The "Smiley/West Show" has taken to the road. Two giants of American Christian patriotism have joined forces to wage a war, not on, but for, the poor. Together they give a new much-needed high profile voice to the "the least of us." And even though they do not yet know how they are going to pull it off, their ultimate goal is nothing less than to help restore the American dream -- the one that has been "outsourced," "down-sized," "sodomized," and then bludgeoned to death by our corporate overlords and their elected whores in both of the political parties -- both of whom have abandoned the poor, and both of whom dance to the tunes of their corporate paymasters.
According to these authors, so far in the 2012 Presidential campaign, the spoke-persons for neither political party have been able to shape their lips to form the word "poor," or vocalize the word "poverty."
Smiley and West, the "last-standing" champions of the poor, are "walking their talk," as they "end-run" the "bought-and-paid for," impotent and purposefully dysfunctional American political process. They go straight to the doorsteps of the people on the frontlines of the strategically engineered Wall Street war against them called the Wall Street meltdown and also euphemistically referred to as our new globalized economy. From their vantage point, the shock and trauma to what used to be called the "middle-class" (but is now version 2.0 of the poor) is incalulatable!
In this short but tightly written book, this fearsome-twosome share with us what they have learned as they listened to the poor, took careful notes, and then used this book as a way to get the poor's message out. And what they discovered is both shocking and disheartening: that there is a new kind of poverty "out there." It is version 2.0 of the pre-WW-II poverty, one that is a direct result of a "new kind of jointly arranged and agreed to bipartisan political neglect."
According to these authors, the new poverty is not based on the old notions that used to equate poverty with having done something wrong (like making bad choices, being lazy and unwilling to work, carrying too much debt, falling off the alcohol wagon, or lacking education and training, etc.) No, in the new poverty of 2012, a third who fall into the category are the "working poor" that actually have full-time jobs, often with more than one family member working? They just are not being paid a "living wage." Plus, because of our weak kneed and corrupt politicians, the corporations they work for have been allowed to treat them, our American workers, like newly-minted indentured servants: They must work long arbitrary hours, with no unions to defend their interests, no medical, retirement or other benefits. In short, they are effectively " contract employees" on their own with no protections, no social safety net and only more neglect from our elected representatives. The new rule is: maximum profits for the corporation and its shareholders by definition means maximum insecurity for the U.S. worker. In this version 2.0 of American poverty, the U.S. middle-class worker is not just one paycheck away from poverty, but also one layoff away and one sickness away as well?
Continuing their revelations, these intrepid authors tell us that just like "50" is the new "40," the "old middle-class" is now the "new version 2.0 of the poor." In short, they tell us that due to outsourcing, valuing hedge fund speculation over hard work, and privatizing every function in sight, the middle-class is no more. It is kaput. Comprende?
Finally, these authors discovered that there is a close and direct connection between this new brand of poverty and new forms of "systemic neglect." The most important of them is best seen in the "good cop-bad cop political con/blame game played on us by the two political parties. Each side tosses symbolic ideological red meat over the fence like a tennis ball, and like the well-trained dogs we are, we chase after the ball while behind our backs they are busy serving their rich donor clients, all the while giving us a Kabuki dance of publicly trading blame for not being able to "deliver the goods" and otherwise get the "people's business done."
And while this red meat version of "chase the tennis ball" may work fine for their "big dog" super rich donors, who get their political payback by sliding their hefty contributions over the transoms of the backrooms on K-street, for us it does not work. What the "Big Dog donors" get in return for their money is the right to change all the rules and laws so that they then fit (and legitimize) the crimes they are preparing to commit. We, the middle-class and the poor, on the other hand, are left holding the bag and in the process, our democracy is gutted. In exchange for our vote, we just get more ideologically seasoned red meat, tossed over the fences at us like we are the dumb animals we are. Along with this dog breakfast called American politics, we also get to "wash it down" with a barrel full of excuses, a healthy dose of two-way blame called political gridlock, and bushels filled with promises that in the next election cycle everything will be different?
Then, of course this cycle just repeats itself: we are again "forced fed" a new diet of ideologically salted red meat, sprinkled (liberally or conservatively) with more false promises. Gagging on all this highly seasoned red meat, stuffed with blame and false promises is the "loud sucking sound" one hears as the American Dream gets flushed down the toilet.
What would we do without Smiley and West: run out like dumb animals and again vote for Obama or Romney? (Naw, I don't think so. I sense that these authors may agree that this time, it might be better to stay home.) A great and timely read that will make you foaming-at-the-mouth mad at the way the poor is being treated in particular, and at the U.S. political process more generally. A well-deserved Five Stars.
Retired Foreign Service Officer and past Manager of Political and Military Affairs at the US Department of State. For a brief time an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver and the University of Washington at (more...