Five years ago, on one of my "UFO Tours" (coined by comedian Bill Hicks, when you only appear in small towns in front of a handful of people so you start to doubt your own existence), I had a show in Burley, Idaho -- home to some of the warmest and most hospitable inhabitants I've ever hung out with.
Burley is a town of less than 10,000 residents whose median annual income is $27,981, far below the state or national average. The center of Burley is a Walmart. Across the street is a Rent-a-Center which is next door to a Check Cashing place. These three establishments are the jewels of capitalism. Walmart's bottom line is always the bottom line. Profit trumps all at the giant box store to end all box stores. Walmart's wages are so low you can only afford to shop at Walmart. A modern homage to sharecropping. Rent-a-Center allows their customers to pay high prices for low quality appliances and furniture in turn for monthly payments. Check Cashing places - providing payday loans and charging outrageous amounts for emergency lending -- are parasites of poverty.
If you're struggling to keep your head above water, which most people in Burley arguably are, it's death by a thousand (as in, everyone-takes-a) cuts.
So the center of town is a testament to freedom...for corporations.
And the town smells like dog feces. In the middle of winter it was about 20 degrees outside, and I looked under my shoe to see if I stepped in anything. The entire town smells like that. I asked why, and I was told it was because of pig farms outside of town. According to a New York Times Freedom of Information request regarding toxic water in the U.S., the City of Burley has had 285 EPA violations. When the report was issued in 2008, Burley was noncompliant 12 out of 12 quarters.
So the air and water around town are a testament to freedom...for corporations.
And this is how the GOP wants America to be for those who work for a living. When Republicans talk about freedom, they don't mean the freedom to be able to drink clean water piped into your home. When they talk about freedom, they don't mean a job that pays enough to live on. When they talk about freedom, they don't mean not being a victim of predatory lending.
No, instead they want the government to stay out of business regulation. Less regulation equals freedom...for corporations.
"I think having a moratorium on new federal regulations is a great idea, it sends a wonderful signal to the private sector that they're going to have some breathing room," said Minority Leader John Boehner in July of this year.
When the GOP talks about "breathing room," they don't mean clean air for us. They mean freedom...for corporations.
And if you think what they really mean is "free market" -- that's wrong. A free market's foundation is honesty and transparency. What the GOP claims as their "free market" principles are actually fixed market conspiracies favoring monolithic and monopolistic corporations at the expense of everyone else's quality of life.
"Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies," wrote the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. The "all regulations are bad" viewpoint, the "cut taxes at any cost" doctrine and the "let business reign" dogma of the right-wing caused the economic collapse of 2008. Wall Street and Banks were allowed to rule. Government ceded power to corporations. The economy became so hollowed out and dried up -- it cratered. If you want to see how GOP convictions work in the real world -- look at the final few months of the Bush Administration.
And if Social Security were privatized -- as Bush mentioned last week regretting not accomplishing - we would have had ten-fold the tragedy. How can the rigged faux-free market fix the problem of millions more seniors with no safety net? Quite simply: it won't.
It's understandable -- Americans are mad at the government for not working for us -- now we want the government to go away. Get drowned in a bathtub. More government? Freer business? Each feels like putting a hot compress on a burn at this point.
The fact is we have a choice in the midterms between profiteers or bureaucrats. And all things being equal -- at least the bureaucrats are accountable to "we the people."