Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fasten your Seat Belts

Earlier this summer, conservative columnist George Will was on the Colbert Report (yeah, Colbert is one of my guilty pleasures). During the interview, Will stated (I’m paraphrasing here), that the difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives value freedom above all else, while liberals value equality above all else.

Of course, when they talk about freedom, they are referring to the “free market” not freedom of reproductive choice or freedom from warrant-less surveillance. But, I’ll accept the questionable tenet that conservatives love Freedom, if Will accepts the truth of that old right-wing trope, “freedom is not free.” The last few days have reminded us that the so called “free” market is built on the backs and paid for out of the wages of the working class. We produce the goods and services that power the “real economy.” (btw, I’ve heard that expression “real economy” several times in the last few days and would be grateful if someone could explain it to me. What the hell else is there but the “real economy”? The “fantasy economy?” That would explain a lot.) The CEOs who received multi-million dollar payouts while they were crashing our “real economy”? Those payouts came out of the salaries of the secretaries, IT staff, building maintenance workers, etc. etc. Middle class wages have remained stagnant or have dropped in real dollar value, while the share of the nation’s income going to the top 1 percent of wealth-holders increased from 15.8 percent in 2002 to 20.0 percent in 2006. Not since 1928, just before the Great Depression, has the top 1 percent held such a large share of the nation’s income. It's deja vu all over again, campers.

The public infrastructure that makes a free market possible, the roads, ports, and railroads for transporting products, schools to educate workers, health care to keep them on the assembly line, none of it is free; it all costs money. I personally think that health, education, welfare, and public infrastructure have value that goes far beyond the financial. Even if profit is your highest value, you must acknowledge that old capitalist saw: you’ve got to spend money to make money. But, the oligarchs haven’t been willing to spend money on the public good, have they? Taxes are the new red scare. For a capitalist economy to function in a sustainable manner, individual rights must be balanced with community responsibilities, but don’t tell that to Dick Cheney. You’ll end up on somebody’s watchlist.
The Bush administration cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans while simultaneously pouring money down the rat hole of Iraq. They spent billions of dollars that they didn’t have, but the criminals who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks have not been brought to justice and Al Qaeda has reconstituted itself in Pakistan. They spent billions on Homeland “Security,” but couldn’t be bothered to evacuate New Orleans before Katrina and haven’t managed to rebuild the city since. They talk about fiscal discipline but spend money like a drunken sailor, cut taxes on the wealthiest 1%, turn their eyes while the oligarchs drain our economy dry, and when the bill comes due, they sell more T-Bills to China. The dollar is in the toilet, the nation is on the verge of the biggest economic crash since the Great Depression, and they have to unmitigated gall to scold Americans for “living beyond their means.” Living beyond their means? What else has the Bush Administration been doing for the last 8 years?

It’s a scary, world Campers.

Monday, September 8, 2008

HAMFIST - upcoming events and stray thoughts

Craving your Ham-fix?

Sept 12th
Ashland Elks Club
(this is a low key, acoustic affair around the piano with No Joe)

Sept 28th
OSF Green Show

Sept 29th
Ashland Armory
21 and over, $20 admission. We're playing a 20 minute warm up set for a women-centric burlesque show. We've settled on a set list, but I would love to hear your input on the most important issue: WHAT THE HELL SHOULD I WEAR?

Nov 8th
Wine Auction

Dec 5th
OSF craft fair

The members of Hamfist continue to grapple with the eternal existential issues: Who are we? What are we doing? Are we a string band? A folk-rock band? A country-comedy act? We have so many musical axes to grind and each of us brings our own strengths and preferences. The beautiful thing is that we all make space for what the others want to do. There's a real generosity of spirit here, and it's precious to me.