We’re catching on to the scam

The president with a gilded toilet has racked up so many losses that he has not had to pay taxes 10 out of the last 15 years, reports The New York Times. What a loser! Or not. 

He may be admired for getting away with it by farmers and businessmen who make avoiding federal and state income taxes a science. Or even those of us who wish we had a genuine tax liability — someday, if I keep voting Republican, I can attempt to skirt all my taxes, too, and gild my toilet seat.

That’s been the scam we’ve been played for the past half-century under pseudo-libertarian trickle-down hoodoo.

Skilled rural tradesmen make less today in real terms than they did in 1970. A person can show up for work every day, on time, for 40 years and not be able to afford his Ford pickup payment when he retires. Or dental implants needed after decades of inhaling welding smoke and bathing in solvents.

The poorest places in America are rural, mainly in the South and Appalachia, but the poor elderly and the underemployed are found in every rural Iowa county, too. 

And it’s getting worse as manufacturing continues to bleed jobs from the Midwest. Regional trade centers that were struggling with retail have been walloped by the pandemic. Those places along the rivers voted for Trump over what they had lost.

Barack Obama had tried to get his head around it: All they have left are guns and Bibles. Hillary Clinton dismissed them as deplorable. That was interesting, because Bill Clinton actually understood poor rural white men. He was one. But rather than address their problems, Bill Clinton played to biases drilled into white minds since 1619: welfare queens would have to get to work. Bubba says ain’t no welfare for him and he can’t make the trailer rent. You should be glad to have a job, even if that chicken manure conveyor overhead is about to come crashing down and suffocate you.

Everybody works and barely anybody makes it. Who can afford socialism when you can’t afford your health care premium?

You are told to think that the Black man is something less than you, because you weren’t born to be this low. It could not be the Plantation owner keeping you down, because he looks like you and goes to your church. It could not have been Reagan busting the union that has kept meat packing wages depressed for 40 years. It must be the Mexicans. Lock them up. And if the Blacks get “uppity,” well, we have ways to deal with that.

Poor white versus poor Black. Rural educational attainment trails urban by 20 percent, up from 5 percent a half-century ago. Education is how you scale the ladder. As state support erodes, so does attainment. 

You could send a kid to college on a union meat packing wage. The kid could work summers and pay his tuition, room and board at Iowa State. Now you borrow it all and move away from Pocahontas or Sac City because no job around here could pay off that debt.

People do feel left behind. They start to think ill of people with whom they are pitted in a competition to survive as the pie shrinks for the bottom two-thirds of America. They cluster with their own and hear their own stories and control the nation through the Electoral College and Senate, each proportioned for slave-state advantage.

Capital clusters, too, but not across much of the Lower 48. Eighty percent of the venture capital flows to just 50 counties around New York, Boston, L.A. and San Francisco. We slop hogs for $16 per hour. Resentments? Who are you talking about?

That’s the sort of class suppression that keeps Black people in the scope and poor white people with their boot worn on a shovel, nursing a grudge.

The cruel joke of it is Trump writing off as fake news the fact that he lives a King’s life on our dime. He stiffs his lenders, walks away from projects, and somehow secures a tax credit for it all. 

He is just one guy golfing. There are a thousand behind him hoping to keep you thinking that if you vote to tear the nation down it will all be yours. It is the great fallacy of our time, sold in patriotic fervor to people who see no choice but to go for broke along with Trump. 

Fortunately, Joe Biden is up in the Wisconsin and Michigan polls, which should do the trick in saving the nation from this moment. We’re catching on to the scam. 

Maybe, just maybe, we will turn our attention to the disaffection that is the tinder for the fire. It has been stoked a long time.

Art Cullen is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Storm Lake Times.

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