The Politics of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy had hit a couple of days ago and the markets were suspended when my CEO, Tom Gorman, called me into his office. He had his favorite three inch carved ebony pipe with replicas of the U.S. Constitution brilliantly carved into two sides, separated by dollar sign. He was smoking weed and apparently had been for a while because the room smelled like a dead giveaway.

“Bernie, Bernie Rosenthal, nice of you to show up.”

“Well, Tom, I came as soon as your secretary buzzed me.”

“Seems longer. You’ve been reading about that hurricane?”

I nodded.

“God is on our side, Bernie boy, he is most definitely on our side. Life has new meaning.” Tom looked at me, perplexed, and then he started to laugh, his Irish displaying in full. “Oh, right, I forget, you’re a Progressive, one of the Commie’s supporters.”

I nodded again.

“You know you’re the CFO now, Bernie, you’re not some lowly little manager of an accounting department. Why don’t you ever argue with me? Or Tom?”

I started to nod again but Tom shook his head, took a big hit from his pipe, coughed a few times, and waited.

When you avoid arguing with someone, finding a reason to is really difficult. I really didn’t want to argue, not with the Toms, anyway, so I told him the truth. “Because I was a lowly manager of an accounting department…”

“…and the house on the lake and the boats, I know. I’ve bought enough accountants in my career. Fuck that, argue with me.” He paused and then went far more assertive. “Do it now. What do you have Bernie Rosenthal? What do you have for me? I may really need you someday, so call this an inventory evaluation, show me why I pay for your lake house, some nice cars, and other shit. Can you do that for me, Bernie? Can you do it just this once?”

I didn’t nod, I didn’t open my mouth. The next move was Tom’s and I had to concentrate.

He smiled his Irish best, “I think Hurricane Sandy was okay, what do you think?”

“Well a lot of people died and there was a lot of property damage.”

“I don’t want to talk about that, shit that’s obvious. The insurance companies will dodge most of it or catch up with next year’s policies, we’ve got people to make sure of that. It’s the rest and what makes this is a godsend. A godsend. Do you know why?”

I couldn’t stop myself from shaking my head. I didn’t want to go there, not with my boss, not with the happiest looking truly mean man that I’ve ever met.

“Bernie, I want to clarify something before I say anything more. I know you are a Progressive and that you would do anything that you think a  normal upper middle class citizen would do to re-elect that Kenyan fraud. That said, I peg you as the kind of Chief Financial Officer who lives on the lake with the cars, yadda, yadda,  who knows that there is more to life than becoming poor for a cause. Am I right?”

“Is this where I argue with you?”

“Don’t fuck with me. Don’t fuck with me. Just nod.”

I nodded.

“It’s no shocker but that we don’t believe in trickle down or any of that other Hayekian economic bullshit. Geez, Louise, that man hated and socialist was what scared him most. To him, socialism is like living near blacks is to Americans. He wrote about it like Ayn Rand would, but she improved on it, adding all that weird and kinky sex.

“Now don’t get any ideas, Bernie, we don’t believe in Keynesian, either, unless we have a need and we bring it up first. Got that?” He nodded to me.

I nodded.

“So the way I see it…” Tom scraped his pipe and tapped the ashes into his waste basket. He took out an old 35mm film case from the top drawer in his desk and refilled the pipe. Then he seemed to offer it to me but he smiled and shook his head. “No, no, no, I need an accountant, not a friend. Hear me out.”

“The economy is in suck ass shape. We need a stimulus in the worst way to reboot and get us moving again. We need it bad.”

“Well if that’s true, why don’t you and all the other CEO’s get together, move your seven and half trillion dollars of expatriated profits from overseas, back here, pay some taxes and build the companies, the plants, and the R & D and the infrastructure that we need to end this recession? You know what kind of a stimulus that would be.”

Tom’s smile got even broader and he stifled a laugh before enlightening me. “Well you’ve got the leftist bullshit down tight. Why don’t we do that? I’m getting bored, Bernie, challenge me. This is your only chance. Make me love you for something because if I don’t, I won’t need another reason to start combing my accounting staff for another one of you.”

Before I responded, I tried to think how I was going to break it to Jane that we were moving and living on her salary. “Ok, Tom, this is what I think. Stimulus works, it always does if the government spends the right amount provided business sincerely wants a rebound. To date, they have and our economy has always paid that debt back. Ok?”

“As far as it goes.”

“Republicans have been beating on the debt and deficit for years because they know that and they are scared as hell that if President Obama can pass enough stimulus bills, with an improved economy, the public will know that their Republicans in Congress. their Republicans at Fox, and all of the talk radio experts have been lying. Everyone they believed in turned on them for money and votes, causing them to wallow far too long in this down economy, unemployed, destitute, fearful, because of faulty economic theory that they knew from the start was wrong. Worse, your own people will shun you for playing politics with it and not even trying to make their lives better.”

“And that means…?”

“That means that you put all the kings horses and all the kings men out to scare the public into believing that debt and deficit are the true issues so they will elect candidates who espouse that creating a majority to stymie most anything Keynesian that the President wants to do. That is what has happened.”

“How does hurricane Sandy matter in this?”

“You said when I came in that ‘life has new meaning’ for you. You were really pretty happy that Sandy hit when it did.”

“I am ecstatic.”

“If Sandy had hit the Middle Atlantic coast the way it did, six months ago, or a year ago, the Congress and more important, your Republicans, would have been forced to fund the recovery everywhere and probably with even more money than was used to fund your Middle East Wars because you know someone on the Democratic side would go public and put your hand in that fire.”

“Go on, Bernie.”

“By voting for massive new debt, not only would that be a repudiation of years of Republican cries and whispers against the evils of deficit spending, but if Sandy hit six months ago, there would be enough time for mammoth public works spending to get some real traction in time to improve national unemployment, wages, and business and political sentiment before the voters vote next week. In addition, by election day, President Obama would have developed the aura of a world-wide hero when our public deficit spending winds its way through international supply chains and helps to jump start the world economy. That’s a hard man to defeat for re-election.”

“If Romney doesn’t bring us the Presidency next week, we will have it in 2016.”

“Yes, Governor Christie, I’ve been listening to him on television. It sure sounded like he cut the perfect deal. If he behaves favorably toward the President right now, he will have everything he needs to insure that New Jersey recovers from this disaster. And when it does, Governor  Christie will where the mantle of Rudy Giuliani and become the hero that Republicans will be praying to their many Gods will run for President in 2016.”

Tom put his pipe into the humidor on his desk and without looking up, he said, “I have to get back to work. I want your resignation on my desk before you leave tonigh. I suspect I won’t need it for a while, but you need to know that I have it. Needless to say, this conversation is confidential. You know what confidential means, don’t you, Bernie?

I nodded and left.

 

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What is the Joad Cycle

The Joad Cycle is a series of dystopian speculative fiction novels set in our America from 2032-2084 after a Constitutional Coup has brought to power an extreme Right Wing, Christian, Libertarian Entrepreneur who is the leader of the new Entrepreneur Party. In this America, business interests rule, government has been marginalized. and the poor and the middle class no longer exist, the result of a massive economic genocide. To survive, every citizen lives to create wealth and should living cost more than they can generate in value to the economy, they are executed. Mostly, this is an Anti-capitalist Love Story.

$$$ How to Read this Site $$$

This site is mostly fictional and it supports the novels, providing backstory and additional related short stories that take place within the world of the Joad Cycle.

The site offers a Blog and Journal from the perspective of one main character, the hero of the first book, The Golden Rule . This character, Bernie Rosenthal who is very liberal politically, works as Chief Financial Officer for U.S. Angs, a multinational multibillion dollar private corporation owned by Tom Gorman and Tom Morgan, the Toms, who represent ultra Conservative Koch brother types. Bernie is humbled by the tyrannical Toms during the day and finds a release journaling his job frustration. Meanwhile, Bernie's future self, Berne Thau, adds to the blog entries with his perspective, more than 30 years in the future, after money, greed, and the Right Wing revolution end the American Republic .

We are living in trying times. According to Berne Thau, they will get much more difficult.

Why this curmudgeon wrote this story

Every generation, parents tell their children that life was better back when they were young… and the children always scoff.

But now that I have qualified to pass judgment on that age-old warning, now that I’ve been both young and old, I have come to realize that the old have it right and children scoff at their peril though in the ways that American society has been taught to measures success, every generation since maybe the turn of the twentieth century anyway, has had it better.

But with age, and career experience, I have learned that those ways are deceptive and worse, they are wrong. Success is measured based on wealth, conveniences, and life expectancy issues when it should be evaluated on what we hope to be as individuals and what we become as people—the expectancy of life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been successful enough. For most of my baby boomer life I was comfortable middle class interspersed with a few years of unfortunate decline towards impoverishment, never quite getting there before bootstrapping back to comfort.

For a time, I was a certified member of the 1%—in income though not in wealth. The 1% is a class of people who rule their part of the world and have a lot of confidence that somebody they know rules the rest of it. I wasn’t a one-percenter for many years, but it was a good life until my associations made me believe that I just didn’t want it anymore. I apologize to my family for what I had become and these novels are my penance.

People congratulated me for the success I’d earned as if those less and least successful earned that lack as well. And with the memory of a manufacturing facility in a small, rural, one-employer town in out-of-the-way Northern Maine near the Canadian border closed to improve a bottom line somewhere else, with an American town murdered for earnings per share, I signed off and began to write the The Joad Cycle.

In my research, I came to fear for my family that grew from the narrowest and shallowest possible family tree to three generations deep and two wide. My family is important and so I wrote these novels for them, for their future, for what I dread we have taken from them and will continue to take, long after we are dead.

I live in the Midwest and my friends are good people and I value them. They are conservative and most are Christians and somehow, we argue over unions as if union members aren’t patriotic Americans, too, and besides, what is to be gained by condemning workers in a country of workers. And we disagree on the poor? Social Safety Nets may not be working as well as they could (But how would we know if these Safety Nets are working? It is not as if some brave politician will stand up and precisely define what a win looks like in the freest, richest country in the history of history—and seriously, doesn’t free-form Capitalism deserve the bulk of the blame with its all-encompassing goal of creating winning humans and losing humans).

And discussions on life and death with my conservative friends, life at the very beginning and the very end, and guns and gods…forget about it. But unlike politicians and the media, we are friends so we work around the discomfort and the dislike for the greater good.

My friends are the current version of the salt of the earth and all of us abide by family values above all, even if we can’t agree on them. Good people like us accept a society where too many of our children are handled by strangers during the critical formative years. And in the twilight years too many parents and grandparents are handled by strangers until their money runs out, like sand in an hourglass, their lives extended only so far as Government security or private insurance will grant.

And when Americans finally expire after insufferable pain and embarrassment and to the sighs of sad but relieved loved ones, it reveals the immaturity of the vast majority of the American people who won’t resolve; once and for all, when God’s reason ends life and so they leave that to for-profit resolution. Can’t it just be in the fading twinkle of an ancient woman’s eyes?

But all of this pales to the legacy of GREED! Greed, that race for wealth that is ingrained in us all from television at a too early age that drives us to become economically viable so that with something extra in our paychecks at the end of the week, we can indulge ourselves with gifts, with palliatives, to relieve the pain and discomfort that we feel for doing what we must do to earn what wealth we cab. Greed is the satisfying of artificial and constant cravings.

And those who are considered the best of us, majority stockholders, officers of corporations, politicians, and celebrities all at the top of their respective food chains, they earn their way into the 1% and possessing this true wealth, they gift themselves truly extraordinary palliatives in order to compensate for something deeply unsatisfying within that was once more human, what they lost in the dog-eat-dog world that we all live in.

This is the world that we pass on to our children and our grandchildren. This world is what will own them someday like it owns us today. They are truly greed’s legacy. That too is the basis for my cautionary tale of America’s future, The Joad Cycle.

But I still idealize my youth. I remember what it felt like when I was a boy and so I wrote a grand love story, too.

 

Gary Levey

05/01/2012