When it comes to African American history we celebrate many black firsts. We celebrate Jackie Robinson as the first black major league baseball player. We celebrate the late great Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as the first, and in many respects only, black to serve on the nation’s highest court. Many blacks who are the first to achieve a certain status or a specific goal are in our history books to be remembered.
The same holds true for women. Everybody knows Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman on the high court. Madeline Albright was the first woman to serve as the nation’s Secretary of State. Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to run as number two on a presidential ticket, beating former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin by about seventy five IQ points. We celebrate a lot of female firsts as well.
Firsts are an integral part of our culture. Neal Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. George Washington was the first President of the United States. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first men to successfully reach the top of Mount Everest and climb down to talk about it. Charles Lindbergh was the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic. Yuri Gagarin is acknowledged as the first man to fly into space. Chuck Yeager was the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound. First is something people often look back on as something significant. But sometimes, someone is first to do something and people have to scratch their heads and ask why would somebody want to be known for that.
When it was announced that Condoleezza Rice, the second Secretary of State in the George Bush, Jr. administration after Colin Powell, the first black Secretary of State, resigned, and Darla Moore, a highly successful executive in the banking, would be the first women to join the infamous Augusta National Golf Club, I wondered to myself why would they want to be members of a golf club that worked so hard for so long to deny women the privilege of membership. What would be the attraction of being the first women in an organization so discriminately sexist?
Obviously, at least for a lot of people who follow the happenings in professional golf that extend beyond the usual Tiger Woods blather, membership at Augusta is about as close to the holy grail as it gets. But it should also be obvious that these same people who hold Augusta on such a high pedestal really don’t care about such things as gender equality. Treating women fairly is secondary to membership in an organization with a history of blatant discrimination. And when people are so willing to tolerate this anti social behavior in our midst, when we reward prestige to those who openly practice discrimination, it becomes harder to inspire such an organization to change. That type of discrimination might have been acceptable back when pilgrims landed on Plymouth rock. But today, such a practice belongs in our past like the bubonic plague.
I have to admit, if I was offered membership in an organization with a history of racial or gender discrimination, I doubt if I would bother wasting my time trying to become a member. Maybe if the organization took steps to show proof of a change in some significant way and make some type of amends for past behavior I might think differently. But to just say that we now changed our mind and women and/or minorities are now welcome to join falls a little short in my book. That’s probably why I’d never be the first one to benefit from all the hard work put forth by others to change injustice.
Jackie Robinson did a lot to help integrate baseball along racial lines. Although he was the first black to benefit from the change in the rules barring black people, a lot of white people weren’t so ready for the Rainbow Coalition and went out of their way to try and make Mr. Robinson’s baseball life a miserable hell. And he knew that he had an obligation to suffer through it if he wanted other black people to follow in his footsteps for an opportunity to professionally play the game.
With all that said, I have to congratulate Ms. Rice and Ms. Moore for becoming the first female members of Augusta and for helping to break down the walls of gender inequality. I’m sure they will have their trials and tribulations from being first. But then that’s why their achievement will be recognized in the future as another step towards a more perfect union between men and women. Many future women, men, golfers, and a lot of other people are counting on them.
I don’t plan on staying in Missouri for long. One of the main reasons for moving back here was to take care of my Mom. She passed away a couple of months ago so that tether has gone. And the local school system has been woefully neglectful when it came time to enroll my son in school. We tried to get him enrolled in a school better capable to meet his educational needs last year. We found out just two weeks ago that he would have to enroll in one of the failing schools in the area where nobody wanted to go. He has special needs and he needs more attention than the average little joe. So why would we settle for what they want to give the rest of community? So why would we stay in a city that refused to do anything to meet our needs? We tried to be more inner city oriented. We discovered that it isn’t the neighborhood that fails to help the black community. It is St. Louis City and Missouri State government that has made our stay here intolerable. Sorry people, but since you refuse to act like you want my business, I’ll take it elsewhere. Like Mitt Romney I like firing people who fail to offer me services.
To that, add the fact that I really don’t care for Missouri Senator the Democrat Claire McCaskill. I understand that the state is going more and more to the conservative right. Missouri used to be a bellwether state, predictably voting for the President of the United States every election since Abraham Lincoln give or take a POTUS or two. But in 2008, the state went more conservative than most and went for John McCain as Barack Obama took the White House. Ever since then the state that produced such notable conservatives as Rush Limbaugh is letting its conservative colors show.
The Republican National Committee knows this too. They know that Missouri is going more and more conservative and they smell blood in the water. They see that Senate incumbent Ms. McCaskill is probably the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate. So the GOP is trying to use the conservative’s general dislike of Mr. Obama against Ms. McCaskill, showing her and Mr. Obama standing together in a lot of their local campaign commercials. And in response, Ms. McCaskill is stiff arming Mr. Obama and the Democratic party so as not to look too liberal, kind of the way Mr. Obama sometimes stiff arms the black community. She has to appeal to conservatives so she does her best to manifest a neutral political demeanor. She really doesn’t convince me that she’s a politician willing to fight for my interest. Polls show her trailing her opponent. Now that I’m leaving the state, I really don’t care what happens.
But while the alleged liberal tries to be neutral and cater to conservatives just as much as she caters to liberals, Congressman Todd Akin, the conservative guy on the ticket, is doing nothing of the sort. He’s a hardcore conservative with traditional conservative values oozing out every pore of his being. This guy can make Michele Bachmann almost look like a reasonable alternative. The key word is almost. If politics were a poker game, dude would be doubling down, tripling down, and doing a couple more downs after that. And if the majority of people of Missouri want such a man as this to represent their interests, why in the world would I want to hang around. But after his interview with local television station KTVI this past Sunday, I think even the people of Missouri are waking up and taking another look of the deep seated crazy they may be about to embrace and send to Washington, D.C. to represent the state.
Mr. Akin went on record to say that, as far as he understood from “doctors” a woman becoming pregnant after being raped is a rare event because if it was a “legitimate” rape the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
Christmas came very early for Ms. McCaskill. And if she’s able to defend her seat and help her party maintain their Senate majority, Christmas came very early for the Democrats as well. The Republican National Committee knows this too. They can see their chance to retake the Senate slipping away like voting rights. What may have looked like a sure thing just a little while ago has turned into anything but. And the GOP has shifted into damage control and recovery mode. Mr. Akin is now facing a fury of calls from the leadership in his own party to drop out of the Senate race so that they can get someone else to run against Ms. McCaskill.
In order to act like he really hasn’t lost his mind, Mr. Akin released a new campaign ad early Tuesday apologizing for his comments about rape and asking for forgiveness. In an attempt to shift into reverse and back off his foot that ended up in his mouth, Mr. Akin said that rape is an evil act. He went on to say that he simply used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that he apologized. He said he had a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault and says that he prays for them. I’m sure he does pray. Pray that this whole ordeal can be put behind him, right where GOP leaders have their foot up his ass. Even Mitt Romney condemned the remarks saying that they were offensive. You know it takes a lot to get Mitt to express an opinion on an issue that isn’t about how bad Mr. Obama is for the economy.
In an interview on Mike Huckabee’s radio show, Akin apologized for his comments but said that he would not drop out of the race because he’s no quitter. He never said that he wasn’t dumb as all hell. Following the interview with Mr. Huckabee Mr. Akin tweeted that he was in this race to win and that we needed a conservative Senate. He has a new campaign set to hit the airwaves the day after the conservative super PAC Crossroads GPS announced it was pulling money to assist Mr. Akin in his race for the Missouri Senate.
Claire McCaskill may have dodged a bullet but there’s still a chance that Missouri voters will embrace crazy. A lot of conservative politicians have seen what happens when they go off the deep end with right skewed rhetoric. There has been a rush to the right for many politicians, Mitt Romney being just one of them. Michele Bachmann got a lot of attention after she accused Hilary Clinton’s assistant Huma Abedin of consorting with terrorists. It worked for Alan West when he said that Communist had infiltrated the Democratic Party. It worked for a lot of politicians who say Mr. Obama needs to release his real birth certificate and not that Photoshop job from Hawaii. And as long as we see politicians embracing conservative rhetoric and being rewarded for it, a lot of politicians are going to try and push that envelope further to the right.
But when some politicians go too far, the GOP wants to try and distance themselves from their wayward brethren in a bid to try and minimize the ugliness of their political stance. Many conservatives say that they believe that there is no justifiable reason for abortion. Period! So when one of their politicians follows that hard line with rhetoric that gives the public a glimpse at the naked truth. Whether or not it is legitimate rape or not, forcible rape or not, it is the position of conservatives that abortion is not an option. He might have said it in a rather ignorant way, but it is what a lot of conservatives want to hear.
When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States back in the 2008 elections, it didn’t take long for people totally against his very being to retaliate. Before he could even set foot in the White House as its legal resident, people were putting together political rallies promising to take their country back. I thought it was a rhetorical statement, so I rhetorically asked take the country back from whom? I also asked take the country back where? I saw a lot of people in tricorn hats with tea bags hanging off of them promising a return to old fashioned family values. I had imagined a lot of these people wanted to go back to something resembling the fifties social structure lovingly depicted in episodes of Leave It To Beaver or My Three sons where men went to work, women stayed at home, and everything that was wrong in the world could be made right again in thirty minutes with a good lecture from dad.
This was the world I imagined a lot of people wanted to go back to. It’s the type of world where black people knew their place and it wasn’t next to Wally and Beaver. Minorities existed but they were out of sight for the most part. As former Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour would say, when he was growing up back in the day everybody got along because the town leaders wouldn’t accept any trouble out of anybody. Considering he grew up in fifties Mississippi, it’s not hard to conclude that few towns had black people as leaders. Mississippi invented the term “sundown town”. It doesn’t take much imagination to wonder what those good white town leaders would do with black people who tried to buck the status quo. There’s little tolerance for black people who tried to stir things up.
Fifties Mississippi is one of those places I think of when I think of black people being denied their humanity. There was no right for black people to vote. There was no right for black people to enjoy the same quality of life white people enjoyed. And black people who didn’t know their place and stepped out of line where dealt with harshly. White people obviously loved the time of blatant black people suppression. It probably was part of their system of values. But for most black people, I imagine it was the closest thing to the days of hell when America’s institutionalized enslavement of black people was the law of the land.
People in the United States should look back at this time in our collective and hang our heads in shame. We were supposed to be the democratic model for the rest of the world and yet our white ancestors did everything they could to foster racial inequality. We often say that those days are over and that we would never allow such a thing to happen again. And yet, in twenty first century America, right after a black man had the audacity to win the highest public office in our land and people in tricorn hats promised to take their country back, we see more examples of things going back to the way it was six decades ago.
In twenty first century America individual states are suddenly passing voter identification laws that are predicted to have an adverse impact on the black community. These laws are justified under the excuse that voting fraud is becoming pandemic. Since we must do something to keep the less than one case per state per year average of voting fraud instances from getting out of hand, we have to implement new identification standards that has the potential to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands if not millions of voters, the vast majority of which are minorities who just so happen to vote for people like Barack Obama. These people are less likely to look back on the culture of the fifties with adoration. If anything, that pre civil rights era was a nightmare of epic proportions for people of color. It was awful. And whenever somebody brings up America’s history of blatant racism and racial discrimination, many people claim that such a thing could never happen again because we have learned from our past mistakes.
But here we are just a few years after people promised they would take their country back. Now I know that they meant taking the country back to a time when people were denied their right to vote unless they paid good money to get the necessary documentation to prove that they are entitled to a free voter identification card. What is essentially a poll tax is happening right here in the twenty first century because four years ago a black man had the audacity to think that his place was in the White House, far outside the norm of acceptable behavior for people of color.
The issue of voter fraud is nothing more than a smoke screen. Voter fraud has never been proven to be widespread. It has never been used to change the outcome of an election. But the same can’t be said about all of the new voter identification laws that are being enacted across the country. The right to vote that people have died for is being taken away without much in the way of a fight. People are losing their right to vote until they can prove beyond a shadow of doubt that they in fact are so privileged. One conservative politician actually promised that the new voter identification laws in Pennsylvania was going to put Mitt Romney in the White House. People know the true intent of what’s really going on here.
The people in the tricorn hats like to say that they are all for freedom and for the preservation of the United States Constitution and are all patriotic dressing up in their red, white, and blue Uncle Sam outfits or in some New England settlers getup. They like to talk about personal rights and how important it is for them to be protected from the evil terrorists who want to destroy this country with their weapons of mass destruction. And yet, these same people can turn right around and applaud as the voting rights of their fellow Americans are taken away by our own politicians with the much more massive weapon of destruction called the pen that can take people’s rights away with a single stroke. That pen is so powerful it can turn back the hands of time and transport us all back into fifties era Mississippi. Three years ago when they said they wanted to take their country back I didn’t think they meant that literally.
Vanessa Bryant, wife of basketball player Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, wants everyone to know that if you can’t win championships then you need to keep stepping. In an interview with New York magazine about the lives of basketball wives, Ms. Bryant revealed that any man she calls husband must be a champion. In an interview with New York magazine’s Vanessa Grigoriadis, Ms. Bryant said that she certainly would not want to be married to somebody that can’t win championships. She went on to explain that if a man is sacrificing time away from his family and his wife for the benefit of winning championships, then winning a championship should happen every single year. It’s just that simple. This comes from a woman whose greatest gift to humanity is dancing in a video.
To be fair, Ms. Bryant is busy spending her days raising two daughters, nine years old Natalia Diamante and six years old Gianna Maria-Onore. But really, how hard could that job be when you and your husband are worth a trazillion dollars? If Ms. Bryant was married to the average joe with the average income from an average job I’d be more willing to give her a lot more credit for her job of mother. But when you’re husband is earning a paycheck with more zeroes than the Japanese fleet during World War II it’s pretty hard to claim hard work at home.
That is not to say that Ms. Bryant isn’t a good mother or doesn’t have hardship in her life. Being married to one of the most recognizable celebrities on the planet is bound to have its ups and downs. Especially when you take into consideration that Ms. Bryant has had to deal with infidelity from her superstar husband and all kinds of violations into her privacy by the paparazzi and the rest of us with a voyeuristic interest in her life. Her life is far from a walk in the park. Whose life is? But like a good wife, Ms. Bryant chose to stay in her marriage and work things out. To that she deserves credit.
But Kobe deserves a little credit as well. He, like hundreds of other players who play for one of the thirty teams in the NBA, works hard every year to bring home a championship. The Los Angeles Lakers have a record of championships that’s the envy of just about every other team in the league. They have won more than their fair share of championship titles. But not even the mighty Lakers can win them all. And Kobe Bryant has never won a title on his own. It’s a team effort that requires sacrifices from every player and a lot of people who work in the Lakers organization and all the other organizations that comprise the NBA.
It also takes a lot of sacrifice from the people who are the loved ones of these people. The players and staff have to spend a lot of time away from their families in order to win games so that they can win a championship. But only one team can win any given game. Only one team will win the championship. That harsh reality means that there are going to be a lot of people disappointed at the end of the season because their team wasn’t the single winner. But those people are hardly losers. Just being in the NBA is an achievement that needs to be recognized and celebrated. Hundreds of men try. Only a relative handful succeeds.
Because of Ms. Bryant’s statement, the focus is on basketball players spending their time away from home in order to win championships. Her statement that she only wants a winner is an indication of her priorities. She wants to be married to the winner each and every year. She feels that she deserves that much because of her sacrifice of being without her husband.
But the reality is that a lot of people have to sacrifice time with their family to go to work each day. A lot of people have to earn a living doing things a lot harder and a lot more complex than winning basketball games. A lot of people have to spend time away from home to keep the electricity flowing into our homes and businesses so that we can watch basketball games. A lot of people spend a lot of time building roads so that people can go to the basketball game and all the other places they drive their vehicles made by other people. A lot of people spend their days catering to the whims of basketball wives and making sure they have their lavish lifestyles. A lot of people have to spend their lives dancing in videos because they weren’t so fortunate to have some superstar NBA player sweep them off their feet and give them a lifestyle where they can say that the only thing that matters is whether or not hubbie is coming home at the end of the season with a championship.
A lot of people understand that their significant other isn’t going to be coming home at the end of the year with a championship ring on their finger. But that’s okay because these people know that there is a bigger picture out there and many, many things that are far more important than who won the title. For a lot of people, the fact that they have somebody in their life who is willing to go to work every day, the fact that they have somebody who works hard despite the fact that nobody is paying hard money to watch them make widgets, who spend their valuable time doing their best to provide, makes that person a champion in their life. Millions of adoring fans and a trophy at the end of the season might be nice. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s hardly a priority.
If Ms. Bryant wants to hold the man in her life to the high standard of actually being world champion year after year then she really can do a lot worse than Kobe Bryant. But on the flipside of that coin, what happens when Mr. Bryant decides that he wants to apply a similar standard to his wife? Is she prepared to reciprocate and work to do everything she can to be the champion that Mr. Bryant wants in his life? If high standards are good for the goose are they just as good for the gander?
Years ago I was in a Home Depot store trying to buy eight feet of heavy chain for a home project. Home Depot sells chains by the foot off of a large spool of chain hundreds of feet long. You have to get some assistance in order to have the chain cut to your specific need. After the chain was cut the Home Depot employee handed me the chain and I asked if all I had to do was take it to the cashier and checkout. The guy replied that he had to give me a sales slip that indicated how much chain I had and how much it cost. Then in a rather pitiful attempt at humor, as he handed me the sales slip the guy said that if I took the chain upfront without the slip that they would put me in chains.
I’m sure the guy didn’t mean anything by what he said. He was a young black guy, probably still in high school, and there was a good chance it was probably his first job. Nevertheless, I was somewhat offended by what he said. It wasn’t that he didn’t know how to give good customer service. When I first arrived in the hardware section he was helping a white couple with whatever it was they were purchasing. Without trying to eavesdrop as I waited for my turn for service I could hear how courteous and professional he could be. When he started to help me he started with the same customer service demeanor. The quip was totally jarring. Without another word I snatched the sales slip out of the guy’s hand and left to complete the purchase.
I was reminded of that incident in the Home Depot when I heard the news about Vice President Joe Biden’s reference that the Republican’s repeal of Wall Street regulations enacted since the financial crisis that threw the country into economic crisis would throw people back in chains. The remark was made in front of an audience of supporters with many African Americans. I thought Mr. Biden should not have gone there. Whatever excuse he had for the inspiration of the metaphor he should have thought twice about it. For me it didn’t matter if it was a reference to the some conservative saying that Republicans should unshackle business from the burden of unnecessary regulations imposed by the Obama administration.
At first glance the remark could be construed as somewhat racially insensitive. But kind of like the young black guy back at the Home Depot a few years back who probably wasn’t trying to offend a customer, I’m pretty certain that Mr. Biden wasn’t trying to offend his supporters. Mr. Biden has a reputation for making gaffs and his speech the other day is just one of the latest in a long line that goes back decades. Generally speaking he has been the type of politician that supports the view of the black community on most issues. If his words can be judged to be racially insensitive it is more than likely a momentary lack of judgment and not just the latest manifestation of a personal philosophy of racial insensitivity or a possible hostility towards black people.
Compare Mr. Biden’s single sentence remark to the recent philosophies of conservative politicians who wear their disdain for black people on their sleeves. Compare Mr. Biden’s single sentence to Newt Gingrich’s core belief that black people need to give up their pursuit of welfare checks and start earning an honest living. Compare Mr. Biden’s remark to Ron Paul and his newsletter with its plethora of racist statements like black people will stop rioting when the welfare checks arrive or that young blacks accused of crimes should be treated as adults because they are black. Compare Mr. Biden’s remark to Herman Cain’s contention that black people are too brainwashed against the conservative philosophy of the Republican Party. Compare Mr. Biden’s remark to the conservative’s current political strategy to disenfranchise black people from voting under the guise that voting fraud is so rampant that new standards for voter identification are required to combat the problem. In all honesty the slip of Mr. Biden’s lip is nothing compared to the long chain of political attacks against black people as well as the institutions and policies that support a large portion of the black community.
Now some conservatives want to point at Mr. Biden’s statement and say that he’s the one that is now being divisive and insensitive. Some claim that Mr. Biden telling people that the Republicans want to put people in chains is out of line. It is an affront to the party of President Abraham Lincoln who freed black people from America’s nationally institutionalized racial enslavement. But these same people don’t have a problem saying that President Obama has chained or shackled businesses with regulations. These are the same businesses that continue to show record profits and distribute massive executive bonuses while at the same time shedding jobs for workers. When Mr. Obama took office, the stock market was trading somewhere down in the eight thousand range. Now it is trading over thirteen thousand. That’s a healthy improvement for anybody forced to operate under the burden of shackles.
So I guess we can wrap this all up real quick by saying Mr. Biden shouldn’t have said what he said. We all know he wasn’t trying to be literal just like we all know that the conservatives who accuse liberals of trying to shackle business to the burden of regulation weren’t meant to be taken literal. If some conservatives want to act like they’re so offended, after all the shit that they have said about and have done to the black community, join the fucking club. Whatever Mr. Biden said pales in comparison to what many conservatives have said and done. Some of these people have made political and personal attacks against black people an art form.
Earlier this year I saw the movie Atlas Shrugged based on the novel by Ayn Rand through Netflix’s streaming video service. The movie was pretty bad. The acting, directing, and editing were all pretty awful. But what really made the movie suck was the story. The characters were all caricatures of what’s good and what’s evil about humanity. The heroes were all easy to spot for their virtuosity to a fault while the bad guys were narcissistic and self absorbed louts waiting to seize the achievements of the hard working entrepreneur in order to take the value in that work and distribute it to a failing social structure. It is a government structure that punishes success and rewards failure. The story portrayed the managers of government and the business people in collusion with them as the bad guys. The good guys were the virtuous pioneers of industry who only wanted to make a buck through the technological development of better ways of thinking.
One character in particular that I found distasteful was Henry “Hank” Rearden, the self made businessman who has developed a new metallic alloy named Rearden Metal that is far superior to anything else on the market. However, Rearden is being bullied by the other metal producers and by the government for not sharing his secret formula for his new metal. He is black balled by other businesspeople, effectively preventing him from sharing his super alloy with the world until Dagny Taggert makes the bold move to use Rearden Metal to rebuild Taggert Continental, the family’s railroad business started by her grandfather and left to decay by her brother James Taggert who is the President and in cahoots with the status quo. Ms. Taggert and Mr. Rearden are just two motivated entrepreneurs looking to be rewarded for their ingenuity and hard work.
Hank has a serious office for an entrepreneur on the verge of financial collapse. And I never saw dude don a lab coat or walk into an engineering or development facility or do anything else that might indicate how he was responsible for the development of Rearden Metal. In fact, the only thing I saw the guy do that pertained to the development of the super alloy was cut a deal with Taggert Continental to put his metal to work. This might be a change from the story in Ms. Rand’s book. She may have gone into more detail to explain Hank’s relationship to the discovery of the new metal. But from the movie I came away with the impression that Henry Rearden was nothing more than a businessman who cuts deals and who claims to be the sum of all his employees’ efforts.
Ms. Rand promoted a personal philosophy that can be summed up as economic self interest. In Ms. Rand’s mind the individual should exist for his or her own sake without sacrifice to others or requiring the sacrifice of others. In Ms. Rand’s opinion, selfishness is a virtue and altruism as incompatible with happiness. She placed emphasis on individual rights and considered capitalism free of government interference the only truly moral social system because it was the only system inherently focused on the protection of individual rights. She believed that the only just society is one with a constitutionally limited government that was barred from injecting itself into the affairs of individuals. Her idea of a limited government is one that appeals to many conservatives.
To a lot of people the idea of a government that wants an unfair “percentage” of the profits of all the business that happens among its citizenry is nothing short of state sanctioned theft. People who work hard to earn a living shouldn’t be taxed so that blah people can sit on their collective ass. These people will tell you that we’re taxed enough already and it’s about time we stop forcing the wage earners from supporting those who don’t contribute to our collective. Eventually, all of those hard working people will do like the Atlas in the title of Ms. Rand’s story and shrug the responsibility of the world off their shoulders. So they promote the idea of a smaller government, one too constrained to make sure that even the least amongst us has a safety net when things go bad. You wouldn’t need a safety net if you were motivated to work better yourself and/or your family because there was no government there to save you.
But one thing many conservatives forget about Ms. Rand is that her philosophy is more than just government gets out of the way so businesses can run amok. Ms. Rand’s theory is that an individual should exist for his or her self without requiring the sacrifice of others. If government should stand out of the way of business, business should get out of the way of individuals and not require people to make a sacrifice only for the interest of the business. All too often the business wants to increase profits at the expense of individuals, requiring employees to voluntarily sacrifice their time in order to get an assignment completed or to increase productivity. Many employees are pushed into taking pay cuts so that the business can thrive and even profit as productivity per dollar skyrockets. And let’s not forget the employees who are forced to make the sacrifice of their job when a business decides to outsource in order to increase profits.
If a business can demand that its employees sacrifice for the benefit of the business, it’s only fair that a business needs to make sacrifices for the benefit of the employees and other people. Employees and their families need to be educated. When they need help with bills because they’ve lost their jobs they need some form of unemployment until they can find another employer. They need a lot of things that a business has no motivation to provide. And the way we get the assistance of businesses who extract sacrifice from others is to extract sacrifice from them.
If some people want to praise the preaching of Ayn Rand then they need to praise the total picture she painted and not just the parts that benefit them. These are the same people who say that the corporate tax rate has to be more in line with what happens in other industrialized countries, but then ignore the fact that other industrialized countries provide the citizenry with universal healthcare and other social programs that make life a little less stressful. Businesses want the freedom of a totally free market. Chances are the people who work for business would like the same thing. In a society where government stays out of the way of business, it should stay out of the way of people as well. And if an employee happens to develop something important like a superior metal alloy, it’s a sure fire bet that business would like government to make sure business interests are protected.
The television commercial from pro Obama super PAC Priorities USA featuring Joe Soptic is catching a lot of attention. In the advertisement, Mr. Soptic tells how he worked as a steelworker for GST Steel when it was taken over by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital. Mr. Soptic was laid off and lost his health insurance. After that, his wife took ill. But since the Soptics didn’t have insurance coverage they made the choice not to see a doctor until her condition became so severe that a trip to the doctor was unavoidable. The doctor diagnosed Ms. Soptic with stage IV ovarian cancer. The woman died twenty two days later. Mr. Soptic went on to say that he doesn’t think that Mr. Romney cares about what impact his business decisions have on people.
The first glance implication is that Mr. Romney is the typical greedy venture capitalist with the sole focus on profit. The advertisement sent the Romney supporters into outrage mode. They accused the super PAC and the Obama campaign of accusing Mr. Romney of being an accomplice to the death of Ms. Soptic. There is nothing to connect the closure of GST Steel to the death of Ms. Soptic. It is unfortunate that the woman had developed cancer, but she would have developed cancer regardless.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, according to an investigation by CNN when Joe Soptic was laid off, Ms. Soptic didn’t have health insurance through GST Steel but through her own employer. She lost her own coverage when she was later laid off in 2002 or 2003. Ms. Soptic died five years after GST was shut down. There are some pretty big leaps of logic to conclude that Mr. Romney is in anyway responsible for the death of Ms. Soptic. At least that’s the way it looks at second glance.
When asked about the Soptic’s story, Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, made the statement that if the Soptics were not in Indiana but resided in Massachusetts where Mitt Romney introduced healthcare reform as Governor they would have had insurance coverage and Ms. Soptic would probably be alive today. And if the reaction of some prominent conservative pundits was any indication you would have sworn Ms. Saul had put the nails on the coffin that held Mr. Romney’s only chance to win the White House. One conservative commentator called her an idiot and demanded that she be fired. Another tweeted that she had given the presidency away. They said this because Ms. Saul spoke part of the truth.
The truth of the matter is that the American steel industry along with other parts of America’s manufacturing base has been in a steady state of erosion for decades. For years American steel producers had the industry to themselves. When foreign steel producers entered the American market, American manufacturers were either unwilling or unable to meet the challenge of new competition. And steel producers became vulnerable takeover targets, ripe for the picking from venture capitalist that saw great value in their takeover and destruction.
The truth is that if Joe Soptic had kept his job even when his wife lost hers, they would have had a fallback for healthcare coverage. If Mr. Soptic was able to keep his job when his wife lost hers at least they would have had a healthcare contingency. That option was lost because the management at Bain Capital was more focused on profits instead of what could happen to the people who were laid off. This doesn’t make anybody responsible for Ms. Soptic’s fatal condition. But it does mean that options that could have been available to the couple were lost.
The truth is that we live in a country with a healthcare system that rewards insurance companies for denying people coverage. Insurance companies make more money by denying people access to insurance coverage. One of the ways they do this is through a preexisting condition clause. If you get sick before you obtain insurance then the insurance company has an excuse not to cover the preexisting condition.
The truth is that as Governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney recognized that something had to be done to provide health coverage to people who couldn’t afford it on their own. He reformed Massachusetts healthcare and said that it should serve as a model for the nation. When developing a healthcare coverage plan for the nation, the Obama administration followed the path laid out by Mr. Romney. In essence it is the same plan as Massachusetts’ just on the national scale.
The truth is that now, Mitt Romney says that if he is fortunate enough to become President, he would repeal Mr. Obama’s healthcare plan because individual states should have the right to deny their citizens healthcare. What’s good for Massachusetts isn’t good for the nation because it would cover everybody in the nation, like the plan in Massachusetts would cover everybody in Massachusetts. If there is a future Joe Soptic in Indiana he wouldn’t have to move to Massachusetts because a program that would help his wife would be available on the national level. But only if Mr. Romney is denied an opportunity to repeal it.
When Ms. Saul said Mr. Romney introduced the model of healthcare reform in Massachusetts that was a true statement. When she said that if the Soptics lived in Massachusetts instead of Indiana they would have had the coverage needed to protect Ms. Soptic’s health that was also a true statement. When conservatives blame Ms. Saul for her true statements and want her fired, on what grounds? Thou shall not bear true witness against thy neighbor? It is unfortunate that right now Mr. Romney has taken a far right conservative position that we should deny healthcare for people who can’t afford it. But the truth of the matter is that back in the day, Mitt Romney was once moderate enough to see a need for his constituents and took the steps necessary to provide. If Mitt Romney doesn’t want that information coming out today, he shouldn’t have done it then.
Ms. Saul spoke the truth. If that truth cost Mr. Romney the election then that’s hardly Ms. Saul’s fault. It is far better that she speaks the truth and shows Mitt Romney not to be the best choice for to lead the country forward rather than speak a lie or to propagate a lie through admission in order to help Mr. Romney win. To say that Ms. Saul is the reason Mitt Romney might lose an election is a lot like saying Mr. Romney is the reason Ms. Soptic died of cancer. If truth is to be told the two situations are quite similar.