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The Horatio Alger Problem

Horatio Alger is the reason that 50% of the 1.7 million Americans whose unemployment benefits have been disrupted because of republicans in the senate, will vote republican in November. I’ll go a step further – Horatio Alger is the reason why the republican party still exists today.

Horatio Alger was a late 19th century author who wrote happy, clappy rags to riches stories aimed at young working class men. He wrote his inspiring tales during a time when the American dream was actually somewhat viable. Sure the legacy rich have always had a significant advantage in the American “capitalist” system but in Alger’s time, hard working nobodies had some measure of a shot at moving into a higher economic class than the one they were born into.

But his happy claptrap has been coming back to bite us in the ass for decades now. The American dream has been dying a slow and painful death for at least the past 40 years. Income inequality in America is reaching Gilded Age (1880) levels.

Here are some interesting facts about where we’re headed;

-Between 1979 and 2000, the real income in the bottom 20% of earners in the US grew by 6.4%. During that same period, real income for the top 20% of earners grew by 70%.

-The family income of the top 1% grew by 184%.

-In 1979 the average income of the top 1% was 133 times that of the bottom 20%. In 2000 the income of the top 1% had risen to 189 times that of the bottom fifth.

-Thirty years ago, the average CEO made thirty-nine times the pay of the average worker. Today, it’s over one thousand times the pay of the average worker.

According to an OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) study released earlier this year, 47 percent of the economic advantage that high-earning fathers in the United States have over low-earning fathers is transmitted to their sons, compared to 17 percent in Australia and 19 percent in Canada.What does this mean? It means that if you’re born rich in America, you’re more likely to stay rich regardless of ability or intelligence (think George W Bush or the Koch brothers). And when people that are born rich have an advantage by virtue of being born rich, that means they’re taking opportunities away from everyone else (Google: nepotism).

Here’s a little spreadsheet that paints a VERY clear picture of what’s happening to America:

Are you seeing a pattern here between wealth distribution and which party has the white house? 99% of Americans got fucked by Reagan, Bush 1.0 and Bush 2.0.

The wealth inequity in this country is growing, and it’s happening fast. This brings me back to the Horatio Alger problem and republicans.

See, republicans have completely stopped pretending to be a populist party. Between their “slush fund” mantra, when referring to the funds that President Obama secured from BP, to their choking off unemployment benefits to people that desperately need them, their message is clear; we don’t give a shit about average Americans. If you don’t have a butt load of cash to donate to our reelection fund, you can go fuck yourself.

That’s not hyperbole; that’s a very clear message from republicans. Just yesterday, Jon Kyl (the other douchebag senator from Arizona) said that the Bush tax cuts should remain in place regardless of their impact on the deficit. And yet, he will only agree to sanction unemployment benefits for struggling Americans if they’re paid for. His deficit hawkiness evaporates when it comes to paying for tax cuts for his really fucking rich donor buddies. But if you’re one of the 1.7 million Americans fighting to secure one of the 370,000 jobs that are available, then you’re clearly a lazy slacker who deserves to starve. Republicans aren’t hinting at the fact that they think you’re a loser that should just go away already, they’re saying it outright. Sharon Angle has said it, Rand Paul has said it, Jon Kyle has said it, and Tom Delay has said it. That’s just naming a few among a vast sea of republicans that have contempt for struggling workers (see an older post of mine here).

But when it comes to alleviating the suffering of the rich, there’s nothing that republicans won’t do or say. You know how they always champion the elimination of capital gains tax? Let’s take a look at who has capital gains in America, shall we:

Let me explain what “capital gains” are. Capital gains is essentially the money that your money earns for you. It’s the appreciation in value of your investments. This includes property, stocks, and the value of your business. It’s the money that you make from the extra money that you had lying around to invest. Well not you (as we can see from all the data), you’re broke. We’re talking about Paris Hilton. She’s making a shitload of money off the money that her grandfather made. She didn’t even need to be born to smart parents. Her parents aren’t that bright. No, all she needed to do was to be born to the children of a smart guy. Everybody knows Conrad Hilton. Does anyone know the name of Paris’ father? No, me neither. And the best part is that Paris doesn’t have to do anything to make money. That whole celebrity whore thing she does is purely for her own enjoyment.

The fact that Paris and her parents can stay rich, despite having no discernible intelligence or talent, makes them the beneficiaries of another favorite republican cause; eliminating estate taxes. Republicans believe that while you’re working your whole life, amassing no capital with which to create gains, Paris and her family should be able to inherit a crapload of money that they shouldn’t pay one thin dime in taxes on. And Jon Kyl doesn’t care how big of a deficit we have create in order to preserve this “right” for Paris. She was born lucky and dammit, Jon Kyl is going to do everything he can to extend her luck because she’s obviously going to create millions of jobs with her ill gotten gains.

So why would anybody that isn’t among the richest 1% ever vote republican? Because of Horatio¬† Alger and the myth of the American dream. Never mind the fact that you’re on unemployment right now, you’re definitely going to be filthy rich someday, and therefore need to make sure that your kids don’t get hosed by having to pay taxes on the billions that you’re going to leave them in your will. Some people (roughly half of us) have to buy into the thinly veiled republican bullshit in order to keep the illusion of the American dream alive.

The sad irony is that those people are the ones that are killing the American dream. Supporting the republican effort to let rich people keep all of their money (whether they earned it or not), ensures that Americans will get poorer and poorer.

They need to get over it.

Horatio Alger is a fucking fantasy and Paris Hilton will not create a job for you, no matter how charitable you are towards her.

You need to start voting in your own best interest because the illusion you’re under isn’t going to feed you.

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