Monday, April 4, 2011

Michele Bachmann's Bad Divorce

I had not paid any attention to Michele Bachmann, a Republican Congressperson, until I started seeing her mentioned as a potential nominee for President of the United States. Apparently that is because I don't watch TV. She has become quite a star for the Tea Party movement, although she began her political career long before the Tea Party was organized.

Turning to Wikipedia, I found that Congresswoman Bachmann is very close to me in age, just a little over a year younger, born April 6, 1956. I always wonder with ultra-conservative people in my age cohort how they missed the basic lessons of their childhood, of the 1960s, of peace, love, and understanding. What jumped out at me in her mini-biography is that her parents were divorced and her father moved to California; she stayed with her mother. My parents did not get divorced. Perhaps because they were Catholic and the Bachmann's were Lutheran.

Divorce is still controversial in some circles. It is another of life's double edged swords. For women, without divorce there can be the pain of being stuck in an unloving, perhaps even brutal, marriage. On the other side of the blade is that with divorce a man can make promises, have children, and then, on a whim, go off cavorting with another woman. Leaving a lonely, angry woman to raise children, and like as not trying to instill in those women a hatred for their fathers and anything to do with them. David Amble, Michele's father, moved to California (where I now live).

Michele grew up in tiny Anoka, Minnesota, essentially a suburb of Minneapolis. I grew up in the suburbs of a big, but much more conservative, city: Jacksonville, Florida. If geography means anything, I should have turned out conservative and she liberal.

Another reason for the different directions was that we were on a cusp. When we graduated from high school, I in 1972 and she in 1974, the sixties were over. Some of the energy of the sixties was still present in radical politics, in music, and in art. Feminism was really just starting to get going. I felt repressed by my parents and schools, so I wanted to taste the counterculture even if it was already in decline. By 1974, combined with hating her father and divorce, probably Michele was willing to take the opportunities now afforded women, but rejected the broader implications of ideals like freedom, equality, and mutual cooperation. After graduating from a state college she headed off to Oral Roberts University, where the miraculous is real and real problems are sins.

Finally, it would be foolish to neglect my struggles with the idea of being drafted in the U.S. military and being sent off to kill the good people of Vietnam. Michele did not have to worry about that.

Obviously Michele is smart, hard working, ambitious, and loving in her own way. On the other hand, how smart can you be and pretend that there is a God, he is male, he had only one son, he crucified his own son, and he has had writer's block since he finished penning out the New Testament? Of course, religion these days is just a fantasy-role playing game. Most people who aren't insane know that it is just make-believe.

It is too bad that the political principles of the right wing of the Republican Party and especially the Tea Party are not examined rationally, but instead are colored with religious emotionalism. Unlike my mostly lefty friends I agree about some of the economic symptoms. I see the causes differently, however. We, Americans, are in a post-imperialist decline, much like England between World War I and World War II. We benefited, from about 1938 to about 1970, from national prosperity based partly on hard work and creativity, but juiced by the super-profitability of imperialism. Our industries did great because we had the whole world for a market: every other industrial nation's factories had been extensively bombed in World War II. The economic pie was growing so fast that the rich did not fight all that hard to prevent the middle class, working class, and the poor to share in the feast.

Now we waste our money on the military aspects of imperialism, but it is an economic drag on the homeland. Our capitalists wanted and got Free Trade, which was not really about trade, but about moving American factories to Mexico and China and Central American dictatorships. Now American workers are global citizens, and they don't like it.

The pyramids of business have gotten taller. A business owner with 10 employees seldom can pay himself more than 10 times what he pays an individual employee. A global corporation with 100,000 employees can easily pay its top management 1000 times what it pays basic employees, and the stockholders can still pocket plenty of loot. For Americans in the global elite, Free Trade has been a shower of gold.

We could try, again, to divide up the pie more fairly. The easiest way to do that is to increase taxes on people with high incomes, and on capital gains and dividends. Then use that money for infrastructure (including education) that benefits everyone. It could even be used for infrastructure that would make building new factories in the United States attractive to the greed-heads who control international capital. But just dividing the pie more fairly is not going to be enough [pay attention, lazy socialist friends]. Even cutting back our military establishment 90% won't be enough. IF we are going to keep a pleasant standard of living for most Americans we need to be competitive with China and India, Brazil and Peru, Europe and Arab Emirates. That means we have to upgrade our work skills and habits, especially at the low end. The idea that the state can guarantee (what would be in the developing world) a middle-class lifestyle, is not going to be viable. With the trends coming down the road the state will be lucky if it can guarantee that if you don't work you won't starve or freeze.

I certainly think we can do better than Michele Bachmann for President. But whoever is elected, the trend lines won't change unless concerted efforts are made to change them. President Obama has increased military spending at a time it needed to be cut back by 90%. He approved an extension of the rich-ride-tax-free program of his predecessor. Except for rhetoric (aimed at voting bases) and fringe issues, I see little substantial difference between Bachman and Obama. I'm not excited about either. I hope some more exciting candidates enter the race.

1 comment:

  1. don't you think that the opponents of whoever is set to win the elections term after term are handpicked by the invisible machinery only so as to have only one winner? how else do you explain sarah palin's candidacy? i can guarantee you that if obama's win has been pre-arranged, then we're going to see a lot of media coverage and hype around michele bachmann's campaign.