Finally…I understand the stock market.

And no, this is not some sarcastic screed on the “Wall Street Casino”. I finally found somebody who could explain the mysterious vagaries of the waxing and waning of the market terms that even an artist can understand. Probably because there are lots of pictures. And because the meat of the “book” is only about 50 pages long… in large type.

It’s more of a detailed pamphlet really.

The author, Daniel Arnold, is just a smart guy who wanted to know how to make his money work for him after he retired. He was an electrical and bio-mechanical engineer who had worked for GE for a number of years. He was good at understanding process and the importance of how the pieces fit together. So, with some time on his hands, he started looking at basic, publicly available economic information and began utilizing the data in a way that developed into a very interesting theory.

He started from the assumption that you always hear brokers and stock houses hammering home to investors. One shouldn’t look at how a stock does over a short period of time. Instead, they should look at the long range performance. But the people he listened to or read weren’t talking about long range trends. They were all focused on short term trends and short term results.

When one looks at long term economic flux, there are a lot of theories to choose from. One of my favorites is a long-range theory from a Russian economist named Nikolai Kondratiev. He was tasked with “proving” capitalism could not last because it was a flawed system. What he found instead was that the economies of capitalist countries waxed and waned; although he did not or could not offer a suitable explanation as to why this occurred.

These findings were seen as having the potential to undermine Stalin’s plans for the Soviet Union, so he was sent to the Gulag and sentenced to death. But, his findings align with Arnold’s findings quite nicely. But, Arnold’s prime cause for the fluctuations are a far simpler, more elegant and intuitive explanation than the ones offered by economists trying to find an explanation for the Kondratiev “Wave”.

Any artist or scientist or mathematician will tell you that there in a beauty, a “rightness” to certain solutions. The pieces all fit; like a puzzle. As I read this pamphlet, I kept having those “Ah, that makes sense.” moments that never came while I was studying other economic theories.

So I’ll give you the most basic and important part of his theory here and if you want to read more you can go to his website: The Great Bust Ahead

Let me say first though, as an artist, I will tell you now, the site screams “SCAM”, and if I had seen the site first it would have been easy for me to dismiss the pamphlet as sleazy profiteering. But I’ll give him a pass. He’s an engineer and may not realize how visual cues lead people to certain unconscious conclusions.

The data he presents is easily accessed through public files at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CIA fact files and the INS. So if you have doubt, get the information and crunch the numbers yourself.

Finally down to the nub of it.
In a nutshell:

  • The GDP (gross domestic product) is, in the simplest definition, You and I spending money.

Here he uses Fully Industrialized Democratic Nations (FIDN) as the basis of this data point. The more people, the more they spend, the higher the GDP. And it holds true.

  • If there is a group within the given population of a country that spends more money, they are the main driver of a “good” economy.
  • The age group comprising the biggest spenders in these FIDN is the 45 to 54 year olds.

Why? We are at our peak earning power at this age. We buy cars, we buy houses, we have kids with the attendant school, medical, college expenses. So we are also at the years of our peak expenditures.

  • The strength of the economy rises and falls as generational cohorts come into or move out of this peak earning/expenditure age.

He takes birth data and census data back to the 1920’s and follows the 45-54 year old cohort, correlating it with the rise and fall of the stock market. He has to make adjustments for inflation, but there is an incredibly tight correlation between the peak earning 45-54 demographic and stock market performance.

Until the 1960’s. It took him a while to suss out why the shift occurred. It was the Pill. It allowed women to forestall childbearing. And keeping it basic here, we won’t go into the economic ramifications. Suffice it to say that he adjusted for the data and the correlation resumed its lockstep behavior.

He found he also had to adjust for immigration. He notes that the average age of immigrants to this country is 30 years of age. And once they are assimilated, earning money, making families, they contribute to the upward trend of the stock market in the same way as a birth cohort.

This chart shows the correlations, but there seems to be some divergence in the data. My guess is that if he could find a way to account for illegal immigrants, who contribute to the economy as much as any other worker, it would, once again fall back into alignment.

Sorry about the smudge in the lower left....

I’d like you to notice that after 2010 there is a precipitous drop in the number of people in the 45-54 year old cohort. The Baby Boomers are busting. They are no longer at peak earning power, the kids have gone to college (and come home) and there is a gap of quite a few years until another peak earning demographic comes into prominence.

So, what does that mean? Well, if the trend holds, it means a precipitous drop in the market. It means a long depression. It means a very long, very tough road for people over 50.

So, now that you understand how the stock market works, you can see that we have been trying to put the cart before the horse. Jobs and wages create disposable income. Disposable income creates a thriving economy. And that is simply all there is to it.

No magic. No fractal Elliot Waves. No Wall Street Wizards or brokers who can earn you lots of cash. If you want to get rich in the stock market, make sure people have jobs and money to spend. Then when a generational cohort hits age 40, get in the market. When they hit 50+, get out.

Simple.

The Royals are Reptilians and I’m an Alien-Human Hybrid

It’s times like this that it becomes abundantly clear that I am either a changeling or an alien-human hybrid. Somehow, against all the impulses of the herd I have been born into, I am completely disinterested in the social life of people who have status merely by dint of being the product of the chance meeting between a lucky sperm and egg.

Not only that, I have never been able to comprehend how regular people can be so engrossed in the personal lives of those whose existence is completely foreign to their own, in terms of power, wealth and privilege. Frankly, it wouldn’t occur to a Royal to look your way if gazes were air and you were suffocating to death.

We are not amused.

A couple of years back the Queen’s solution to the deficit in the Palace heating budget was to raid the fund used to feed the poor. She can’t put on another sweater like regular folks, she has to heat her Palace with the bodies of the starving. Her Ministers had to explain why this would be a bad idea.

I need you to think about this concept: Her Ministers had to explain why taking food away from poor people who would starve without it, was bad. In other words, the idea that it was morally or ethically questionable had never crossed her mind.

This is the group people around the world are obsessing over; waxing rhapsodic about? These people, who have never been particularly talented, intelligent, beautiful or industrious. From what I have observed, their sense of public decorum is about on par with the average “man on the street”. What merit affords them the attention of 1/3rd of the worlds population?

Given that the chances of a mere “commoner” interacting with them in any meaningful way is practically null, I would find it exceedingly helpful if someone could explain in clear, concise terms, exactly why anyone should care about anything they choose to do?

The difference between hoarders and artists

Artists and hoarders share an important quality: we love stuff. It gives us a deep sense of rightness, of satisfaction to have this scrap or that bit and to know we will always have access to it.

It is very difficult to describe what objects draw us and become necessary. But that gut feeling of connection is a common thread.

The difference, however, between hoarders and artists is that very often, artists will actually utilize the things we drag home. Sometimes they become sculpture, sometimes we wear them, sometimes they become still life objects and sometimes we just slap on a coat of paint and call it a day.

We understand that these things have purpose. They are living in the sense that they will change over time. They are, very often, intended to change over time; to become worn and comfortable.

When you put something in a box or put it away for safekeeping, you deny that “life” by fixing the thing in time and space. So, in a sense, artist are the crazy cat ladies of stuff. We take in all sorts of strays, we feed them, we work with them and we appreciate them for the life they’ve had. We appreciate them for what they are and more importantly, for what they realistically could be; without romance or illusion. Because that is part of our job as artists, to see things as they are.

That said, let me introduce you to my latest rescue. An early 60’s era dresser, all wood. Not an ounce of chipboard.

dresser

Forgive the picture. Our bedroom is dark and the remodeling is ongoing.

I spotted this lovely as I was driving through a neighborhood, trying to avoid backed up traffic from a downtown construction project. It was in the midst of a pile of discarded furniture from a rental move-out. There was also a mattress(urine soaked, as it turned out), a couple of flimsy chipboard end-tables and some well loved plastic kids toys.

I immediately flipped on my turn indicator to signal the Mister, who was behind me, that we needed to pull over. I made a U-turn (illegally) and pulled up beside his truck window.

Windows down we discussed.

Me: “Do you think that dresser is any good?”
Mr.:”What dresser?”
Me: “60’s era, brown, stickers”
Mr.:”Didn’t see it.”
Me:”Let’s go look.”

So he pulled around behind me and we pulled up in front of the house.

The family was still taking items out to their car. So I motioned to an older man among them and asked if we could take the dresser. He nodded, so I started to inspect it. It was passable. But I’d need to take it home and take out all the drawers to see if it was worth refinishing.

We opened the hatch on the wagon, lowered the middle seats and popped it in.

I’d love to tell you that when I picked it up it looked like it looks in the picture. But no.

Mud brown shellac. Decals, stickers, reflectors all over the drawer faces. The drawer pulls were original, but bulky and  wooden. The drawers were all out of wrack with various splits in the sides from roofing nails being used to try and “repair” it.

But beneath all that, the lines were clean. It was well proportioned. The wood was solid and whole. Definitely worth salvaging.

So, I stripped it, glued the splits, repaired the drawers and found a beautiful deep mulberry color to paint it. And while I was buying paint,  I found some elegant matte black pulls with a fine copper edging that played off the mulberry very nicely.

I did have some issues with the paint and varnish. I liked the flatness of the mulberry paint. But it was going to be prone to scratching and streaking. So I decided to use a satin polyurethane varnish…mostly because it was what I had on hand.

I hated the varnish. It was too glossy and since I don’t have a clean room (or a ventilated one for that matter), I was forced to work outside. So the varnish dried too fast and left a textured surface.

My solution? Mix the paint and the polyurethane to keep some of the flat of the paint and some of the protection of the polyurethane with a slower drying time to allow for the  paint to level.

So, yes, I could’ve bought something at Ikea. Something clean and new and frankly, on an artist’s budget, expensive. But this dresser has already had a life, a history. And now, for better or worse, I have become a part of that.

A hoarder only wants to see things as they were. An artist sees things as they were and as they potentially could be. It has always been the play, the tension between reality and potential that excites us.

Opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune.

Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

I listened to all that was said in this court in support and justification of this prosecution, but my mind remains unchanged. I look upon the Espionage Law as a despotic enactment in flagrant conflict with democratic principles and with the spirit of free institutions.

Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believe in a fundamental change—but if possible by peaceable and orderly mean.

Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison.

I am thinking this morning of the men in the mills and the factories; of the men in the mines and on the railroads. I am thinking of the women who for a paltry wage are compelled to work out their barren lives; of the little children who in this system are robbed of their childhood and in their tender years are seized in the remorseless grasp of Mammon and forced into the industrial dungeons, there to feed the monster machines while they themselves are being starved and stunted, body and soul. I see them dwarfed and diseased and their little lives broken and blasted because in this high noon of Christian civilization money is still so much more important than the flesh and blood of childhood. In very truth gold is god today and rules with pitiless sway in the affairs of men.

In this country—the most favored beneath the bending skies—we have vast areas of the richest and most fertile soil, material resources in inexhaustible abundance, the most marvelous productive machinery on earth, and millions of eager workers ready to apply their labor to that machinery to produce in abundance for every man, woman, and child—and if there are still vast numbers of our people who are the victims of poverty and whose lives are an unceasing struggle all the way from youth to old age, until at last death comes to their rescue and lulls these hapless victims to dreamless sleep, it is not the fault of the Almighty: it cannot be charged to nature, but it is due entirely to the outgrown social system in which we live that ought to be abolished not only in the interest of the toiling masses but in the higher interest of all humanity.

I believe, Your Honor, in common with all Socialists, that this nation ought to own and control its own industries. I believe, as all Socialists do, that all things that are jointly needed and used ought to be jointly owned—that industry, the basis of our social life, instead of being the private property of a few and operated for their enrichment, ought to be the common property of all, democratically administered in the interest of all.

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.

This order of things cannot always endure. I have registered my protest against it. I recognize the feebleness of my effort, but, fortunately, I am not alone. There are multiplied thousands of others who, like myself, have come to realize that before we may truly enjoy the blessings of civilized life, we must reorganize society upon a mutual and cooperative basis; and to this end we have organized a great economic and political movement that spreads over the face of all the earth.

There are today upwards of sixty millions of Socialists, loyal, devoted adherents to this cause, regardless of nationality, race, creed, color, or sex. They are all making common cause. They are spreading with tireless energy the propaganda of the new social order. They are waiting, watching, and working hopefully through all the hours of the day and the night. They are still in a minority. But they have learned how to be patient and to bide their time. The feel—they know, indeed—that the time is coming, in spite of all opposition, all persecution, when this emancipating gospel will spread among all the peoples, and when this minority will become the triumphant majority and, sweeping into power, inaugurate the greatest social and economic change in history.

In that day we shall have the universal commonwealth—the harmonious cooperation of every nation with every other nation on earth.

Your Honor, I ask no mercy and I plead for no immunity. I realize that finally the right must prevail. I never so clearly comprehended as now the great struggle between the powers of greed and exploitation on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of industrial freedom and social justice.

I can see the dawn of the better day for humanity. The people are awakening. In due time they will and must come to their own.

When the mariner, sailing over tropic seas, looks for relief from his weary watch, he turns his eyes toward the southern cross, burning luridly above the tempest-vexed ocean. As the midnight approaches, the southern cross begins to bend, the whirling worlds change their places, and with starry finger-points the Almighty marks the passage of time upon the dial of the universe, and though no bell may beat the glad tidings, the lookout knows that the midnight is passing and that relief and rest are close at hand. Let the people everywhere take heart of hope, for the cross is bending, the midnight is passing, and joy cometh with the morning.

I am now prepared to receive your sentence.

Statement to the Court
Eugene Debs, September 18, 1918

Eugene V. Debs Foundation

The Age of Black Swans (a poem)

in an outlier age
every swan jet black
nests on a sphere skewed extreme.
each day a thousand year rain
drowns misery in empty
bloated bellies,
washing over hearts
that will not wear
and cannot break.
signs and wonders
thick as smoke
we choke, waiting
for one
small
miracle
that can never come.

Pledger Rand Paul Slam Dunks “Pig Party”

Then, having been awarded his place in Frat House fame, promptly ditches his hillbilly date. He wanders off to go burn a fattie with a really drunk sorority chick and falls into a deep philosophical discussion on the Aqua Buddha.

Libertarians and Tea Partiers all across America, and especially in Paul’s home state of Kentucky, are stunned and confused by his almost instantaneous abandonment of key elements of  his campaign platform. Most notably wherein he promised to end earmark (aka pork-barrel) spending.

But any girl who was ever socially awkward or from an impoverished home or less than magazine cover beautiful knows exactly what happened. Kentucky, it turns out, was the biggest Pig at the Pig Party.

Rand Paul, son of a doctor, never once got his hands dirty with an honest day’s labor. He’s the dreamy football captain with just a bit of a rebel streak. And when he suddenly invited Kentucky to the Frat Party, she couldn’t believe her luck. A handsome, intelligent up and comer like Paul could take her places. Possibly all the way to the altar in Washington D.C. And there he would give her the life she always dreamed of, but knew she could never have because she didn’t have “it”. i.e. classic good looks, money, connections.

Or in this case: jobs, infrastructure, political clout.

But he asked her anyway. He was charming, flirtatious. He asked her about her snow-globe collection. He seemed interested in her ideas and her ideals. So she passed up a Friday night date with “Herman Norman” to go the Frat House Party.

And once she was there, it all became incredibly, horribly clear. He needed her to get his foot in the door. Winning the Pig Party Prize meant he was “in”. No more hazing, no more low status bullshit. He could play with the big boys now.

All those pretty words floating away like the ashes of burning leaves.

Well, now what?

I lived in Eastern Kentucky for a year, teaching at a University there. One of the notable things about this area was it’s rather activist dislike of the government. A historical placard in town related that the local courthouse had been burned down several times over the years by people who didn’t appreciate the idea of government meddling in their affairs.

I’m hoping Kentucky gets pissed off. I’m hoping she doesn’t just fall into a heap of make-up streaked, blubbering butter cream frosting. To be honest, I’d much rather see her kick off her shoes, hike up her skirt and rally her kin folk. Because there is one thing a true Kentuckian understands and that’s a blood feud. Their philosophy always has been: Never let the government dick with you and never, ever forget it when they do.

Mr. Paul might do well to remember that.

Daddy TeaBagger Weeps: My Tea Party Turned Corporate Whore! (how spoiling the Boomers broke America)

Which is what I’ve been suggesting for some time now.

Boomers, on the whole, just don’t get it. Because, sadly, they never really “got” it in the first place. From the moment their collective purchasing power was recognized way back in the 50’s, every speck of an idea rising from that generational cohort has been microscopically scrutinized in order to figure out how it can be sold to the public at large. They are the Co-opted Generation, brought to you by the makers of Pepsi. “It’s the Herd Mentality that’s GOOD. And so GOOD for you tm“.

If they had been self-aware enough to take control of their own message, they could have actually have been a force to be reckoned with. But having been raised in a bubble that catered to their every whim, they assumed all that corporate fawning meant Power and Money were actually in agreement with their ideals. The sad reality: Corporations were using the 900 lb gorilla as a social and economic wedge; handily stripping out the substance and selling the pre-packaged, easily digestible product to the public at large. And if the rest of the country didn’t like it, the collective ire of a massive generational cohort would rain down fire upon your head.

So we end up with McDonald’s. Because kids on long trips don’t like eating unfamiliar food in unfamiliar places. ad infinitum

Once the pattern was established, it was easily and handily manipulated – for profit of course. And as time went on, it became increasingly easy to steer groups with special interests into their own intellectual cul-de-sacs. After all, wasn’t every egoistic whim they ever had worth exploring in deep navel gazing, cash-costing detail, regardless of the price to society at large?

Whittling away the generational mass, fracturing it, was a simple thing really. By their late 20’s most people’s interests and life path have gelled somewhat. They are no longer a “puppy-pile” of mate-seeking, group-thinking, exploratory youth.

At that point, it was just a matter of seeing the broad trends within the cohort and nudging them a little farther along the path. And this is less conspiratorial than it sounds. Because, bottom line, it’s always been about the Benjamins.

It was the Corporate sycophants in politics who saw the possibilities of using those differences for both corporate and political ends. They married Richard Nixon’s ground breaking political strategy of “us disenfranchised slobs” vs. the “elites” to the Corporate consumer group micro-marketing.

Minor personal digression: Ol’ Dicky Nixon was not attractive, he was not from a wealthy or politically connected family and he was not charismatic. But was incredibly intelligent. And most importantly, he was a political shark. He never stopped moving and he was a vicious bastard when crossed. In the end, I loathed him a bit less and respected him a bit more because of these things. But only a bit.

Fast Forward: Tea Party. The perfect blend of the Boomer ethos of “ME, ME, ME and to hell with how it affects other people” wedded to a political platform, funded by Corporate dollars.

Here’s the interview with Daddy TeaBagger “himself “. And since he’s not a Corporatist, unlike 99% of Washington, he’s pretty pissed that his brainchild has been Frankenfurtered to keep boot-licking Corporate butt-monkeys in power.

“In short, The Tea Party was and is about the the corruption of American Politics and the blatant and outrageous theft from all Americans that has resulted. It is about personal responsibility and enforcement of the law against those who have robbed, financially ****d and pillaged the nation.”

Ahem….. Excuse me. That’s “WAS.” No longer “IS”. Welcome to the real world, where you and what you want are irrelevant. Enjoy your stay. And please remember: It’s a Class War and the Rich are winning.

Show Me The Note, Motherfuckers!

Zero Hedge posts a followup to Gonzalo Lira’s The Coming Middle-Class Anarchy. Wherein Brian and Ilsa, a retired middle class couple, find themselves with an underwater mortgage. They also find themselves in a very typical bureaucratic run around.

In response, they sensibly did what more and more people will be forced
to do, if banks don’t pull their heads out of their obviously comfy
asses.  

They demanded to see the note.

I’ve spent a good portion of my free time over the last several weeks trying to find alternative branches to the narrative line that is quickly approaching.

Perhaps I’m not clever enough, or knowledgeable enough to faithfully follow Ariadne’s thread. Because I keep circling around the same conclusion: the mortgage (and by default the banks, no pun intended) system is going to grind to a halt because of this issue. And when it does, everything impacted by banking is going to grind to a halt.

The alternatives:

The banks screwed up. But they won’t risk losing market share by admitting it then taking the necessary steps to fix it.

The government can’t step in. Mortgage laws vary by state. There are a host of Constitutional issues preventing a mortgage “bailout” a la JP Morgan or Chrysler. For one thing the auto makers didn’t falsify documents. Their sin was poor business models based on the fact that the US of A can’t compete with countries with universal health care.

The middle class only needs a tiny spark to ignite all that bone dry rage they’ve got lying around. These folks, who have generally only known privilege, won’t have as much patience with the types of bullshit that the lower classes have long ago been broken to. Let those retired boomers…you know the original “Me” generation …decide to harken back to the good old protest days. Silverback Activists and the “Great Bank Sit-in (sponsored by Metamucil)”

Rage on disenfranchised white middle class hellions! Rage on!

Questions of Logic In the Business of War

You have probably read or read about the Washington Post’s series on Top Secret America.

After listening to the talk show pundits and reading a few commentaries on the subject I began to consider a question that, while on the periphery of the discussion, no one seems to have posed. Perhaps it is too naive a question.

The parameters of the question are this: The military works for the US government and ultimately for the people; the tax paying public. They train their soldiers to understand this. Their stated goal is to protect the country and it’s citizens. These tax paying citizens want to see their tax dollars go to the best use for the good of the country.

Privately held, profit-motivated companies, for instance Blackwater, are in the sole business of helping to wage war. From a logical standpoint what is their motivation to in any way assist in the cessation of a given war?

From a corporate standpoint, helping to end a large scale conflict could only lead to decreases in their profit margin.

I understand the implications of what I am asking. I’m not addressing the foot-soldier here; nor the outright mercenary. I’m talking about a military contractor corporate equivalent of BP’s President Tony Hayward. Where does he draw the line when considering his livelihood and the financial health of his company?

The Pea Pickers Dilemma or (handy clickable Gen Y title) The Epic Fail of American Politicians

This morning, I spent the coolest part of the day harvesting green peas off the vine. As an activity, pea picking is incredibly repetitious.

Black-eyed Susans and Green Peas

It is neither physically nor mentally taxing enough to fully engage my interest.  And so, as often happens in these instances where my body is engaged but my mind is free to play, I began to ponder.

What I began to ponder was a charming turn of phrase used when someone expresses utter disbelief at another’s foolhardy actions. “Are you out of your pea picking mind?” I suspect this might have it’s origins as a Southern phrase, much like it’s cousin: “Are you out of your cotton picking mind?” The implication, in both instances, is that pea pickers and cotton pickers are less than, shall we say, astute.

I understand that. By way of contrast, harvesting something wild, like blackberries, requires a broad and overarching attention in order to gather small fruit on unsteady terrain, while avoiding thorns, spiders and snakes (not necessarily in that order). Compared to blackberries, picking peas is simple. You stand in a level row, you see a green pod hanging in front of you, you pick, you drop it in the bucket, you see another pod. You pick. Simple. Unthinking. Repetitive.

Pea Pickers, then, would be the domesticated cousins of the Wild Berry Pickers. Over the years, we’ve bred all the uncertainty, pain and danger from the enterprise of picking peas. As a result, picking peas requires much less mental and physical stamina, much less engagement in the process, than gathering from the wild. Therefore, simpletons are able to do it. And so, the logic suggests, that makes your average pea picker a simpleton.

There is an obvious presumptive flaw in this line of thinking. But as a metaphor for a foolish person doing mindless task, calling someone a pea picker has the potential to be a fair assessment. So hold that thought, we will revisit our pea picker in a few moments.

Let me briefly turn your attention to George F. Will, political columnist for the Washington Post. George Will falls, rather definitively, to the conservative side of the political spectrum. And while I admire him for his occasional ability to admit his most grievous mistakes, George Will and I have only agreed on 2 things in the past 30 years.

The 2nd thing we agreed on was a comment he made during the Inaugural Parade commemorating George W. Bush’s 2nd term in office.

The limousine carrying the President and First Lady was traveling along the parade route with secret service and a uniformed guard detail, on foot, beside the vehicle.

As you may recall, the security for this event was unprecedented. For the first time ever, spectators had 10 foot fencing between them and the parade route. There were “free speech” areas, cordoned off to keep protestors from impinging on the happy occasion.

Mr. Will was a guest commentator on one of the broadcast television networks along with the usual broadcast news anchors. As the events unfolded, the television people nattered on, filling air time as we watched the car progress along the route. At one point, the President’s limousine inexplicably sped up to the point that the security detail had to jog along side the car to keep formation. One of the news anchors made some comment about why they might be moving more quickly when George Will said, apropos of nothing: “It looks like a Banana Republic.”

There was dead silence in the studio, then a quick cut to commercial.

The first thing George Will and I agreed on was in the early 90’s. He had written commenting on a friend of his in northern Virginia, who worked with his hands making custom pajamas for a discerning clientele.

Using his friend as an example, Mr. Will explained that he was of the opinion that those living inside the beltway were entirely disconnected from the daily realities of American life. They didn’t have real jobs. Many of them hadn’t had real jobs in decades. They didn’t make things. Therefore, they didn’t understand the complex and intricate process of seeing an idea through from beginning to end; from thread to cloth to product. Or the ramifications of failing to understand and acknowledge each part as it relates to the whole.

He suggested instead, that a life of signing and pushing around individual pieces of paper, disconnected from a knowable outcome during the day, coupled with a life of political socializing and leisure during the night had created a culture that could not comprehend the realities a majority of Americans face. Obviously, I’m paraphrasing here, but in George Will’s opinion: Making piles of paper, only to send those piles to other people to makes other piles of paper, was no way to understand the needs of your constituents.

Politicians, bureaucrats and their faithful, well-meaning wonks are doing work that is well-defined; bounded by bureaucratic process and laid out in neat rows. There is very little uneven footing. They do not stumble upon tearing thorns. And what snakes and spiders creep there are easily spotted and, unlike their wilder cousins, just as easily negotiated with.

Something happens to those fledgling politicians after they leave the nested security of the small towns that elected them. There is some fundamental shift as they are domesticated by money and power. They forget, or most likely they never knew, what life is like in the midst of briars and mud and need and want.

They also forget who picks their peas; who puts the food on their tables. In their re-negotiated world-view pea pickers, mindless drones of an agrarian age, become part of an indistinguishable mass of humanity that exists out there. They are unknown, and so become unknowable.

To those unknowns outside the security of the beltway, one vote by an ethical politician can keep a multi-national corporation from killing an ecosystem. One vote can save the source of a multi-generational local business or it can allow ruination on an unprecedented scale.

Politicians from the Gulf States who failed to vote against those corporations with no vested interest in the local communities, voted against their own constituents by default. And any politician who chooses without thinking, who mindlessly grasps the low hanging fruits in front of him rather than considering the consequences, has failed those who put him in office.

Deciding the fate of people’s lives was never intended to be easy. It was never intended as a pea picker’s job. But it has become just that; too easy and much too safe. Politicians have become too insulated from the consequences of self-interested choices. They have been allowed the self-indulgent mindlessness of simpletons. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans in the wilds outside the beltway, are forced to scrounge in the briars; competing with coyotes and snakes for what we can gather before the hard rains come.

(This commentary was published in the Grant City Times Tribune during the week of July 7th)

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