Let’s talk about NPR again, why don’t we. Why not is because it’s fucking hideous, but I still feel this painful calling to chronicle the horror show as I unfortunately witness it. Tonight’s misfortune was on my way to a 5:00 pm mass. Get me to the church on time next time, Bowie. Missing half of a much better than average homily was bad enough (I’m Catholic, so it’s hit and miss; some would say mostly miss), but there was no call for the penance into which I blundered for having fucked up a day’s worth of planning and scrambled to do emergency laundry at four o’clock: to wit, Michel Martin playing devil’s advocate with a talking head from the Kaiser Family Foundation about how maybe it’s morally formative to force Medicaid recipients to work, since a work requirement would, I believe it was, “bring the program into line with private-sector health insurance, in which you lose your insurance if you lose your job.”
Where do they fucking find these ghoulish counterpoints? Who in the hell, and I do mean hell, are they turning to for political thought? Is this really what they consider balance? NPR forced me to side with some random policy shop nobody who holds a sinecure to talk the story of the great effectiveness of our new Rube Goldberg health insurance exchanges. That’s how grotesquely vile their counterpoint for the sake of argument was. Kaiser is bullshit, but bullshit is better than eternal slavedriving.
How do these stupid motherfuckers not notice that we have a serious national problem, dating back to barely after the first Anglo settlement of the American colonies, with forcing people to work? There are certainly those who would racially inflame this discussion by pointing out that Michel Martin is black, and even so I don’t think it’s wrongheaded or off-base to wonder how she, of all people, as an African-American who doesn’t seem like a total ignoramus about American history, managed to miss the glaring slavery background inherent in her question, but really, this is something that every fucking one of us should immediately recognize as an American and absolutely refuse to dignify. No one who was raised as an American, US citizen or not, should grant that line of argument the least bit of moral or intellectual legitimacy. We’ve spent our entire national history screwing that dog raw. Regimes in other countries have gone beyond the moral pale in their own efforts to make compulsory the dignity of work (Arbeit macht frei much?), but our national history is, shall we say, especially special, and the recentness of it all particularly unpleasant.
It doesn’t even take a very deep reading of the history to recognize that it’s peculiar to our white-black relations only when African-Americans are the only poor available for immediate exploitation; the master class will enthusiastically force atrocious, even dangerous, even deadly, working conditions on white indentured servants, white sharecroppers, Chinese coolies, braceros, unaffiliated Mexican peasant immigrants, or Somali refugees the moment any of these become available.
This should be basic shit. If our schools and mainstream media were any good, it would be. The principle needed here isn’t very complicated: DO NOT FORCE OTHERS TO WORK. Some creepy shithead fondling a little whip in his pocket will show up with a story about how there’s work to be done and there are still lazy or greedy people loafing about without the enthusiasm to do it on capital and management’s conditions. What can we say in reply? DO NOT FORCE OTHERS TO WORK. This has to be nonnegotiable. We’re perennially damned as a nation because it is not.
As a sidebar, but not much of one, this same evil slavedriving impulse is totally why capital and management are so taken with immigrant workers and so hostile towards old-stock African-Americans. It’s accurate enough to say that none of them give a shit about the welfare of any of the poor, let alone their dignity; the exceptions are pathetically weak and contingent upon mealymouthed provisos about how these great bleeding-heart conservatives respect immigrants because they’re so hardworking, i.e., not a bunch of lazy white trash and niggers. The Community, or at least a large part of it, knows its own history and understands in its soul and its bones exactly how and why it’s evil in the American context to force another person to work, and more than a few members of Po’ Whitey get it, too. I’ll be damned, then, if I’ll go along with the solemn pieties about immigrant virtue mouthed by landowning shitheads who are predictably gushing about “our wetbacks” the moment they think the mike has gone cold. To hell with them.
Yes, that includes Jeff Flake. Pleasant conversational skills aren’t enough to make up for the permanent gentry campaign to import desperate scab labor without oversight, without regulation, and without consequence.
When intersectional bourgeois-aristocratic mouthpieces like Michel Martin talk about bringing other people’s circumstances “in line with” one another, they always mean to degrade the less unfortunate ones to the level of the most unfortunate. Funny thing, they never try to do this with their own circumstances. Gee, I wonder fucking why. It couldn’t be that behind all their principled talk about efficiency and competition they’re always looking out for number one. Nah. Reading recklessly devious talking points on air in the form of quasi-rhetorical devil’s advocate questions in a sanitized Brahmin New English accent, give or take some half-assed ethnic or regional residue, can’t be a rare skill. Don’t tell me that if that bullshit were opened up to a competitive international market of workmanlike English speakers with adequate enunciation there’d be fewer applicants per opening at five dollars an hour than their are to do what I do for a living (sic, but much healthier) over the summer for three dollars an hour or so, four and change in a really solid hour. With 75 or 80% of those dipshits, if they went no-call-no-show and had to be replaced on an hour’s notice, it would be just about impossible to tell. If these shysters actually believed in meritocracy, they’d open Tom Friedman’s job up to competitive bids from all Anglophone writers capable of penning fourth-rate stories about the inane comments of some cabbie or airplane seatmate they supposedly chatted up the other day.
The precarity and pain are for other, lesser people, people like you and me. We go to the City Part of Town; they go to Michele Kelemen’s beloved tri-city area of Wa-Shing-Ton. By the way, that bitch is totally a spy. Themselves they level up; us they level down, and hard.
This is why the qualifications for Medicaid, a social insurance program established for the needy by political leaders who had no use for neoliberal nudge theory horseshit or any other psychopathic Rube Goldberg scams to allow the talented tenth to interfere with medical care for the most vulnerable, have to be “brought into line with” the most horrific operant conditioning campaigns used against a beleaguered, anxious, distressed middle class, in this case the worst aspects of employer-based health insurance. The assumption is that the middle class will resent, despise, and chomp at the bit to destroy the lower class for benefiting from a possibly superior insurance program, rather than demand that it be allowed to opt into the same government program or that the program be extended to everyone. This is not a problem that Medicare has: it covers all elderly Americans, regardless of income, and it is immensely popular. For the same reason, Medicare for All is a very popular proposal. More on this shortly, but not from NP Fucking R.
Only a stupid, vicious asshole who hasn’t studied jack shit about modern American healthcare history insists that employer-based health insurance is the gold standard and a time-honored, sacrosanct civic tradition. The entire fucking model, of course, was started by industrialists to outmaneuver wartime wage controls and attract workers in a tight labor market. If the United States had gone into the Second World War with universal government-provided health insurance, the fringe benefit might have been a free bowling alley or amusement park or whorehouse or gourmet cafeteria instead. As bad as it is losing the income and structure and purpose of a regular job, or the income of a terrible regular job, it’s worse to lose the fringe benefits and have to scramble to replace them at a higher cost on the open market. The Affordable Care Act, in many respects a shitty, useless, overhyped bill, pretty much fixed the access problem for insurance applicants who, prior to its enactment, had routinely been denied coverage on any available pretext by the insurance industry suits and their pet doctors. This much Obamacare has gotten right: no more rescission, and no more cherrypicking the risk pool at will. It’s actually an insurance system now, not a pure racket.
Lucky us, though, NPR is great for stupid, vicious assholes. That’s why I had to side with an omg wow muh marketplace industry talking head and against a nationally broadcast journalist interviewing her. Kaiser is pretty horseshit, as I can attest as its policyholder, and I normally have no patience for any of the loudmouthed useless eaters who stroke off to the thought of siloing their fellow citizens into barely navigable and comprehensible “markets,” but in this case she was right: the ACA allows people who have been laid off or fired from benefited jobs to replace their lost coverage much more easily than they previously could have done.
This was, as insurance companies and their policy shops go, honest. What it doesn’t do is explain why in all hell anyone at NPR thought it was appropriate to ask whether Medicaid eligibility should be leveled down to the precarity and hoop-jumping of employer-based health insurance. It doesn’t explain why NPR is that devious and evil. This is NPR’s idea of bipartisan balance and objectivity: a debate between neoliberal market fetishists and latter-day slavers. That’s what forcing other people to work is. It’s slavery. It has never been anything else in the American cultural context. Medicaid used to be about, you know, making sure that the poor could afford fucking medical care. Now, we’re told, it has to be a mechanism of operant conditioning to force the poor, commonly including the sick, to work. It’s an incentive now.
Tell me why we don’t “nudge” some moralizing useless eaters into the deep end of the Potomac as an “incentive” not to speak down to us in this fashion. Dear God. These creeps who carry on about the dignity of work don’t believe a damn bit of it. If they did, they’d be doing honest work and not jealously guarding whatever Capitol Hill or K Street tit they’ve spent their careers sucking for all it will yield. I have never had a job that required so little skill or tangible productivity, and I’ve never had a job that paid so well. This hot take is closer to news than Michele Martin’s interview with the Kaiser Family Foundation lady. No, I don’t care to look up her name, but that doesn’t make me less of a reporter than Martin is for devoting an entire segment to a zero-standards conversation with some random talking head. I don’t post chats with vulgar bigots who know nothing about the political and labor history of their own country on YouTube.
Note that the Opposing Viewpoint (TM) so crucially needed to balance whatever conservatism, liberalism, or raging reaction NPR is giving some guest a platform to air is never socialism. Maybe not never-never, but it’s pretty bloody close for a country whose most popular politician is a self-declared socialist who nearly won the Democratic Party presidential nomination and would have won the general election had he done so. Bernie Sanders isn’t a reasonable counterpoint to a lukewarm, vaguely true story about how the Obamacare exchanges work great, but the talking points of slavedriving Republican creeps lurking in the shadows are.
The dirty little wide-open secret here is that the news media will never, ever be objective. The only people who take that shit seriously are journalists and publishers who don’t want the peasants catching on to their trade secrets. Spoiler: we’ve caught on. We know that drill. It isn’t some deep, shocking insight among workaday Americans that the media have biases and are partial to one side or another. Of course, holier-than-thou newsies get wicked salty at the gnawing realization that the little people think they aren’t on their side. In NPR’s current parlance, this means that we don’t stand with the facts.
Oh? Gee, the “dignity of work” as interpreted by career Beltway desk jockeys who consistently don’t seek honest, tangibly productive jobs isn’t a fucking fact. Republican talking points about making public assistance beneficiaries feel the same pain as harried salarymen who are too craven and chickenshit to demand their own no-questions-asked access to socialist benefits aren’t facts. Values and principles are not facts. Where the fuck did these idiots go to school? Nah, don’t try to answer that; it’ll be hella depressing.
And what are the values that these shysters do have? The worst ones possible, of course. These are the values holding that the liberty of Fremontian smallholders on the frontier has to be “brought into line with” the bondage of recalcitrant slaves having their backs extrajudicially lashed and brined by the overseer under the direct orders and supervision of Robert E. Lee. Somebody is being shown mercy and charity, and that has to be stopped. We can’t give anyone the idea that the government has a legitimate role providing for the needs of its constituents. They’d grow insolent. They’d grow civic.
No, this does not mean that no one works. Let’s get our heads out of our asses. The only people who believe shit like that are slavers. For God’s sake we could get another ten or twenty percent of our population back into the actual workforce, in the sense of actually working, by decommissioning our bloated, grotesque managerial apparatus, much of which can be traced directly back to the social control demands of antebellum chattel slavery. Everything about this is disingenuous and duplicitous. Everyone who scurries around sucking the cocks of “job creators” wants the “job creators” to be given carte blanche to hire the most desperate peasants on earth as scabs. The loudest proponents of the “dignity of work” all want work to be a space of belligerent indignity, starting with their endless list of reasons to deny applicants the opportunity to work. If it has dignity for a sober Mexican, it has dignity for an American junkie, too. Oh, don’t tell me: I’m proceeding from the assumption that this is all about getting done what one can get done when one isn’t jonesing for the goddamn dope right this minute, not about finding reasons to punish and degrade the vulnerable.
There is a LOT of S&M shit in these corners. I don’t have much hard evidence, but I know it when I see it, and ew, I’m getting a raging clue! These ghouls have dominatrices for the same reason that Dennis Rader had a selfie collection. Never has there been a thing sexier than a male code enforcement officer named Lynn, other than, you fucking guessed it, a sexy male nurse named Lynn. That’s majorsly fucked up, but it has John Dennis Diddly on Washington. Excuse me, I said put me in, Coach, not put me in Coach. The bondage script-flipping that these ghouls need isn’t one that they can purchase by the hour. What they need is to travel back to Kansas in 1890, walk into a grange hall, open their mouths, and have William Jennings Bryan literally beat the shit out of them with a riding crop.
Or we could be led by healthy, decent people, but that’s asking an awful lot.