11/13/2016

Our Timid New World

Today, I woke up to my youngest daughter calling to gloat about Trump’s victory. Since we hadn’t had the guts to check the news yet, I didn’t know that Donny had defeated Clinton but I suspected he has since her husband is a pseudo-conservative and she’s tagged along out of some sort of loyalty. We had bigger issues on a personal level to talk about, so we just avoided the subject and I’m sure she was disappointed.

Later today, I experienced a second opinion on our election process and the outcome. Amana/Maytag sent a guy to try and repair our twice-failed Amana dishwasher. The service call was supposed to be under warranty, but the guy and the customer service people decided it wasn’t. I got stuck with a $60 bill for nothing and, then, a demented lesson in politics and history from a guy at least my age driving a beat up van working for a small town appliance repair company.

“We just got rescued.”

“What?”

“We finally have a president with business experience.”

“If bankrupting six companies, stiffing your vendors, and losing stockholders millions is ‘business experience,’ that’s what we got." This is the same 'business man' label every mobster calls himself. The Sopranos are 'business men' by that definition.

“In 1980, I was running a mechanical contractor business. When Reagan got elected, it was like the whole country breathed a sigh of relief.”

“Not where I lived. In 1981, the market tanked, interest rates kept climbing, and you couldn’t get an engineering job anywhere in the Midwest unless it was with a military contractor. And what the fuck is a "mechanical contractor?”

He went on (and on) about how “the whole economy” turned around overnight after Reagan took office. Of course, reality has a liberal bias and as Forbes Magazine tell it, “Unable to borrow money at an interest rate they could afford, 17,000 businesses had failed by the fall of 1982 and unemployment reached record highs.” When I contested his weird take on 1980’s economics, he asked, “Have you ever run a business?”

Why yes, I have. Several, in fact. A couple for employers and a half-dozen of my own. I supported my family working several jobs and going to school nights. I never stiffed my vendors or declared bankruptcy, either. Turned out, he’d done both but he thought that was just “business.”

gross-fed-debt-over-gdp2If a “business man” was what we needed in the presidency, Jimmy Carter was overwhelmingly more qualified than a demented talk radio jock who was a B-actor in his prime. Carter had turned a small family farm into a substantial farming and distribution business after a successful career as a Navy officer and nuclear engineer. His stint as Georgia governor provided that state with one of its few moments of respect and national prominence. But, according to this repair guy the whole economy suddenly turned around when Reagan took office. Of course, the facts contradicts the myth, so we print and worship the myth.

In 1983, I left Nebraska for California, since Reagan’s home state was the only functioning economy in the country. If I’d been willing to work for Northrop, Lockheed, or one of the dozens of military-industrial complex employers in southern California, I’d have been rolling in money. Instead, I clung to my values and worked for a consumer products manufacturer for ten years and came away from California poor but debt-free.

So, I met a Boomer generation Trump-voter and he turned out to be who I expected him to be: a barely-literate, failing student of history; including his own past. I don’t know how you fix any of this crap. A very few people are doing a lot of work to support the rest of the country and I think they are going to have to lay down that burden and let the country’s deadbeats know how precarious their position is. From my own family experience, it has become clear that people are very selective and creative in their memories and that seems to me to be an impossible educational hurdle. If most people are incapable of learning from history, we don’t have much hope of ever getting beyond our cave-dwelling habits and violent past.

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