Saturday, January 07, 2006

Blue Sky Mining

ReddHedd at firedoglake has a brilliant post on some of the issues that the West Virginia mining tragedy brings to the forefront:

We have lost our way in this country in terms of values. I don't mean in the wingy sort of way in which values are usually discussed, where you say a bunch of superficial nonsense about gays getting married and the country going to hell as a result, either. That's just another one of those fear tactics stirred up by political types who want to play divide and conquer to win elections by working the ends against the middle.

No, what I'm talking about goes deeper into who we are, into issues of where we ought to be. And these are issues that Democrats used to be for, in the not so distant past, but they have all but disappeared from the discussion in the last few years.


CEOs for some of the major corporations in this country make obscene amounts of money, all the while, in a lot of cases, running the company into the ground and then taking off on their golden parachute ride -- leaving behind the folks who are living on the margins on their $7 an hour (and that's a great salary for a whole huge group of people in this country, let me tell you) to pick the pieces out of all those broken promises.

We need a voice for those people. John Edwards picked up this theme in the last election cycle during the primaries -- with his Two Americas -- and I would love to see that discussion continued into 2006. People who make $7 an hour (or less) can't afford to hire Jack Abramoff to represent their interests to the big shots in Washington. They generally aren't in any sort of union -- which would at least give them a possibility of an organized voice of some sort (although these days, that certainly isn't assured). They have no big money voice to back them up in Washington.

These are the folks that Democrats used to be able to depend on for a vote -- because the party spent time working on issues that lifted up the least of our nation, to give them a shot at the American dream, just like everyone else.

Yep. It's amazing that they've been so easily co-opted on hollow "values" issues, but part of the source of their defection is that the Dems took them for granted, while going along with big-business pelf. Joe Biden is a perfect example of this syndrome, a slick, well-spoken, calculating prick who gets his tough-guy schtick ready for the Sunday morning circle jerks, but heels when MBNA snaps its fingers. How many working-class folks get to watch their credit card bills go through the roof, with no bankruptcy protection, and no way to pay their doubled minimums, because some pencil-psuhers feel that we don't save enough (because there's nothing left to save), and Biden danced with them that brung him?

When people realize that they have no one looking out for them, they figure they may as well just go with someone that'll make 'em feel tough and give them someone else to kick in the process.

Fair wages for a fair day's work are essential. But how does that happen in an era when health insurance costs are through the roof -- for both the worker and the business employing them -- and energy costs are eating up the margins for a lot of other businesses who might have some slack? For that matter, exactly how does a CEO justify making 350 times or more than his lowest paid worker, all the while running a business into the ground with bad decisions?

The bottom line is this: there are some really tough choices facing this nation (and the discussion above is my no means a comprehensive list), and we need to approach them carefully because the results of our action or inaction have long-term ramifications for our children. Democrats used to own these issues because they listened to the voices of those people who needed help, who needed a hand up, and who were willing to do the work on their end to get the job done. And they spoke up for them, gave them a voice in the halls of power.

Amen. Read the whole thing; it's a wonderful, passionate synopsis of this strange malaise that has infected this country's soul.

One final thing about the mining tragedy, and it's really all I'm even going to say on the subject: I note that a pretty healthy chunk of media coverage, from when the miners were still initially thought to be alive, through now, as they prepare for the funerals, seems to revolve around all this ceremonial genuflection to God. Their prayers were first thought to be answered, then the exact opposite. Now the priests are insisting that God was with the miners as they expired. Um, no. If that were the case, they'd have been rescued, no?

The boilerplate response to that is always that it was all just part of His Plan. But you look at the lives of the people in these areas -- even had the miners been rescued, what then? Recuperate and back to work, or move to where there's some opportunity. It's nasty, dangerous work, work that no one aspires to, work that people get caught in, mired in, because they are in an area that presents them with no decent choices.

Top that off with the concessions that the extraction industries have wrung out of this administration, and you wonder what sort of deity has a plan that dooms the hopeful and exalts the useless. If there was a God, wouldn't Paris Hilton or Michael Jackson have been trapped in a mine shaft?

So enough of the mindless navel-gazing, media weasels. We get it -- the pious walk the earth, publicly resigned to their fate, and we must all pretend that the invocations and rituals have some practical meaning. If they spur us to have the sort of national conversation ReddHedd describes, then yes. But when the air time is saturated instead with chanting and praying, not so much. It has devolved into some sort of rubbernecking cathartic Event.

1 comment:

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