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Friday, August 17, 2012

Old Hippies

My dad called me, “The Old Hippie” from about 1973 when I got out of the Army at age 21 and grew my hair long…, until the day he died in 2009…, when I was too old to grow much hair at all.  I like that moniker and it still reminds me to this day of my “summer of love”…, when I quit my job and thought I could make my way in the hippie world and live on peace and love and share it with all my brothers and sisters in the movement.  It was the summer of ’74…, and that’s about how long that life lasted…, one, all too short summer.  It wasn’t that I gave up the ideology of peace and love and sharing.  It just dawned on me in just a few months’ time…, that times with dope and no money weren’t all that great…, no matter what the famous black light poster said.  But as long as you have both, things can look pretty rosy through a pair of granny glasses…, even if you have to keep a job to do it.  So, I guess I was really just a wannabe hippie with a job for many years after that.

There were many magical things happening that summer and I tended to focus on those things…, as opposed to anything happening in the realm of politics.  Hell, a president could have resigned or been hounded out of office for being a crook that he swore he wasn’t and I wouldn’t have noticed.  It wasn’t just getting drafted or being a hippie that left a sour taste in my mouth for politics.  I just never thought it really mattered who was president.  I always thought that politics was a dirty, slimy business and only the scummiest of the creeping crud would engage in it.  One political party was as bad as the other…, one got us into a war and the other kept us there when given the chance to change direction.  Just because my summer of love didn’t last…, doesn’t mean that my feelings about politics didn’t last.  We could later have had a president who knew that we needed to do something about burning fossil fuels before it became a crisis situation…, and who tried to get the American public to buy into alternative energy sources like solar and wind.  He could have installed solar panels on the White House in the late 70’s…, I wouldn’t have noticed. 

Yeah…, I barely paid attention when a supporting movie actor to a chimpanzee replaced a truly great humanitarian as president and ripped the solar panels off the White House, spent billions on dreams of Star War Weapons of mass destruction…, that never got off the drawing board…, but made a lot of his close friends filthy rich.  He could have left the country nearly three times further in debt than when he started.  I wouldn’t have noticed…, but I bet there are people who still love and revere him.  Especially those folks he made rich…, but also a lot of people who were busy shoving the chump change that tickled down to them into their pockets…, and thinking they were getting rich too.  By the time the over the hill, wannabe actor…, who maxed out the country credit card, flipped the bird to Congress and let Ollie North take the fall for Iran-Contra, rode off into the sunset and left somebody else to deal with the problems he created…, the presidency of the US was just a bad joke…, a joke that was no longer funny.  OK…, I did at least get a giggle out of Billy Boy and the Blue Dress.  But I honestly didn’t think it mattered who won between Al Gore and the Wee Bush in 2000.  Oh man…, I hate to admit it when I’m wrong.  I was WRONG. 

Four years after the Wee Bush took office…, I cast my first ballot in a presidential election.  I knew it wouldn’t affect anything one way or the other.  I live in Washington State and there was no doubt about the outcome here before a ballot was boxed.  But I just had to vote against the Wee Bush and what he had done…, and was doing…, to the country.  I had to call in sick to the job the next day after he was re-elected.  And I don’t abuse sick leave.  It made me physically sick to think that this nation was full of enough people so ignorant or twisted or just plain bat shit crazy…, that they could vote for the Wee Bush…, again !!!!  Four years after that, there was no need for me to vote.  The Wee Bush had nodded off at the wheel and allowed 9-11 to happen on his watch, he doubled the national debt, lost about 8 million jobs, was presiding over two unneeded, unpopular and unlawful wars (and outright lied to get us into one of them), was torturing and waterboarding people the world over, establishing and staffing the Department of Homeland security to grope Americans at airports and spy on them in their homes, signing the Patriot Act, denying climate change, vowing to privatize Social Security…, and had engineered a financial meltdown that was mirroring the financial crash that ushered in The Great Depression.  Then he gave his Bankster Buddies about 750 Billion dollars to do with as they pleased as he sauntered on back to Texas to retire and write his memoirs.  There was no way that a Republican stood a snowball’s chance in a south Texas summer of capturing the White House that year.  Many pundits were clamoring that the Republicans would not recover from the stench and stigma that the Wee Bush reign had left on the party for 20 years…, and the rest of the pundits said that they would never recover.

I guess maybe I should have been paying attention and changed my ways many years before?  Maybe I could have made a difference somehow?  The reality is…, it won’t matter if I do or don’t cast a ballot here in Washington this year.  But I think that this could be as important an election as we have had since the Wee Bush was awarded the spot by the Supreme Court.  I criticize Obama and his many failings…, but he has held a crumbling nation together when I was predicting complete collapse.  And that’s about all he’s accomplished.  But I believe that a Romney win would assure the final collapse of not just the financial system…, but the empire as well.  He will follow the path of Rummy Ronnie and the Wee Bush.  He will plunge the country even deeper into debt, enriching the already rich fat cat elite, while demanding that the poor suffer even more, and exhorting the middle class that if it wasn’t for the poor holding them back, that they too would be filthy rich.  And we will be at war…, not just the everlasting wars on terror, and drugs, and women, and the poor, and the old, Social Security and Medicare…, but a real shoot ‘em up military industrial complex compounding, gas rationing, martial law declaring, terrorist detention rendition torture debacle.  Was Obama so bad that we would vote to give the Republicans a chance to finish that whack job that the Wee Bush came within a whisker and a grin of completing on his own…, less than four years ago?  Are our minds that addled…, or are our memories that short?

I was wrestling with those questions recently after reading a newspaper headline saying it was a virtual tie in the polls of the presidential race between Obama and Romney.  Puzzling over the why and how of it all…,  I was visited electronically by three old hippie ghosts from the good old days.  Well…, not really ghosts…, but old hippies..., the first two anyway.  After those visits I would like to say that my questions were answered.  But that wouldn’t be true..., I think I am even more confused and concerned now.

The first visit was via email…, it said, “I am still just a hippie at heart (am wearing patchouli as we speak), but certainly pay my own way.  This is a lost art these days.  But if we keep on just making everything free for anyone who can’t or won’t earn it, we’ll be going even deeper down the toilet.  Enough is enough for the handouts.  Geez.”  Yeah…, she was one of those hippies who “had her shit together” as we used to term it.  A lot of the hippie gals would get pregnant so they could draw welfare.  Not her.  She always had a job and a place to live and was willing to share whatever she had with others.  Sometime in the late 70’s she moved to Seattle with a boyfriend…, and a few years later hooked up with her current husband.  Then she raised a couple of beautiful daughters.  She didn’t say who she is voting for…, but she works at Boeing…, you guess.  I replied that I had long respected her…, even back in the good old days when she always held a job when a lot of the rest of us were trying to be fulltime hippies.  I linked to a David Michael Green piece that I quoted from on my blog…, and closed with this, “These really are far tougher times than when we were young Old Hippies.  Just look at Orofino or Weippe or Forks, or any small town in America.  Even big cities…, with boarded up, empty store fronts.  The kids these days just don’t have the same opportunities for jobs that we had back then.  And unfortunately I don’t think it is going to be getting any better for them.  There are so many folks who really need the help these days…, and the percentage of the folks who are just scamming for it is really such a small percentage that it really amounts to nothing.  But…, that isn’t what The Regressives want you to think.  They are trying…, and doing a damn good job of it…, to pit us against them…, while they make off with all the money.”

We had at least three presidents, starting with Reagan, bragging about cutting welfare and even a Democrat, Clinton, cut welfare.  According to CNN Money, “In the 16 years since President Clinton and Congress overhauled  the nation’s welfare system, the number of people receiving cash assistance has fallen two-thirds.  And public spending on the program has dropped by more than half.”    The Wee Bush did his part in keeping kids hungry too.  Sam Pizzigati says that, “The number of children living in deep poverty — kids in families making under half the official poverty threshold — rose 70 percent from 1995 to 2005, and 30 percent more by 2010.”  Where did that monetary savings from keeping kids poor and hungry go?  It damn sure didn’t get handed back to the working class.  Since 1980 the average worker’s salary decreased 4.8%..., and the top 1% of earners incomes increased 100%..., the top 0.01% saw a tripling of their income.  In the 1970’s a CEO’s salary was about 40 times the average wage slave’s.  In 2010 it was 350 times the average wage slave’s salary.  There is absolutely no doubt that there has been a wealth shift in the last 30 years…, and it hasn’t been the poor that have taken any gains from the working class.  It has been the plundering rich that have paid the pompous politicians to pass legislation that pisses on the poor, squeezes and shakes every possible dime out of the working class, and substantially cuts the fat cat taxes…, again…, and again…, and again.  According to Robert Reich, the tax rate for high earners was never under 70% between the 1940’s and 1980.  It actually hit 91% in the 1950’s.  The top rate is 35% today.  And people like Romney only paid about a 13% tax rate this year because most of their income was from capital gains…, which was taxed much higher in prior years.   And the fat cats have been pocketing the money instead of investing it in business expansion and new jobs like the Republicans told us would happen with the tax cuts.  What money they do spend either goes into the pockets of greedy politicians, lobbyists or to buy mainstream media so they can plaster propaganda everywhere to convince the working class that they can’t get ahead because the poor and unemployed are really just too damn lazy to get their ass off the leather couch and out from in front of the 72” High Definition Home Entertainment system…, that is, unless that welfare queen needs to hop in the brand new 4 Wheel Drive SUV to go to the store for Caviar and Chivas on the food stamp card.  Which they say, is all paid for by the sweat off the working class brow.    Not only that…, they sell the poor and unemployed the storyline that any working class hero that still has a job is nothing but a kiss ass union paid patsy and state or government drone that is under worked and overpaid with head to toe medical coverage and a pension promise that will move him immediately into the 1% ranks when he retires at 55 years old.  Yeah…, the fat cats with the politicians in their pockets are investing a lot of our money to keep the working class and the poor at each other’s throats.  Those (mostly) myths of the welfare queen and the government employee worked for Reagan back 30 years ago…, and they worked for Scott Walker in Wisconsin this year.  As long as we believe that BS and stay so angry at each other that we can’t think straight…, we won’t stop for a minute and realize that the last 30 years has been nothing but a massive transfer of wealth from the working class and the poor to the plutocrats and the politicians.  To paraphrase James Howard Kunstler, “If the masses ever figure out just what’s been happening to them…, there’s liable to be a lot of plutocrats and politicians swinging side by side from lampposts.”   Now those are some ghosts I would be more than happy to hear from.

About a week later the second “ghost” arrived via Facebook and almost a repeat of the visit from the first ghost.  “I have had my fill of Poor Folk…, I have been poor most of my life.  I have always worked and worked hard.  I love giving…, but the giving gets old when you see the crime you are supporting.  If they had jobs and responsibility they would have a lot less time to rob.”  Her story is kind of the reverse of the first one.  She was married at 16 and had her kids at a young age.  Before they were grown, her marriage soured, and she split up with her husband.  She wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice…, so she didn’t just latch on to the first meal ticket that came along.  She checked groceries at the local IGA, never took a dime of welfare, and she managed to take care of her kids.  She learned what it is like to have to put yourself at the tail end of the pecking order behind three other hungry mouths to feed.  She is in California now and she and her spouse have a business.  She complained that her current business will be hit with a dozen new taxes as a result of Obamacare…, so she is voting Republican.   Anyway…, after our little message exchange she commented on my Facebook post, “Go Mitt”.  I guess you can’t argue with that.  She hears Mittens say that he will “cut taxes”, “create jobs”, and “cut entitlements”.  He doesn’t explain how he is going to pay for all that…, but I guess it doesn’t matter as long as you believe him when he says that some poor bastard below your pay scale will pay for it.   The Republicans have been saying the right things for 20 of the last 30 years…, but somehow it just hasn’t transferred into a successful business plan…, for the working class (or small business class) anyway.  The 1% have made out just fine.  They tell us that cutting taxes will create jobs and grow GDP and help the economy.  Well…, what have we got to show for cutting taxes (mostly on the rich) for 30 years?  An unimaginable debt.  The Republican  prescription?  Cut taxes.  For 30 years we have been cutting the safety net for the poor to pay for the tax cuts for the rich.  What has it got us?  An unimaginable debt.  The Republican prescription?  Shred the safety net.  The money mongers got a bit of a scare after eight years of the Wee Bush.  He took over the office with a budget surplus inherited from the Democrats…, and in eight sickening years turned it into a 1.4 trillion dollar deficit.  Biggest tax cut ever…, can’t figure out why the economy didn’t boom?  Yeah…, we need another Republican administration so they can finish the job that the Wee Bush started.  I would quote the atrocities once again…, but I am dangerously close to projectile vomiting as it is.  

The third ghost arrived via email…, two of them forwarded to me…, and they upset me a little.  The subject line of the first one started off with an apology, “Sorry if this offends, but it needs to be said”.  That should have been the only tip off I needed to see and realize that I shouldn’t waste my time.  But I am an old hippie and a little slow.  My second tip off was, my email program had flagged it as possible spam or junk mail…, and it was.  A litany of negative attack statements against Obama.  So little substance in any of the statements (that I read) that you needed a magnifying glass to find a grain of truth in it.  Put out by who knows who…, Romney, the Republicans, some Super Pac, or Tea Party or Limbaugh or Beck outfit.  At least whoever wrote it was smart enough not to take credit for it…, it didn’t even have a Vote for Romney tag line.  Even Mitt the Twitt would want to be able to plausibly deny that he was in any way associated with it.  The ghost who forwarded it hadn’t really embraced the hippie scene like some of us.  But she had grown up in a small working class community and I always thought we shared the values usually associated with that environment.  She always had a level head on her shoulders and she graduated number three in our senior class.  She is fully capable of forming and articulating her own opinions on any matters…, political or otherwise.  And I would gladly have responded politely if she had, whether I agreed with her or not.  But I was a little insulted that she forwarded that below the belt level slew of pure propaganda to me.  I didn’t even have to read the whole thing…, and said so in my response.  I detest negative campaign ads and think they sink lower every year.  About the only ones I see are the ones that make the PBS “News Hour” as a news story for their bad taste.  I don’t watch much other TV.  Especially around presidential election time.  The second email that ghost number three sent was so low rent that there was just an illusion to a video clip of Obama supposedly making an ass of himself and appearing completely unpresidential.   “Bet you won’t see this on TV,” the email said.  You won’t see it on the email I got either…, it didn’t work…, if it was ever even real.  It was supposed to be Obama stomping out and kicking a door after Republicans refused to consider rolling back the Bush tax cuts for $250,000 plus earners and preserving the cuts for lower income levels.  Evidently the ghost is doing quite well for herself…, and doesn’t want to share any with old hippies. 

Let them eat brownies.   


  1. Nice work, Scott. I've read it twice now, once quickly and once while relaxing with a fake beer (I no longer drink the real stuff, which would no doubt surprise many of my THS classmates), and enjoyed it both times.

    I've only ever "unfriended" two people on Facebook--both former classmates who insisted on regurgitating the crap you talk about in your final paragraph. I don't mind political discussion (rarely engaging in much else myself), but like you I want to hear from folks who actually think enough for themselves that they can consider that sometimes the folks on their side may not be perfect.

    I also identified with the part about kids and jobs. Every time I drive past a field with giant haybales I think about how no kid could lift those--unlike the bales I spent five summers bucking for extra school money. Back then I had a $150 Plymouth, and only the few rich kids and the gearheads had rigs that were much better.

    Have a great weekend.

    1. Thanks James...., wish I had thought of your example of haying when I was writing "Shipping Our Jobs Overseas" Perfect example of how jobs are disappearing..., and will never be replaced. What's going to happen when all the physical labor jobs are replaced by technology..., or "shipped over seas?" If the folks gleaning the profits were sharing it..., instead of pocketing it? I know..., never going to happen..., without campaign finance reform.

      And it would be a lot easier typing..., if I was indulging in "near" beer !!!!!