The Answer Is Blowin' in the Wind
Uncle Bill Warner
"L'Etat, c'est moi!" (the State, that's me!) is attributed to the famous or infamous "Sun King" of France, Louis XIV. He did whatever he pleased, that's for sure, ruining France in the process, with extravagant spending building the palace of Versailles and on foreign wars. His finance minister, Colbert, squeezed money from the poor and middle class to pay for the free-wheeling lifestyle of the nobility, with the rationale that this money would trickle back to them when the rich spent it. When Ronald Reaganomics was the rage of the Republicans, David Stockman, Reagan's Budget Director quit, calling it "trickle down" in disguise. George Bush Sr. called it "voodoo economics." The Democrats likened it into the poor feeding oats into one end of a horse, and getting what resulted for themselves. Some even went so far as to call it by the popular name for the horse-processed product.
George Bush's Administration, supported by the rich (check out the campaign contributions) has parroted the Colbert/Reagan/GW stance for a long time, with tax cut bonuses for the rich while the poor get poorer and the middle class finds it is losing ground. It ain't trickling down, George.
American jobs are being exported overseas, social programs are being cut, and wars are being fought with borrowed money. The rich get more and more pocket money (I noticed this weekend a house renting for $11,000 a month in Santa Barbara) while the ranks of the homeless grow daily. Guess whose grandchildren already have their credit cards maxed out to support our nobility? And how many people are just one paycheck away from homelessness?
In Woody Guthrie's book, "Bound for Glory", he recounts coming into a town tired and hungry, and going to the wealthier part of town and trying to find food. He was turned away by the well-to-do and even by the churches. He wound up in the poor part of town, where people gladly shared what little they had. It is called "compassion", folks. Do the rich have it, or is their token turkey-at-Christmas enough? What exactly is our responsibility as a society?
Now some of you will take exception to the fact that there might be a class system at work here. Others will cry out that the idea of sharing the wealth is "communism!" Some will assuage the guilt which the well-off sometimes feel by flinging scraps to the poor…a dollar to a homeless beggar here, a small donation to a rescue mission there, a couple of toys to tots. Not a few will quote the "Gospel of Wealth", which says that God rewards those who are his loyal followers. And hopefully some of us will look in the mirror.
Before moving to Porterville, I lived in Santa Monica, where seeing the poor sleeping in doorways, under bushes, and foraging in dumpsters was a common sight as the Mercedes, Lexus, and Lamborghini crowd drove past them…eyes straight ahead. Is this what makes one proud to be an American? What is one to make of a system that not only permits, but encourages this?
Communities like Fresno smash the encampments of the dispossessed and confiscate and destroy their meager belongings. It is only a step toward Hitler's "Final Solution", where you rid society of "undesirables" by murdering them.
I suggest that at this season of good will, we consider whether "trickling down" and flinging scraps is enough. Is reviewing our priorities as a society of human beings in order? Does "promote the general welfare" in the Constitution mean anything? Should we rely on the poor to feed the poor, or should we reconsider the system? As Bob Dylan would say, "The answer is blowin' in the wind."