobody thinks that is about the funniest thing ever.

There's something nasty about the utter lack of all compassion in the new conservative class-wars language.  But even if we take the standpoint of a completely selfish person, a society with tremendous inequalities and no safety net is not a nice place to live for anyone.  If you manage not to be viewed as one of the takers, your choices of safe places to live and to work in are not many, and it's sorta unpleasant to step over dead animals or people on your way to the guarded shopping mall.  As the actual middle classes shrink downwards, it becomes tougher and tougher to find nurses, dentists, teachers, physicians and so on.  Though one can then fly abroad and get the services in those countries which decided not to view the world as consisting of the makers and the takers.

The previous paragraph is an exaggeration when it comes to the US.  What's more probable is that the political will to do anything about the growing income inequalities just will not be found, because the US democracy is so dependent on campaign financing and that is much simpler to get from the rich.  In return, the rich want certain laws passed.  As the lives of the rich and the rest of us diverge, so do the ideas of what the society might need.

Perhaps that is why the new language of class wars has become so callous.  The rich already live in a different reality.
*I'm not sure why the two links I give quote slightly different numbers.