Sunday, January 1, 2012

Politics at the Price Chopper

While shopping for our New Years guests here in upstate NY, I was standing in line at the Price Chopper Deli on New Years Eve day. A middle-aged woman (about my age, that is) was at the head of the line and said to the woman behind the counter: "Happy New Year! This is going to be a good year! This is the year we're gonna get rid of him. We're gonna send him back to Hawaii. We're gonna get rid of all of them."

I assume she meant this would be the year Obama is not re-elected. I think she may have been a freind or acquaitance of the deli woman whom I have seen wearing a Sarah Palin hat once, so she was probably in agreement with the customer's views. What I didn't get was did she mean that in addition to unseating Obama, the Congressional incumbents would also lose their elections? Or did she just mean Democrats?

I wisely held my tongue and did not engage with her. After all, she's entitled to her opinion. But if I had known her, I would have said something like, "So you want rich people not to have pay their fair share of taxes? You have no problem with paying higher payroll taxes--you look like you're middle class so that's what'll happen. You're OK with health insurance companies discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions? You don't think a woman should ever have the right to get an abortion, no matter what the circumstances or that I should be able to marry my partner? That's what you want? Fine."

I also could have said "Well, you know if you're a New York Republican, your vote for President doesn't really count, because of this antiquated electoral college system and the fact that the majority of people in this state will go for Obama."

As I composed pithy arguments, the woman got her meat and wished everyone a happy new year again and repeated her prediction "This is the year we get rid of all of them!"

She could have been a Ron Paul-type libratarian and wanted to eliminate all federal government or most of it. She may have thought, "All this government, this is what causes all the unemployment and the high taxes and the crime." I remember as a kid those who feared the government as if it were a bogeyman were seen as fringe-element nut jobs. There was a movie called "Cold Turkey" in 1971 starring Dick Van Dyke about a town that gives up smoking to win a multi-million dollar prize. It was really sharp and satiric, not that kind of film you ever see today.

One of the whacky characters (played by Graham Jarvis) was an extreme right-winger who read books with titles like "Hello Big Government, Goodbye America." Dick Van Dyke's character--the local minister--enlists the nutty guy to act as an inspector to make sure no cigarettes got into town. This type or far-right extremist was seen as a crazy out-of-touch type then. Now they are the mainstream or at least a loud voice in the media. How do people like that--and the woman at deli (if she wants to get rid of government)-- get to be seen as not crazy.

It's big businesspeople like the Koch brothers pushing their deregulation and shrinking-government agenda through media like Fox. Their barely concealed message goes: "The liberal government will give all your hard-earned money to lazy welfare cases. Let the free market do whatever it wants. Everyone will come on top then." And people like the woman at the deli listen and don't think that unless you have government and regulation, big business will take away your Social Security, Medicare, consumer protection, environmental laws, workplace safety rules, equitable taxes, etc. etc.

Then it was my turn and I ordered some ham.

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