Could we as a country be in deeper doo-doo? That was what immediately popped into my mind as I watched in disbelief and disgust the collection of video from news broadcasts compiled about the Black Friday shopper stampede.
Hundreds of corpulent capitalists bursting through the doors of department stores all over the country in order to save money by spending money on crap they really don’t need and that in all likelihood will break in the days and weeks after Christmas and be relegated to the recycling bin or, worse, the trash.
The economy is in tatters? Unemployment is still around 10 percent? You wouldn’t know it by looking at that bit of video. And I know that those breaking down the store doors aren’t in the majority, but they represent an ethos on which the big corporations have bet heavily: Don’t get in the way of our buying cheap crap and we’ll keep our mouths shut about how we get treated by a government that those same corporations have bought and paid for to act in their self-interest.
The horse race reporting about the holiday economy lets us know we, as consumers, must do our part and spend (or charge on credit cards) as needed to keep the purveyors of said crap afloat; or at least fuel the stock dividends that will keep investors and CEOs flush with obscene amounts of cash. In so doing, we are performing our patriotic duty as human fuel for one of the world’s largest economic engines.
Despite this being the holidays, I think there’s a little room, as a country, for being selfish. Specifically, I am advocating voting in one’s own self-interest. And by that I mean not swallowing the twisted message that we can’t afford the $33 billion needed to keep the unemployment checks coming to those out of work.
Whether we realize it or not, those unemployment checks will make the difference between this holiday season being one for retailers to celebrate or one to lament. The load of lies being spewed—that we can’t afford extending those benefits (but we can afford to put an average of $100,000 in the pocket of everyone in the country who makes over a $1 million a year); that they just make people lazy and not want to look for a real job in the first place—is disgusting. When compared to the billions in corporate welfare—read: the money we don’t collect from oil companies, manufacturers and the like in taxes and other fees—and the ever shrinking tax rate on the richest 2 percent of this country, we can more than afford to offer a helping hand to those who are still feeling the effects of an economic tsunami. A tsunami, mind you, that was created in by the millionaires and billionaires who gambled and lost at the mortgage roulette table. (Ironic, isn’t it, that we now can’t afford to save those now out-of-work taxpayers whose taxes paid to bail out those fat cats two years ago.)
Oh and just in case you’re wanting to swallow that garbage about how taxing the rich will kill jobs because they’re the entrepreneurs, know this: Only 3 percent of small business owners are in that top 2 percent tax bracket. And there are ways to deal with that. Also, rich people don’t go stampeding into Wal-mart the day after Thanksgiving. And they certainly haven’t been putting off buying a washer and dryer, or getting shoes for the kids or tires for the car; the Porsche came with new Pirelli’s after all. They instead use their tax break to buy more Wal-mart stock.
So do yourself a favor, whether you’re employed or not. Call Sens. Udall and Bennet and your Congresspeople—Polis, Perlmutter, Markey or DeGette—and let them know that extending unemployment benefits—not lowering taxes for the richest 2 percent—is the right thing to do this holiday season. There’s nothing wrong with looking out for yourself.