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Politics, poker and manufacturing poor people

January 5, 2015

It was inevitable that the 2016 election season would start approximately .001 seconds after the 2014 midterms ended, if for no other reason than the presence of the two dynastic political families currently prominent in American politics.

Although at least as of today none of the big names are actually running, the assembly line is starting to get fired up.

When the Democrats anointed Hillary Clinton as their chosen one, the Republicans had to come up quickly with a candidate with sufficient name recognition to counteract her influence. They had to work at it, but apparently Jeb Bush is the man of the moment. Time will tell if these two names have been recycled once too often, but for now they are in the moment.

Of course the far ends of both political parties need their bowsprits too, and at least for now that seems to be Elizabeth Warren on the left, and Mike Huckabee,  Chris Christie and Rand Paul on the right.

All of these people have one thing in common. To  get elected, they need people to donate money and vote for them.

Politics is like a never-ending game of high-stakes poker. To do well at either one, you need a lot of chips.

That’s where the manufactured poor come in. At election time, the person with the biggest stack of chips on the table at the end is the winner, and voters are the chips for politicians.

Politicians need people to be poor (or economically disadvantaged if you want to be PC) to have a market for what they are selling, and what normally sells the best is “free stuff.”

People want to have a better life, and they are willing to suspend disbelief if they think it might get them that life. Everyone knows that the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 175,223,510, but that doesn’t decrease ticket sales. People keep playing because even if they can’t win the whole thing, the minor prizes are better than nothing.

That’s the idea behind politics too. Politicians are masters of promising big jackpots and delivering smaller ones.

Let’s face it, if you are sitting in a decent home, eating a good steak every few days and driving a car that’s less than five years old, you probably don’t give a damn about who is running for president in your day-to-day life.

On the other hand, if getting a good steak means getting to the road-killed cow before the sanitation department does, you are looking for something better.

In the past dozen years or so, government policies and the usual players who create them have seemingly gone out of their way to not just exploit the poor, but to create a lot more of them.

By far the group who has been the best at that recently is the Democratic party. Seldom has any decade seen a more concerted effort to recruit folks into the ranks of the economically disenfranchised, even if that means bending a few laws here and there.

If you didn’t feel poor before, there are lots of people out there who will do their utmost to make sure that you not only feel poor, you are poorer. It seems that every so-called policy to “level the playing field” has had that effect.

Maybe at some point this approach did arise out of sincere good intentions, but the end result often doesn’t result in a better quality of life. In too many cases, the people promising the goodies know that. They are simply buying more chips.

Look at the real impact of the ACA. Outside of its dubious effectiveness in giving less than 25% of the truly needy government-paid health insurance, its real impact has been its effect on the middle class, particularly that segment known as the lower middle-class.

The demise of the 40-hour workweek, the government tax on people who even with subsidies still can’t afford health insurance and thus haven’t purchased it, and the disincentive for employers to provide company-paid insurance have not made America better. It has pushed a lot of people to the very edge, if not over, the descending side of the poverty line.

Environmental policies are moving ever more companies to leave the U.S. or at the very least to outsource or automate significant portions of their workforce needs.

The wholesale legalization of 5 million people may look like a good idea from a PR viewpoint, but when these people decide that they don’t want to pick fruit or clean toilets for a living anymore, there is less upward mobility available to them than at almost any time in the past.

Looking back, how about the push to put people into homes they either couldn’t afford, or whose expected increase in earning power couldn’t materialize?

Forgotten or at least underpublicized in the rush to punish Wall Street is the problem that created the meltdown in the first place. The problem of financially unsound mortgages was created by politicians, via a misguided but very well marketed social policy that required banks to make loans they would have never previously considered without the legislation.

The mantra of “We want jobs” is nothing short of ridiculous if we are exporting or destroying jobs as a fact of implementing a political theory.

For all of Jonathan Gruber’s richly deserved and well-earned ostracism, his only real sin other than being an ivory tower elitist was being brutally honest and providing a window into what his brand of political theorists really think of American voters.

Elections today are all about who can devise the best betting strategy. Like card cheats throughout history, politicians try to keep at least one card up their sleeve, and that card is to keep manufacturing an economic underclass.

That probably isn’t what Americans want when they say we need to bring manufacturing back to the U.S.

We’ll just have to wait and see who winds up with the biggest stack of chips at the end of this round of play.

Maybe it’s time to ask for a new deck, a different game and a better product.

From → op-ed

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