Where’s the Sanity Clause?

Walking into a San Francisco bar, I saw Chico, a guy I knew in the 1960s. We had run into each other at anti-war marches, sit-ins for equal hiring practices and other popular political activities of the times. Over beer, we overheard a nearby couple discussing the November 2 elections. “Man,” I told him, assuming he still had those hippy, lefty values of the old days, “the Democrats haven’t sold themselves well on the jobs bills, the health plan incomplete as it is; and in the good work they’ve done keeping teachers in schools and helping students get loans.”

He sort of half sniffed, half sneered. “I’m not a Democrat.”

“Yes,” I continued, assuming he was a Green, or Peace or Freedom Party member, “but I assume you’ll still vote for them because if the Republicans win they’ll start reducing taxes for the wealthiest while cutting back on government spending for the neediest. Same old crap and we’ll go from bad to terrible.”

He sipped his beer and turned to me. “I’ve had it with the liberal tax and spend Democrats. Year after year they piss away hard-earned dollars on welfare cheats and lazy people.”

I couldn’t believe my ears.

“You’re a Republican? Hey, I remember you when you got food stamps – along with half the people I knew. I think I even remember you standing next to me on the unemployment line. You think unemployment insurance should be abolished along with food stamps?”“I can’t believe you still fall for that bleeding heart line,” he responded, without not so much as a smile. “The poor have had their chance and they’ve blown it.”

“Are you kidding? The poor get laid off, evicted, denied health coverage. The Republicans represent the wealthiest people and hypocritically pretend to speak for everyone. I mean who but multimillionaires and fanatic soldiers of God on Earth would even glance at GOP candidates? Go back to what Reagan’s voodoo economics created and then W. Bush who converted a Clinton surplus into a trillion plus deficit,” I nearly shouted.

“Really?” he said. “Don’t you think if God intended everyone to share he would have given us guidance to do so? You think I should fork over my money to people who can’t pay their mortgages? Where does it say in the Bible we should take care of deadbeats?”

“Now you even believe in God?” I sneered. “But not Jesus and the meek inheriting the earth? You’d rather see them on the street? They didn’t shut down the factories or construction projects. They lost their jobs through no fault of their own. That’s why they couldn’t pay off their loans. I suppose you’d deny them health coverage as well.”

“Darn right I would. Obama’s health plan encourages euthanasia,” he said accusingly. “John Boehner, the House Republican Leader, warned the bill would take us down a treacherous path. They’d pull the tubes on my grandma.”
Ridiculous,” I sneered. “Your grandmother’s been dead for decades and the bill doesn’t force anyone to even discuss that end of life stuff.”

“In this country,” he puffed his chest, “with all its opportunities people should stand or fall on their own. That’s America. I feel no obligation to share any of my hard earned money with those that don’t have it or pissed it away or get laid off or whatever.”

“When I knew you in the 60s you lived off the dole,” I said, recalling him as an occasional street person who smoked weed and dropped acid. “How’d you turn your life around?”

He sipped the last of his beer and faced me when he said: “I made my fortune the old-fashioned way.”

“No kidding. You opened a factory or some dot.com business?”

“I inherited it,” he said proudly. “My father cashed in on his informal dealing of pot, acid, and speed, and then all the uppers, downers and sideways drugs of the time. He invested his profits in San Francisco real estate, sold at the height of the market and now I live in Piedmont [ritzy section of Oakland] thanks to his hard-earned money.”

“Don’t you have any of your old values or ideals?

“I still remember Marx said ‘material conditions determine consciousness’.” He should have added ‘immediately’. “I feel no guilt or remorse. I didn’t understand how good it would feel to be rich – but having money also costs money and I’m not about to give mine away by voting Democrat.”

“So, you’ve re-written the old social contract of citizens’ obligations to society to suit your new position of wealth? You’ve even done away with equivalent of the social sanity clause.”

“Of course,” he replied, “everyone knows there’s no sanity clause.”

SAUL LANDAU is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. CounterPunch published his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD



More articles by:

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

March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography