FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Truth in Comedy

by SAUL LANDAU

Have mainstream politicians grown so out of synch with the needs of the people that only comedians address the issues? Traditionally, the court jester dared shine a satiric light on imperial problems. In our society, standup comics and “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” under the guise of clowning get away with exposing corporate rip offs and self-serving government agencies. The mainstream media accept these thug operations as national axioms.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert don’t joke about tens of millions of people moaning, not whining, from pain of economic hardship. Because it’s not funny! They occasionally refer to the proverbial elephants in the American living room, which grow fatter and nastier. Who but a joker would dare denigrate the “celebrated” armed forces, just because they don’t win the wars that politicians manufacture? Or make fun of the “protectors” from Homeland Security? FEMA, part of the Security apparatus, played a cruel joke on the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Let’s not forget the “noble” drug warriors. One day in the very distant, as the comics know, they will surely make a dent in addiction rates. The military, “security” and drug baron, prime examples of imperial waste and idiocy, play the big joke on the public: each receives a humongous – or humorous—slice of the national budget.

If more than $800 billion annually goes to feed these unproductive monsters who metaphorically eat the country’s living room furniture and shit on its floor, how will needed infrastructure repairs take place, how will education, health and social services respond to the growing needs of the nation, now almost officially in recession? Such a question obviously makes my patriotism questionable. Or, I’m a crazed addict! A “Reagan revolution?” Did I hallucinate? Nostalgia oozes from those who remember him fondly. During his reign sleeping with the President meant attending a Cabinet Meeting.

Outside the denial addicted White House, income and manufacturing wages have fallen. In some 25 years, the bottom 40%’s share of national wealth dropped along with income of families living on pensions. Funny? US manufacturing jobs have dramatically decreased. Hilarious?

On the other side, Reaganomics also inspired growth. For example, the top 1% now “made” more money, and thus spurred the growth rate in the gap between rich and poor incomes. Foreign debt has risen as a percent of GDP. Thanks to Republican economics – supported by many Democrats – the number of hungry people and housing foreclosures have also risen. Jokes!

We’re still number 1 — in the size of our armed forces, amount of nuclear weapons, unwanted pregnancies, percentage of people, especially minorities, in prison, and number of crystal methamphetamine labs. (See Sam Smith’s The Progressive Review July 14)

Barack Obama, satirized by the New Yorker cover as a terrorist, has yet to address issues of eroding infrastructure and causes of suffering. Has he turned into Zelig, as in the Woody Allen film by that title, the adaptable, opportunistic creep who morphs into those he meets? Trying to win elections – then they’ll “do something” –turns candidates into PR images to make them look “honest,” “tough,” and warm and avuncular at the same time.

Even Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 said almost anything to get votes. Those who speak their minds like John McCain’s economic guru, and arch representative of banking hanky panky, former Texas Senator Phil Gramm, should have done his shtick on one of the comedy shows. Poor rich Gramm, sentenced to pariah status -– “He doesn’t speak for me,” said McCain, disowning his economic mentor. Gramm voiced his and probably other multimillionaires’ thoughts about the millions of homeless, hungry, out of work and recently foreclosed people as “a nation of whiners” — and probably dangerous as well.

Gramm’s speech patterns sound like the translation into words of the screech made by a piece of chalk working its way across a blackboard. May Gramm aspires to become a columnist for The Onion? “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline,” he said. “You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession.” Very funny! He also questioned the veracity of some poor people. “If they’re poor, how come they’re fat?” The Don Rickles of politics!

After stumping Michigan with his candidate, McCain, and seeing thousands of unemployed factory workers, he smirked. “Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day.” Optimistic millionaires like Gramm, whom McCain supported fully for President in 1996, dismiss such statistics. Michigan, once the country’s center of major industry, leads the nation in joblessness! Big deal that May unemployment rose 8.5%, up 2 points from April! The national average in May was already 5.5% and rising. And official figures don’t include people who have stopped looking for work, those who have just begun to look or are about to seek employment like “thousands of auto workers who are accepting buyout checks to drop off the payrolls of the companies that make autos or auto parts.”

Gramm and his ilk challenge PC behavior by continuing to buy SUVs. They scoff at “buy America” slogans. The want quality and US autos – and their sales—have gone South because foreign autos are better and production in Mexico is cheaper. “U.S. vehicle sales are expected to drop below 15 million this year. Three years ago, the industry sold 17 million cars and trucks.” (BW June 24 2008) “That’s free trade,” Gramm might say. “Live with it.” Perhaps GM, Ford and Chrysler will heed Obama’s “yes we can” chant.

Bring the mantra to Wall St. to tackle the financial slide? Tell police officers “yes we can” when they try to get the homeless and crazy people off the street, along with the addicted, depressed and recently “foreclosed.”

Respond with “Hope” when you read about soaring murder and violent crime rates in cities like Oakland, California, where the number of jornaleros on the street seems to rise as the number of available jobs diminish. Mock the growing number of people trying to augment their $300 “general assistance” checks by pushing shopping carts of cans and bottles to recycling centers.

The health care crisis has become truly hilarious. Surely there’s something funny about the poor having poor health and limited access to medical facilities. Do you get anxious about rising health care costs? The real joke is not one major candidate dares to offer the single payer option. They remember how the muscular health insurance companies pulled a fabulous gag on Bill and Hillary in 1993 and killed off all health care reform. Candidates understand humor. Single payer health plan? That’s a loser! Don’t go there!

Hey, readers might say, “Obama is much better than…” Of course, Democrats appoint better judges and heads of agencies, offer slightly more equitable tax structures and more spending on social issues. But they won’t touch the deep crises in health, education and infrastructure. They can’t spend what the Pentagon already spends. Everyone knows national priorities: waste money on the military first, social spending later. The Pentagon budget nears $600 billion, not counting nuclear weapons or “intelligence”—at a time when no nation threatens and demand for social spending becomes desperate.

George Carlin might have referred to the “celebrated military” as heroes who specialize in destroying, killing, and shattering the US reputation. Then, they send home the useless crippled young people and psychic wrecks. “Be all you can be and a lot less.”

Since 1945, the fabled Armed Forces didn’t win in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. They do well when no one fights back – Grenada, Panama, and Gulf War I, a technological massacre.

What quicker way to piss away tens of billions than awarding it to the CIA and other lettered agencies whose combined work yielded no help before 9/11 and little afterward? Nothing succeeds like failure. Look at our President! Each year, spooks get fat budgets for failing, while failing schools cut bus services and academic schedules to four-day weeks. The National School Boards Association reports that “at least 86 school districts are on four-day weeks.” In 2005, Webster County, Kentucky, by cutting off one day, saved “the district more than $400,000 so far.” School busses in Ohio stopped picking up kids living less than 2 miles from school. (Gwen Purdom, USA Today July 14, 2008)

Barack might change the priorities. Fund education and health, repair the infrastructure and cut the military budget; scrapping the drug war and relocate a stripped down CIA to the Library of Congress. My bookie offered me 100 to one against it.

SAUL LANDAU is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow, author of A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD (A/K-Counterpunch). Dvds of his films from http://roundworldproductions.com

 

 

 

 

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail