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Forum Post: 'Beneath the Bottom of the Barrel', by William Rivers Pitt, "Welcome to Republican priorities, 21st century-style." !!!

Posted 11 years ago on Aug. 22, 2012, 12:05 p.m. EST by shadz66 (19985)
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"Beneath the Bottom of the Barrel",

"Welcome to Republican priorities, 21st century-style",

by William Rivers Pitt.

Have you ever wondered what's under the bottom of the barrel ? I found out on Tuesday morning, when I cracked open the fetid wasteland that used to be the Washington Post. There, in the Editorials section, was an article titled "Senior Citizens' Financial Woes Are Exaggerated," written by something called Charles Lane.

The timing was interesting. Just as I read that headline, I heard the sound of clinking and clanking coming from the front of my house. I knew what it was immediately: one of the Can People was making her daily pass through my recycling bins. Years ago, the town I live in provided every home with a pair of large blue bins for residents to properly separate and store their recyclables for collection. Every Tuesday afternoon, a big yellow truck rumbles by to empty them. All week long, my neighbors and I fill these bins with paper, plastic, cans and bottles, and every day, the Can People come by to pick the bins over and collect anything worth five cents at the redemption center in the supermarket down the hill. More often than not, they push battered shopping carts to hold what they can find, but sometimes they have only a garbage bag slung over their shoulder to carry the load.

There are no young people doing this, nor even middle-aged people. The Can People are old men and women, stooped, wearing worn-out clothes and fraying shoes as they rattle through my refuse with gnarled, arthritic hands. Some are White, some are Asian, some are Black; can-collection, like poverty, knows no ethnic boundaries. I wave to them when I see them, but they seldom respond, either because their eyesight is too poor to make me out as I stand on my porch like a lord, or because they are too ashamed to acknowledge the fact that I see them, and thus see what it is they must do to survive.

When I heard the clinking and clanking on Tuesday morning, I remembered a brace of ginger ale cans I'd neglected to bring outside. Hurriedly, I tossed them into a bag and brought them to my porch. She was bent into the blue bin to the waist, and when she reared up at the sound of me, there was fear in her eyes. Maybe she thought I was going to shoo her away. Maybe that kind of thing happens a lot. I came to the railing, extended the bag of cans to her, and she took them without a word. Her face was a delta, a map of time itself, and she could not bring herself to meet my eye. She placed the bag of cans in her shopping cart, and I watched as she clattered her way down the sidewalk to the next set of bins.

When she was out of sight, I went back inside to read what Charles Lane had to say about how easy old people have it in America. He began with this :

  • "Now that Paul Ryan, the author of a major proposal to overhaul Medicare, is going to be on the Republican ticket, the fall presidential campaign shapes up as a battle over the federal government's obligations to senior citizens. Before it begins, I hereby declare that I admire and like the elderly. My parents are elderly. I myself hope to be elderly someday, and to remain that way for a long time. But I do not feel sorry for the elderly as a group, and neither should you."

  • "In particular, you should not let an exaggerated portrayal of their economic vulnerability - the "Mediscare" campaign that Democrats have run in the past and are dusting off again - unduly affect your thinking about entitlement policy."

"Entitlement," Mr. Lane ? Did they not teach you the definition of words in your time at Harvard and Yale? If something has been paid for with decades of hard labor, it is not an "entitlement." It is a justly deserved return on a very long investment.

An exaggerated portrayal of their economic vulnerability? Is it even possible to exaggerate the economic vulnerability of the elderly in America? To a person, they have to deal with at least one physical ailment, if not a multitude of them, and all in a nation where health care and prescription medicines are wildly expensive commodities. They are no longer employed, and so have no employer-provided health insurance, but only the small financial protection they paid for by investing in the social safety net with every paycheck they earned. A very large majority of America's oldest citizens are required to squeeze every penny until Abraham screams just to survive.


Seventy-five percent of Americans nearing retirement age in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. The specter of downward mobility in retirement is a looming reality for both middle- and higher-income workers. Almost half of middle-class workers, 49 percent, will be poor or near poor in retirement, living on a food budget of about $5 a day.

The core of Mr. Lane's argument is a muddle of questionable statistics and broad assumptions, culminating in a concluding paragraph as obnoxious as it is astonishing:

  • "Sooner or later, politicians are going to have to treat older voters not as potential victims but as secure and fortunate citizens, who can and should contribute their fair share to resolving the country's fiscal predicament. In other words, to treat them as what they are."

Notice how Lane uses the Occupy Movement's rhetoric with that line about how elderly people "can and should contribute their fair share to resolving the country's fiscal predicament" ? That's right, you ghoul ... don't tax the rich. Don't tax the bankers or Wall Street. Don't touch the grotesquely bloated "defense" budget. Instead, let's tap the most vulnerable among us to be fodder for the wheat thresher of your callous, bottomless conservative greed. Yes, let's "treat them as what they are," just another juicy target.

I suppose I should not be surprised. After all, it was Charles Lane who said, after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and critically wounded, that Rep. Giffords would denounce union workers in Wisconsin if only she "could speak normally."

But see, that's the thing. Once upon a time, ruthless conservative lickspittles like Lane would only whisper jokes about Gabby Giffords getting shot, and about old people being ripe plums for the picking, into their sleeves. They're not even bothering to hide their viciousness any more, and now that Paul Ryan has joined Mitt Romney on the Republican presidential ticket, this is the kind of argument we can look forward to. After all, it is Mr. Ryan who has built his career on a plan to annihilate Medicare, all the while defending the "defense" budget to the knife. All Mr. Lane has done with his pestiferous little missive is carry some water for Mr. Ryan. Welcome to Republican priorities, 21st century-style.

It is a national disgrace that any old person is forced to rummage through garbage for a few extra pennies to survive. The fact that millions of elderly people tremble on the cusp of economic calamity every single day, after they have fought our wars and served our peace and built our country in the decades they bent their backs to their work, is nothing more than simple, shameful fact. That the safety net they spent their lives paying for is under a full frontal assault from the Republican right should give anyone planning to live past the age of 65 more than a moment of pause. Mr. Lane thinks the elderly have it too good, an argument that is beyond contempt, but this is the thinking we are required to contend with in an age when people like Paul Ryan are actually taken seriously.

May you live a long, long life, Mr. Lane. May you grow very, very old ... and when you are grubbing for cans in someone else's garbage, may you remember your own words - and know a moment of shame.


fiat justitia ruat caelum ...


(William Rivers Pitt is a Truthout editor and columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know," "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence" and "House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation." He lives and works in Boston.)

{Copyright : http://truth-out.org/ }

[Article copied verbatim under "Fair Use" from : http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/10933-beneath-the-bottom-of-the-barrel & please refer here to access the embedded links]



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[-] 3 points by Shubee (119) 11 years ago

This is a great article. I love it.

[-] -3 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

Thanx & "America’s Descent into Poverty", by Paul Craig Roberts :

"The Republicans believe that the suffering of poor Americans is not helping the rich enough. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are committed to abolishing every program that addresses needs of what Republicans deride as 'useless eaters'. "

fiat justitia ...

[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

Tweeted - should this go out as another open letter to the Government and the People?

As always - thank you shadz.

[-] -3 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

You're welcome and further :

fiat justitia ...

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

Bookmarked - thanks.

[-] -2 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

"Paul Ryan And The Fountainhead", by Uri Avnery :

"There is something in the teachings of this Jewish White Russian preacher of extreme egoism that appeals to the primitive American myths of rugged individualism, gun-toting Wild West self-reliance."

e tenebris ...

[-] -3 points by deepthoughtV2 (-8) 11 years ago

Open letters to the government? Why give power and credence to the government by acknowledging it? Are you a government lover?

[-] 2 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

Are you a civilization hater?

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

Chastisement of government is a right - it is a good thing to do. Sharing such letters with the public may inspire them to do the same as well as look for other ways to correct a wrong thinking wrong acting government.

So piss off vvvRustyButtheadBrucie.




[-] -3 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

You're welcome and indeed we all need light in these times of darkness.

Some further 'darklight' :

ad lucem et veritas ...


[-] -2 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

The 'Tweedledumbass / Tweedledumber' non-choice is not no longer feasible but of course we must have choices. Democracy abhors 'The One Party State' even IF it does has Two Illusionary Factions, !!!

I'm beginning to tentatively think that there is an increasing and developing argument for compulsory voting like in much of South America and Australia BUT this is only conscionable (imho) IF there is a 'Non Of The Above' Option / Legal Spoiled Ballot Option AND the 'barriers to entry' for new parties are removed AND Independent Citizens can also stand in elections.

Ideally, we would have 'bottom up', decentralised, democracies where there would be no 'political parties' and we'd only have 'true independents' who represented The 99% not 'Banksters & Corporations' and voted on the issues.

dum spiro, spero ...


[-] -2 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

I find myself interested but disconcerted ! B.F.Skinner & "Walden" ? Care to elaborate ?

fiat lux ...


[-] -2 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

Walter Lippmann ; Leo Strauss ; Edward Bernays & even Aldous Huxley come to mind.

Thanx for your heads up & interesting posts ; I shall look into it.

pax ...


[-] 2 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

Everyone should read this.

[-] -2 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

This too perhaps :

fiat lux ...

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

Junkies ain't nothin' new.

I knew a guy at Ford who died in a similar fashion.

He was hurt at work and the pain killers, including oxy did him in.

Vicodin can be even more sinister and it's use isn't as obvious.

In my use, and in a conversation with a nurse and a home care specialist, I've found it doesn't so much ease pain, as it makes you not give a shit that you are in pain.

A strange drug indeed, and one that's given out like candy..

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

Toxic - nastyness - prescribed - by your ( our ) Dr.s - though they know it is Toxic nastyness - pharma turning out toxic substances to treat symptoms not causes.

[-] 0 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

If we're hurting, we'll try what they're prescribing.

What I want to know, is who is doing all the meth?

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

Yes - I know - please take away the pain - living there - fortunately for me pain medication does not help - so I don't take any.

Meth? never tried it - but from what I have heard it is an upper - extreme upper. So I would suppose that those who feel down or work mega hours or are studying under a heavy load - would probably use it. Then abuse it then loose it then die if not caught and taken off of it.

[-] -1 points by jbgramps (159) 11 years ago

As a senior citizen I take exception to the thought that old folks are worse off than any other segment of the population. In fact I’d counter that seniors are probably better off than the younger folks. Without a doubt every generation has felt the recession, but overall seniors have probably suffered the least.

I suspect your poignant example of elderly can pickers are the exception. The reality is, even today, most homeless are drug abusers or alcohol or mentally ill. I know there are families and average folks who have fell through the crack, but most of those don’t live the homeless lifestyle (for lack of a better word). i.e picking up cans. Most non-habitual homeless seem to eventually find better ways to get by. But I digress, this thread is about how bad off the elderly have it today.

I live in a neighborhood I estimate to be 50% retired seniors. I believe most are politically conservative; some being very hard anti-liberal. I’d also guess most will vote for Romney. If it were not for Social Security and medicare I think most would be a bad situation, myself included.

My point of this rambling post is the folks already over 65, like myself and my wife, are better off than the younger folks. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see we will probably be the last generation to be able to retire. I worry about my children and grandkids, not myself.

A bit off topic, but this whole concept of retirement is relatively new. My father was able to retire, but my grandfathers would’ve had difficulty understanding it. Historically people worked until just couldn’t do it anymore, and then were cared for by their families. Have things changed so much that’s a bad idea?

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 11 years ago

My Mom receives just over 700.00 a month to live on my step dad the same. Then they have to pool that money for a place to live food utilities transportation and the outrageous cost of some of their many medications. And these two have it pretty good compared to many Seniors in this country. How much more difficult it will be for the one when the other passes on.

You are apparently living a different experience.

[-] -1 points by jbgramps (159) 11 years ago

In your parents case, using the numbers given. If one passed the survivor would receive a survivors benefit (not sure that’s the correct term) that would allow them to keep most of the deceased benefit. And they could move in with you or another child to help ease the burden. Is that really such an outrageous concept. I mean to take care of you parents if needed?

The situation of your parents doesn’t change the overall picture. We can all come up with an example to make our point, but the norm is seniors today probably have it better than the younger folks. It’s just we current old folks may be the last generation that will be able to retire or be self sufficient in our old age. Unless someone comes up with a miracle, society will revert back to the elderly living with their families when can no longer work. Just like 100 year ago before there was such a thing as retirement.

[-] -2 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

I put it to you that previous generations generally died at a far younger age & these days families are 'nuclear' and/or spread far and wide & increasingly "alienated" from each other and from society itself.

IF your neighbours insist on "being politically conservatives", they are burying their heads in the sand - like 'Ostriches' ;

IF your neighbours insist on being "hard" right wing and "vote for Mitt R-money" - they are Thanksgiving Voting 'Turkeys' and ...

IF your neighbours insist on doing the above despite needing "Social Security & Medicare" - then they're may be too 'Chicken' to change !!!

I suspect that you are a thinking, compassionate and forward looking person and you aren't "off topic" at all here. Thus consider - how easily 'They' can find 'money' for WARS and Empire & how easily they can use Public Funds to bail out Private Businesses yet 'They' will not fund decent retirements. Please note that it is NOT "can't fund" ; It is "won't fund" because they are utterly selfish, callous, cruel, closed minded & hard-hearted and full of hate, hubris and hypocrisy.

spero meliora ...

[-] 2 points by jbgramps (159) 11 years ago

I think we agree more than we disagree. I won’t argue politics with you. It’s damn near impossible to change anyone’s mind on politics. Doesn’t matter if young or old, right or left, people rarely change their political or social views.

I also agree on families being spread out and even being alienated from each other. I think the disintegration of the family has played a big role in a lot of society’s problems. And not intended to bring race into it, but it seems whites lead in the disintegration of the family. It seems a lot of other cultures still hold dear the family unit where we whites do not. (please I don’t want to argue about race), Just making an observation.

When it comes to wars and empire building I’m with you 100%. I’m a veteran, drafted and served before Viet Nam, so no combat duty for me. I think the US should immediately pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan; and close most foreign military bases. The purpose of the military should be to protect our country, not police the world. I’m really ticked off right now because of the talk of about the US getting involved.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 11 years ago

so we accept the right/left paradigm

I think not

[-] -2 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

Perhaps 'not arguing politics' is what has led the US Citizenry to this particular present juncture !!

ad iudicium ...

[-] 1 points by jbgramps (159) 11 years ago

You may be right about not arguing politics. But it seems to me that all we do is argue. I mean the left and right hate each other with passion so strong no reasonable discussion can occur. The left and right have effectively become mortal enemies. Each side demonizing the other with such venom it borders on absurd. No one is winning, just further dividing us.

I assume you realize virtually impossible to change anyone’s mind who has already picked a side. People are not rational or logical. Statistics, figures or your version of the facts don’t matter. So my point is I personally don’t see the use of trying to discuss politics or social causes with folks who don’t agree with me. It always ends in frustration and hard feelings for both parties.

OWS is not exempt from this hate. Just read some of the posts. Just like the Dems and Repubs, they also spew hate. Just they feel a little more self righteous.

[-] -3 points by shadz66 (19985) 11 years ago

There can be no omelets without breaking eggs ! Also, from an American perspective - one wonders what "left" you are referring to ! NOT the Democraps surely ?!! Consider : In The U$A - y'all only have the 'faux choice' betwixt 'a rock and a hard place' & between 'Right Wing and Bat-Shit-Fkn-Crazy' !!!

It can't all always be 'peaches and cream' & 'jolly japes and ginger beer' ; gorra be ready to get down and dirty sometimes ! Finally, I absolutely do not agree with you that all people are impervious to the precepts of 'love, logic & light', all of the time !!

Viva 'OWS' :-)

pax et lux ...