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The Importance of Hating All Kinds of Billionaires

“Some people say, well, taxes are regressive. But in this case, yes they are. That’s the good thing about them because the problem is in people that don’t have a lot of money. And so, higher taxes should have a bigger impact on their behavior and how they deal with themselves. So, I listen to people saying ‘oh we don’t want to tax the poor.’ Well, we want the poor to live longer so that they can get an education and enjoy life. And that’s why you do want to do exactly what a lot of people say you don’t want to do.

The question is do you want to pander to those people? Or do you want to get them to live longer? There’s just no question. If you raise taxes on full sugary drinks, for example, they will drink less and there’s just no question that full sugar drinks are one of the major contributors to obesity and obesity is one of the major contributors to heart disease and cancer and a variety of other things.

So, it’s like saying, ‘I don’t want to stop using coal because coal miners will go out of work, will lose their jobs.’ We have a lot of soldiers in the United States in the US Army, but we don’t want to go start a war just to give them something to do and that’s exactly what you’re saying when you say ‘well, let’s keep coal killing people because we don’t want coal miners to lose their jobs.’ The truth of the matter is that there aren’t very many coal miners left anyways and we can find other things for them to do. But the comparison is: a life or a job. Or, taxes or life? Which do you want to do? Take your poison.”—Michael Bloomberg

The corporate media, some of which is owned specifically by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and some of which are simply owned by “neutral” billionaires, always is hysterically attacking the health care plan of Bernie Sanders. They claim that Sanders plan will raise taxes on those who can’t afford it. But this is simply a lie. Sanders points to costs going down across the board for working and middle-class Americans.

The libertarian spirit of the American ruling class wants to make us fear taxes but shouldn’t we be more fearful of insurance companies who gouge us with the sole motive of profit? It is well known that the drugs they sell us are often useless or even unsafe and that life-saving drugs are treated like Uber fares and given an impossible hike for those who need them most. We know too that for as much as we hate the waste of our tax dollars on wars overseas many other countries have managed to make taxes far and away the most efficient way to provide for the masses. Bernie Sanders health care plan involves zero taxes for those making 29,000 and less. That’s 29,000 dollars to spend on soda.

Michael Bloomberg’s plan proves ideology no longer exists in late-stage capitalism. We should follow Ralph Nader’s lead and form a coalition between the poor on the left and the poor on the right. Traditional divisions of race, gender and religion are fading as capital asserts its supremacy but we shouldn’t stop there. We should also go as far as to break down the barrier of political ideology. The rich are engaging in a gotcha game. Trump cuts food stamps because you don’t deserve food, Bloomberg wants to tax you because you don’t deserve soda. The rich will take from the poor anyway they can.

There are only three reasons that I would identify as someone on the left side of the political spectrum, if I was forced to choose a false ideology. The first reason is the origin of the terms left and right, which originally referred to a geographic location of class. The left side was poor, the right side was rich. The second reason is that the fulfillment of leftism is communism: an uncompromising force that gives the government control of the rich and operates on a zero-tolerance policy for excess wealth. The fulfillment of rightism is fascism: an uncompromising force that gives the individual control of the individual and operates on a zero-tolerance policy for excess dissent.

This may not be how some see fascism operating but this will be better explained by my third distinction. The left operates on the false ideology of the positive and communal and the right operates on the false ideology of the negative and individual. What both sides miss perhaps can be demonstrated through the stereotype of Native Americans. I would argue both false ideologies play the material role of genocide via discourse. Not because the modern white subject necessarily wants the Native Americans to be slaughtered but because we have to explain why we already did it. Tragically and ironically this insistence on explaining evil through ideology rather than materialism only furthers the present-day neglect and by default premature death of this very same community that suppressed guilt is put upon. Self-serving history repeats. For the left, the Native American is virtuous and docile, for the right, the Native American is diseased and corrupted. Both are false and both assume an opposite force on the other side.

But what I would argue here is that the left is less false, if that’s possible. I do think that the assumption “humans are good, community is better” but only x y and z are bad is much better than the right’s assumption “humans are bad, community is worse” but x, y and z can free us to do something on our own. There is just less potential for the right I think. There is a conservatism to this approach which hits the ceiling before it needs to.

I think that this distinction between the everyday left and right is important to make. It is less distinct than the fulfillment of either communism or fascism but it remains where most of the action happens. Let’s make a sexual metaphor here, for the kids at home. Now this is going to be very heteronormative but please stay with me. The beautiful thing about modernity is that it forces us to know more than ideology can tell us. So this idea of “one man, one woman bla bla” is simply not good enough. Likewise, the dualism between left and right is problematized in today’s wild political times.

So we have to accept that the fulfillment of either the left or right ideology is violent because when the ideology is being actively fulfilled it is no longer ideology. The communist is not talking about health care for everyone abstractly but instead they are seizing what the rich has. This would likely be a physically violent encounter but more importantly, it operates as a rupture too extreme to operate in traditional political discourse commonly called democracy.

Fascism is also a violent encounter. Communism addresses excess, fascism addresses lack. Communism sees excess and takes it—brutally, and without mercy. Fascism sees lack and eliminates it—brutally, and without mercy. Capitalism has no ideological thrust, it operates on the self-interest of profit that is explicitly not political. But capitalism still creates both lack and excess. Fascism solves the problem of lack—not by eliminating lack itself but by eliminating the subjects who lack.

Trump claims the immigrants go to cages because they operate in excess. Trump knows that even his base has a communist ideology—which is why they always want to eliminate communists. They fear the rich so much they always want to be proving they are on their side. Although Trump and others know the base is not interested in what they don’t have… the excess of the rich, which cannot exist for the right because this is a war the right is not brave enough to fight. Instead, the language of excess is transferred to the Other. The immigrants are stealing jobs, women, etc. This is a language of excess but it is only transferred to the immigrant because the immigrant actually lacks. Therefore under the ideology of excess, the right can eliminate the subject who lacks. This in a backward logic makes sense. Once lack is eliminated the gap of excess is also lessened. But in reality, such a move only compounds lack and makes it a bigger problem to be eliminated which further distracts from excess.

One capitalist argument championed in The New York Times recently was that 2019 was the best year ever, which used a certain number of familiar modern tropes such poverty being eliminated through the market, technology improving life, women being liberated by capital, etc. All of which is true by the way. I don’t think it deals with lack or excess though. Particularly the ecological excess that will cause the entire species to perish very soon. But maybe that will be the “best” day because by the end we may be perishing at a rate that brings exceeding amount of excess pleasure to the rich.

Let’s return to Bloomberg through the lens of modernity. His thesis basically is the poor are self-destructive and it is the job of the rich to colonize their minds. Typical leftist response would be ideological: rich are destructive, poor have dignity, both are caricatures here. I like Zizek’s radical universality. So if Bloomberg’s big thing was to stop poor people from drinking soda I think we could trace a metaphor that’s psychoanalytic.

Bloomberg is far too specific when he claims poor people are self-destructive. My theory about the rich is that no one is more self-destructive than them. The goal of gaining absurd excess wealth is to eliminate all humanity from themselves, not from us. Because human nature is conflicting. What we want is not what is good for us or for each other. We are animals too. And that’s beautiful. Our moral code transcends desire but that’s only on an intellectual level, and that’s beautiful too. Probably the most beautiful part. So I don’t buy that humans are bad (the right) or humans are good (the left). We exist independently of our moral code but what takes us to a higher place is the application of said code upon an adjacent conscious being.

Now I think poor people are to Bloomberg as soda is to people. Bloomberg must have the poor act as this pleasure that destroys him and stimulates him. What if we put a tax on Bloomberg every time he talked about poor people as a group? Wouldn’t this stimulate the economy more than the pennies of the poor could? I am simply not convinced by the anti-soda campaign more than I would be the anti-drug or anti-sex campaign. Because the rich are the greatest perverts here. And I like the idea of being against perversion. We are that wild. If we just did what we wanted, we would be drinking soda, doing drugs and fucking all day. I don’t think this is a great idea. Sorry!

But I do think it’s a beautiful thing, or whatever. Speaking of perversion, I remember working a very boring job at an amusement park. It wasn’t very amusing. Yet right across from me was a zebra pen where the two zebras were banging constantly. I was totally fascinated by this. Here we had the zebras fulfilling a different function than the soda, poor people, etc. whatever the vice is. I actually think we can be intellectually stimulated without necessarily needing a conclusion, and it’s probably better that way. Ok so two zebras having sex was more interesting than kids eating cotton candy at the park. But so what? I kept asking Freud, trying to really feel some sort of perversion here. I really couldn’t. There is a difference between existence and excess. Now to exist is to want to be stimulated, to need to be tormented, etc. But any person who is not operating in excess or lack will not need to fulfill this perversion constantly or self-destructively.

Not that we should control desire but because of obligation to the Other desire is naturally controlled in people. This obligation to the Other is just as natural as desire itself and should not be suppressed either. It is only once we exit excess and lack that we exit narcissism which makes desire and it’s suppression a constant, overwhelming and actually destructive force rather than destructive in a petty casual way that the mediated person operates. Not that we should aim for some transcendence here. We are constantly at war with ourselves. Bloomberg hasn’t fought that war in a long time. He is a sick man. If the poor were soda, this vampire would have cavities. I don’t mind calling Bloomberg sick. I know he likes it. That’s why he imagines the looming masses as such.

Get my double meaning here. Bloomberg needs to punish poor people for the same reason we all (poor and rich) like soda. Soda fulfills a lack. Bloomberg’s entire existence is excess so he needs to extract from the Other. Returning to communism and fascism. Both fulfill the ideology and solve the problem. Which is why both are violent and both produce horrors. But what does capitalism do? Create lack and excess specially by not addressing either. Lack is not lessened through social welfare and excess is not lessened by progressive taxation.

If we were like Bernie and liked capitalism we would do these things. But no, we’re more like Bloomberg. Our instincts beg for this confrontation but modernity has successfully suppressed us. Which is not bad. Zizek likes to say Gandhi was more violent than Hitler because he actually changed society and in this sense I’m quite conservative here. I’m a modern subject. I don’t want confrontation. I like capitalism’s humming. But here’s the problem. Capitalism is on such a disaster course that excess and lack are staring us right in the face. Materially I mean. Not just inequality but real material questions of food and water and safety that have really accelerated under the Trump administration. Which is fascist. Which is unparalleled. Which is such a horrifying rupture. He is still underestimated.

What I am saying here is a confrontation is inevitable because capitalism can only do foreplay for so long. But what will this confrontation be? Will it be that of fascism where we try to eliminate lack by eliminating those who possess lack? Or will it be that of communism where we try to eliminate excess? Now I’m a pacifist here. No matter how rich you are I would be against a parallel program that bankrupts the rich into death, as Bloomberg, Trump and company do to the poor. What Sanders is purposing is decency, not just eliminating of excess. I like that corrective, which is a modern corrective of communism. But I don’t think he goes far enough. I think he underestimates how messed up the rich are in the head. We have to apply violence to the rich in a psychoanalytic way.

I almost forgot to use the sexual metaphor but I do like the idea of capitalism operating as foreplay before the climax. So heteronormative relations have a problem, right? The male has excess genitalia, the female lacks it. Most of the time we stay a step away from this problem that begs for completion. We play games, we flirt, we argue, etc. Just like capitalism has a class contradiction that we try our best to navigate without an explosion through reform, democracy, etc. But eventually, the difference becomes too obvious, and we must solve it. Fascism acts as penetration that appeases there male/dominant just as communism acts as engulfment that appeases the female/underdog, etc. So my point is the problem of lack and excess will inevitably be solved but we must decide how.

Still, the heteronormative assumption here is so precarious that I think I ruptured myself. What modernity asserts is something actually far more radical than even communism. Now I have my issues with the transgender erasure of the historic, present and future woman subject. I do. And I have a big problem with these women being silenced, fired and forced into male spaces. That’s a real issue. Just as bad as what is happening to trans folks—medical malpractice, sexual exploitation, economic dependence, work discrimination, homelessness, violence, racism, etc. is a big problem for BOTH communities which reasserts their sameness but this sameness also cannot be absolute. We can be on everyone’s side here.

Still I’m not quite asserting that. What I’m saying is actually the modern times so much problematize this traditional hierarchy with traditional solutions that we have no choice but to go beyond, even if there is some falsity to post-theory. We just can’t forget what we already know to be at least partially false. So just as we can’t solve the sexual problem through male and female creating babies, we can’t solve the capitalism problem with communism or fascism asserting their ideology in its place. Note that no one says they are communist or fascist anymore. It’s always foreplay discourse, even in extreme action. There’s a distance there: Medicare for all, build a wall, etc. Certian implications but all are implied.

So sex remains a question to be addressed, just as capitalism does. I think something really good has come out of modernity. The modern subject resists completion. We do not say: sex can be solved by fulfilling our desire. Neither do we say capitalism can be solved by a new ideology. The clarity of material class conditions are clear here as we no longer conform to certain definitions of our bodies or our political ideologies.

Bloomberg’s regressive taxation should clarify class conditions. And it’s tempting for libertarians to say: oh this proves us right. But look around. Things are cutting both ways. The rich should be taxed more. The poor should get more benefits. There’s coherent opposition to corporatism here that transcends ideology. If we can eliminate the sexual difference, we can eliminate the political difference.

However, this is still a complicated maneuver. To move beyond the excess-lack of male-female we must privilege the female or else we still have the original excess-lack problem we wanted to move past. This is what I try to tell my friends who want to end gender “today”. That’s not how it works. We have to do a lot of work first. The same is true for right-left excess-lack that explodes in communism or fascism when not addressed. We must privilege the left on our way out. The right must acknowledge it’s complicity and opportunism in the class warfare and make reparations, particularly on racial lines. A lot of work, surely. Yet proclaiming a construct as such is the beginning of this work, even if it’s not close to the end.

While I will always have sharp disagreements with those on the right, Bloomberg demonstrates that the ruling class succeeds because it has no coherent ideology, it simply has class interest. Along the way Bloomberg tries to teach the poor many lessons, but there is only one thing we should learn from him: ruthless class interest should exceed petty ideology.

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Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com 

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