Apathetic Losers or Leisure Users?



In the published responses to last week’s column on the death of the middle class, the always-ascerbic Keysbum dared to dump on me for “blaming the victims” of our “fascistic” corpora-tocracy. He’s right. I blame them for allowing and even helping create their own miserable job conditions. But I have reflected on Keysbum’s barbs and am playing with the idea: have the losers actually won?

My own shocking epiphany, which shocks even its creator, is that the same conservative politicians serving the corporations and top 1% may be serving the poor workers better than the poor have ever been served in history. In brief, the poor and blue-collar lower middle class, where I come from, don’t want the union factory jobs we have shipped overseas, even with their health care and fixed pensions. What they want is stuff. Tons of cheap, glittery stuff. And the corporats, with their bought-and-paid-for politicians, have given them more than we ever dreamed of having during our well-employed 1950s and ’60s.

For some years now I have taken the unique position that what is wrong with American democracy is not the corporations and their political lackeys. I have blamed the sacred American electorate. Not, to be clear, anyone who reads any journalism like the Blue Paper, who thinks, understands, and votes. But rather the impassioned Tea-Party types I have carefully described as “mean spirited idiots” and their contrapositives on the left, whom I will now describe provisionally as “apathetic losers.” These two groups have taken over enough of our elections that they have nurtured the corporate and political leadership that sends their jobs and pensions to China.

To briefly recap, the “mean spirited idiots” are the Tea Party types, the movement born of of resentment NOT at the bailout of the megabankers who caused the 2007 crash, but of the only steps being taken to help the victims, modifying their crooked mortgages. The Tea Partiers resent even benefits given to their own class–they can understand a mortgage modification, and if it is not their own, they don’t want anyone to get one. But spending a trillion dollars of stimulus money not to make job-creating loans, but rather to buy treasuries at zero percent from the Fed and collecting 1% by buying other treasuries on the open market, the Tea Partiers are just fine with that, because they are too stupid to understand–or, worse, they wish they could get a cut of that action themselves.

The most extreme version of the “mean spirited idiot” is my own flesh-and-blood brother. He started his own skin-head gang at 14, ahead of the curve, to hate Jews and Blacks, using the n-word. He went on to join the worst kind of motorcycle gang, the kind that dealt drugs and killed competitors. He’s lived a life on welfare and other government and family benefits. I cut off ties when my parents and sister died.

He votes republican because it’s the only time of the year when he can feel like a member of the ruling class, and because they hate Jews and Blacks the way he does, and scorns poor people like him as much as he scorns poor people and himself.  Really.  My god, this is harsh, but don’t tell me I don’t know what I am talking about, because I have lived with my brother and his ilk half my born days. I have standing to talk this way–and they deserve to be called out on it.

On the other side of the electorate are the poor and underemployed who bemoan their fate, but don’t do anything about it, like vote in their own best interests (wait, I am going to reconsider those best interests in a bit). I monitor the myriad media portrayals of working poor losing their jobs and living three families to an apartment for any indication these people even vote, much less actively work for their political best interests. I’ve seen one out of the last couple of hundred with a political poster on her wall.

I think the grandest and most self-destructive illusion of democracy, one that may kill it as a political dinosaur, is that the electorate is always right. When a public union member in Wisconsin votes for Scott Walker, as 37% of them did, or doesn’t vote at all, it is the fault somehow of the political left for not teaching and motivating them better. When they stay home in the off-year elections, without a charismatic president to lure them in the booths, that must be the fault of weak progressive candidates or the all-powerful Koch brothers and Karl Rove.

No. It is the fault of people who are so apathetic about their own fates they have self-made themselves into the losers they are, at least in the job world. Please, Keysbum and progressives of your ilk, make your excuses for them, stand on your head to blame me, yourself, and the Right for the legions who just sit and take it. They are victims in the sense that a homeowner who leaves his front door wide open and watches an 8-year-old skinny kid walk in and lift his wallet and iPad without lifting a finger to stop him is a victim. If the 99% voted their wallets, the 1% would have as much a chance of getting away with it as my figurative 8-year-old.

The above I have believed for years. Now for this week’s epiphany, thanks to Keysbum’s barbs. I remember 1958, the height of power for the working man. My dad fixed furnaces. His $ 8,000/year job gave us a three-bedroom (one tiny bath!) Milwaukee bungalow, a new Ford every two years, and a stay at home mom for us three kids. Steak once a week.  Cheap health insurance. A pension plan and job security. Everyone had what we had, and I was under the illusion I was middle class.

Friends’ dads worked building car frames at A.O.Smith down the street, or in German-style foundries. I lasted four 4-hour-days one summer when I tried a job there, a program the foundry owner had to give summer jobs to college smarties like me so we could see what the blue-collar industrial world was like. It was beyond miserable. Hot, sharp, heavy things, and an atmosphere reeking of gases inimical to human life. The senior guy with the best job did the same repetitive 22 movements every 3 minutes on a sand mold receiving hot molten steel sublimating into the air and our lungs. I worked long enough to pay for my very-necessary steel-toed boots and safety glasses and ran, lesson learned.

I remember 1958. I had an allergy but no Claritin, so was coughing and sneezing 8 months a year, with a cracked and always-running nose. My teeth were drilled constantly (no fluoride) with a slow drill. The new Ford had a metal dash which almost killed me when my dad made an emergency stop one day, and which stank of lead fumes you could smell across the street when we refueled. The steak was mostly gristle.  The corn on he cob fit for pigs. No zucchini or broccoli, exotic as truffles to us in Milwaukee. The only restaurant I can remember in my first 12 years was a hamburger at a local bar, and similar in cafes on our way to our “vacation,” which was mom and we kids crashing at our two grandpa’s in Upper Michigan for a month. We waded in frigid lake Superior until our legs turned blue in a few minutes. Our brand-new 12-inch black and white TV flickered constantly, and had 5 channels.

Compare that to what even the non-working poor have now, who neither get to nor have to work in that union foundry. Water parks without dead alewives washed up on shore. Disneyland-like theme parks everywhere. Cheap TVs as vivid as our movie theatre screens were. Cars with seat belts, air bags, padded dashes, and emissions controls.  Clean air.  Clean water. Cheap antihistamines. Moms with the right to jobs, not trapped in bad marriages as mine was.

And the electronics. Can you imagine taking away now what we in the 1950s could not have imagined? Our smart phones, with their self-dialing contacts lists, instant messaging, texting, and all-important cameras that make everyone a star of their own video world via the selfie, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, plus the ten things invented last month that heighten the stardom of everyone even more. The Internet with Google, ahhhhhh.

Everything above courtesy of the evil corporations that the “apathetic losers” have let the 1% create and own while destroying those union factory jobs they had in the 1950s. A secure job, self-respect on the employment front on the one hand. Lots of cheap stuff, a tasty $ 2 lunch at McDonald’s or 100 competitors, the water park and free internet videos on the other.  Maybe NOT “apathetic losers,” but “leisure users,” anyone?

Thanks for the slap upside the head, Keysbum.  Anyone else out there with some more enlightenment for now-humble Professor Boettger?

  No Responses to “Apathetic Losers or Leisure Users?”

  1. OMG.

    words fail(for now), my utter disbelief at what I just ingested; the sheer magnitude of the illiteracy exhibited in this article is staggering to say the least. or perhaps the author attempted to be satirical, and it just went way over my head.

    time constraints limit my response for now, but I will retort later on today. and yes, I promise to be acerbic and throw in a barb or two.

    you have a Ph.D. in business from Cal.??

  2. Although I am more towards Keysbum’s point of view with regard to this article, I will say this: when I found out that Ferguson, MO. was a majority black community and that it’s whole government apparatus was white, it justifiably annoyed me. I felt as if the Democrats really lost an opportunity, that being to chide the residents of Ferguson for not participating, in fact, it should have been their whole approach to the upcoming election, using Ferguson as the lynch pin. As for the rest, “stuff” does not cure ignorance and the poverty of spirit that goes along with it. Sure, “stuff” has been brought to the masses, but it comes without decent housing and things that are far more important. The question I ask you is this: has this ability to purchase some “stuff”, inconsequential, numb-nuts ‘stuff”, improved the quality of life for our most humble classes? I might also suggest that the “stuff” available when we were young was shared with about the same quantity by the poor as they share in the “stuff” of today, there is just more of it. In any event, I love your articles because they don’t hold back, they provoke. Good stuff.

  3. horror of horrors them tea partiers. out all night doing drugs sex and rock and roll. jeeze…I just can’t stand them tea party types who believe in the upholding of the constitution and libertarian ways of the rule of law applying to each person equally and self control in ones life and taking responsibility for ones actions ad infinitum. lets condemn that tea party philosophy since collectivism is way more acceptable because its not my fault anyway! the dog ate my homework.

  4. Great, heart felt rant. Loved it…, but you know me…old commie pinko fag, that I am.

  5. The suspense is killing me.

  6. Mr. Boettger, you are a bigot. Your proclamation that poverty is a lifestyle choice (you did state that right?) dictated by a compulsion to shun employment and wish nothing more than to accumulate “glittery stuff,” is manifestly prejudicial. It belies the fact that under the cloak of a brilliant academic mind (that would be you), there exists an ugly pathology and sophomoric world view that unfortunately most of the American population, in their addled, dancing-with-the-stars saturated brains, shares with you. To refer to people of disadvantage, who somehow fail to “measure up” to your exacting standards as “losers” is beyond reproach and truly speaks to your character and morality. In plainer language, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

    In what universe Mr. Boettger, are people shunning high paying industrial jobs that provide for a stable, solid, middle class life? What parent is forgoing that job with health benefits for his family to acquire the latest iPhone? I guess you were out polishing your diplomas all those days that it was reported thousands of people showing up to apply for a few poorly paid positions at WalMart and McDonalds, among others, eh?

    Now, let’s move on to your article. Once again, you blame the victim. It is the workers fault for the deteriorating job conditions they countenance. It is the fault of the poor slob, now out on the street, for watching his job evaporate only to see it reappear in China, or Viet-Nam, or where ever. Yes, if that poor schmuck had only majored in Nuclear Engineering, or got a Ph.D. from Cal, or just had a little more drive and ambition, he wouldn’t be in the mess he’s in. I guess all that glittery stuff is just too distracting.

    You can not honestly believe that with recent voting history still clearly in the rear view mirror, that your vote, or anyone’s vote counts. If we just vote the bums out, right? Please then, explain to me how Congress’ approval routinely polls in the single digits, while just as routinely they are re-elected at an above 90% clip? How does Rick Scott, at the helm of the biggest medical fraud case in history, get elected Governor in a state filled with retirees reliant on the medical industry?

    It’s because you may cast the vote my friend, but it is someone else who counts it. It doesn’t matter how informed, or passionate a voter you are, the people elected to national office are selected for you. You have NO say in who they are, and they care NOTHING for you or me. If the 2008 financial crisis did not convince of that, then nothing will. Why are there trillions for banks, billions for war, and not even pennies for SNAP, child care, education, unemployment benefits, and any other social program, that you know, actually help people?

    So please, spare me the self righteous indignation of people voting against their self interest, or not voting at all (I don’t). It is an exercise in futility at best, and a mean illusion supporting a hopelessly corrupt and vile system at worst.

    While I find your ignorance of the faux system you believe really exists annoying and mildly amusing given your academic background, it is your hatred of the poor that is most disturbing. Your belief that they are losers, undeserving of even the most basic of necessities and pleasures is nothing short of disgusting.
    But it really boils down to the fact that you do not understand the economics of the world. If you did, you would realize that these people you so despise have been purposely impoverished. Their homes, their jobs, their safety nets, have all been siphoned off to make them dependent and compliant. And make no mistake, you and me are next.

  7. I am wondering how Sister is taking this, and Wankjam. I don’t think Keysbum got the main point of the column, which is even in the title: that is, the poor are NOT “apathetic losers,” but, in my epiphany, seem to be in effect “leisure users.” I am if anything standing on my head to give credit to the poor, for working less and having more not only of trinkets but of the material goods of life my forebears lacked.

    Who despises the poor? I, who credit them with the ability to change their lives through class consciousness and using their democratic franchise more assiduously, or Keysbum, who says they are helpless against the omnipotent overlords? Note that they elected a black president, and then re-elected him during unprecedented high unemployment for any re-elected president. Against equally unprecedented overlord funding, whoever was counting the ballots. They can do it, and I believe they should.

    You don’t vote. Thank you for clarifying.

    My grandpa worked for 17 years in the copper mines of upper Michigan. Pinkertons came in once a year and shot a few of the union organizers. Miners died one per month from hideous working conditions. My mom, sister, and brother never went to college. I might know well and love a lot more poor people than you do, Keysbum.

    I wish you could channel your considerable writing talent and passion into a plan, any plan, to help fix things. I want to motivate the poor to vote. Or their sympathizers, like you.

    I’ll weigh in further if other readers wish.

  8. “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.” ― Mark Twain

    In order to fix things you would need to know the truth of the situation. The who, what, when, where, why and how. In other words, you need to get to the root of the problem in order to solve it.

    “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” -Voltaire

    ….does too big to fail come to mind?

    All this incessant talk about Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, liberal, conservative, black, white blah, blah, blah sounds so ignorant to me I just can’t stands it anymore.

    For myself, I lean more toward being an anarchist…no masters, no slaves.

    I believe Keysbum is much closer than most to understanding the root of the problem.

  9. back peddle much Rick?

    I realize my cognitive abilities are fading with age, and my sardonic, yet rapier wit has dulled considerably, but I can still read, and comprehend what I read with lucidity and retentive adroitness. what you authored was a diatribe against a class of people stripped of their livelihoods, homes, and hope, by another class of people who can only be defined as sociopathic predators. you further debase these people by decrying them for possessing “glittery stuff” that you have decided is unwarranted in their possession.

    I am at my place in the Keys this weekend, and now have to take the S.O. out to Roostica for dinner. I will write more later.

    but in the meantime consider that your thesis is borne out of a belief that the system you see in front of you is real and legitimate. the genesis of my themes are that there is another system at work, one that you do not see, understand, or like most, refuse to accept or even acknowledge.

    if you can open your mind to the possibility that what you think you see is not real, then perhaps you can begin to understand what is happening in the country and indeed the world.

  10. On a side note…I think the Watherwax portrait of Stacy and Daisy is the absolute most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. That is what mothers are meant to be doing…not fighting for their right to jobs…in my sometimes not so humble opinion of course.

  11. Mr. Boettger, let me approach this in a different way. your doctorate is in organizational behavior, is it not?

    a nation, state, county, city, town, and businesses are all forms of organizations. all organizations have a hierarchical structure; that is, there is the leadership, endowed with power and authority, that is filtered down through the ranks of the organizations members. now, the leadership, in terms of numbers, is usually dwarfed by the people they lead, who, even though superior in number, still succumb to the wishes of the leadership. as you know, this is because the ORGANIZED minority always has the advantage over the UNORGANIZED majority. with me so far?

    now,that minority leadership invariably resorts to organizing their organization to reflect there own self interest. in the case of our country, these people are going to organize society in a way that benefits them at the expense of everyone else. they are going to concentrate political power into doing their bidding by buying them off, and thus position themselves to be the beneficiaries of great wealth while the vast majority are left fighting over scraps. make sense so far? sound like any country near you?

    let me give you some facts: 1% of americans own 40% of the wealth of this country. the bottom 80% of Americas own just 7% of the country’s wealth.

    now, with this wealth disparity, and hence POWER disparity, tell me again how your vote counts? explain to me why any politician would listen to what you have to say, or care? you are not their constituent. you are not the one who put them in office; you are not the one making them rich. explain to me why the people in charge, the .001%, would allow you to have any say in what goes on their organization?

    the fact is they do not, and will not, ever, by their own volition.

    so go ahead and vote. protest all you want. it doesn’t matter and never has. your leaders are selected and pre-approved for you. the course this country, indeed all countries, take, is determined not by the governments you see, but the people that bought them. it’s right in front of you to see; tell me what changed between bush and Obama?

    so Mr. Boettger, go ahead and blame the poor for their plight if you like. but to fail to understand the world in which you live, when the facts are there for you to see, is intellectually lazy, and perpetuates the problem. I may not have all the answers, but at least people like me, of my “ilk” as you said, are willing to pull the wool from over our eyes and see things for what they are, and not for what they are intended.

  12. Huh? Voting didn’t give us women’s right, public schools, 40hr work week, civil rights act, social security, medicare and medicaid, food assistance, minimum wage, workers compensation, environmental laws, safe abortions, consumer protections, and the right to health care? Voting don’t change nutin? Wow, so glad I read this paper and my computer has build in dictionary or I’d know nutin.

  13. A prime example of a calcified pineal gland.

  14. thanks sister… couldn’t have said it better myself. I wasn’t going to bother to reply to pfurey, because, really, what would be the point?

    looks like Mr. Boettger has retired from the field of play. that’s most unfortunate.