We Can’t Go Home Again

Day 34, five weeks, two missed paychecks later and holding our collective breath; all the King’s tweets and all the King’s mandarins…. can’t put Humpty Dumpty back to work again.

Those who save lives and serve in harm’s way for pennies on a paper dollar are told they are “non-essential” but then forced to work without pay by those in elected and appointed power. All that is left in America’s mean streets is a stubborn, innate belief in human decency, in solidarity-inspired hope that perhaps the people themselves can rescue their civil servant, public service hostages from the wealth and privilege oligarchies putting them on ice, “knocking them in the teeth,” leaving them to beg and freeze.

While over-endowed foundations and flush think tanks decamp to ponder the “future of work,” more than 800,000 paycheck-dependent federal government employees are resorting to “hardship withdrawals” from retirement funds which have increased 34 percent in the last two weeks to put food on the table, gas in the car, pay medical bills and rent or mortgages, and forestall personal bankruptcies. More than 800,000 people easily morph into millions when dependent and extended families, adjacent neighborhood service providers such as grocery stores, pharmacies, dry cleaners, and gas stations together with private sector contractors assigned to federally-funded contracts, join the ever-lengthening, involuntarily unemployment queue’s exponential and tipping point ripple effects.

The New York Times reports that, “Some of the 800,000 furloughed federal employees are turning to pawnshops and brokers for short-term loans” or to jobs like driving for Uber or substitute teaching.  The FBI and Coast Guard report charities providing meals for their people who otherwise would go without.

SNAP program food stamps already help feed one out of every eight or 40 million Americans, including the homeless and those who depend on federal rent subsidies. Now, food banks are becoming viable options for civil servants who are advised to clean toilets, hold garage and yard sales, pet sit and mystery shop for outside income. Already the shutdown’s economic opportunity costs to struggling, affected Americans far exceeds the requested cost of the current Administration’s proposed border barricade to prevent brown-skinned immigrants and their refugee families from accessing U.S. citizenship.

It was reported today that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says he “does not understand why federal employees who are furloughed or have been working without pay during the partial government shutdown need assistance from food banks.” As Marie-Thérèse, the wife of Louis XIV, supposedly opined, “let them eat cake,” but with pennies remaining in worker bank accounts, cake is off the people’s table.

Today’s morally-gerrymandered America is renowned across planet Earth for its innovatively cruel, selfish, and hypocritical policies. No longer considered a metaphorical golden lamp or idealistically exceptional, the United States of Inequality ceases to attract the world’s best and brightest to study here nor buy its products (Read the full story). A country that can’t keep its public sector lights on, that condones torture in overseas prisons, callously spews human and industrial filth, and racially separates brown babies and small children from their immigrating parents into privatized, human trafficking concentration camps along its southern border – no longer inspires anyone with normal options.

The United States of Inequality is feudally worthy of a Dark Ages, walled-off country surrounded by inhumane moats built by religious and shock-jock social Darwinists and ethno-nationalist enthralled extremists to administer the politics of cruelty, elitism and racism so that immigrants and underserved rural and urban populations can drown their hopes and disappear. Two Americas have emerged: one where conservative oligarchs and those who can’t answer the fundamental question of “how much is enough” tithe to a personal “prosperity gospel god.” The other is where everyone else succumbs to an interdenominational version of rigged neo-Calvinist predestination according to postal zip code. No wonder churches are emptying for communal food kitchens.

The total fertility rate for America’s “children of a lesser god” hit a 30-year low partly due to lack of paid leave and non-existent workplace family support policies (Read the full story). Suicide now unites the United States as the tenth-leading cause of death. For Generation Y Americans between the ages of 15 and 34, suicide is the second-leading cause of death. Last year, opioid addiction killed more people than car accidents or gun violence.

In “big box,” outlet-mall country, humans are commoditized and warehoused or treated as consumer-consumption batteries for monopoly distribution. E-commerce behemoths equip their minimum-wage-without-benefits “fulfillment specialists” with electronic wrist bracelets to optimize performance. Down the road, privatized prisons do the same with electronic ankle tags for inmates while farm land and open ranges sport cattle, horses, sheep and goats with similar ear-tags. Consumers are bar-coded while social media coders “self-Bluetooth.” Every “beast of burden” that breathes is monitored.

This agonizing “winter of our discontent” conceivably foreshadows the current President’s seventh deliberate bankruptcy but this time of a nation, its culture and people. America, without any recourse to non-existent chapter 11 filings for countries, is about to experience the full systemic and aspirational opportunity costs of purposefully decapitating and disemboweling its civil service public sector, the unbalancing civic society disconnect of those in power so amply self-provisioned but willfully stiffing others who doggedly serve without pay, and shutting out immigrants, the country’s historic competitive, comparative advantage lifeblood.

Such stark inequality between those who serve and those who are served, between those who govern and those who are governed, and between those who pay and those who collect represents the proverbial suffocating canary in the coal mine warning of widespread domestic civic cultural failure, relentlessly and presciently chirping until there is no more clean air to breathe.  In today’s new, bottom-trawling, robber-baron era of surveillance capitalism, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 18th century, wretchedly heartfelt cry of humanity “born free yet everywhere in chains” shows that nothing has systematically changed.