Upside Down World

by Victor Davis Hanson

It doesn’t compute

Everyone knows that by and large the black and Hispanic communities are not in block voting sympathetic to gay marriage much less overt homosexuality. Living at ground zero of the illegal immigration influx, I see such attitudes voiced openly and unashamedly.

Here in California what was the ‘No on Prop 8’ gay lobby thinking, when the Obama registration drives in California brought in thousands of new voters — that they were really all UC Santa Cruz undergrads or absent-minded professors who forgot to register? Did they really think all those evil white Mormons and Church of Christ throngs in California would overwhelm them at the polls? In truth, each new Obama minority voter registered was a de facto vote against gay marriage.

There is a strange phenomenon that occurs when someone damns the abstract Right by ignoring the far more concrete Right in his own midst. I saw that in the 1970s when pampered leftists in college would damn Nixon’s Middle America, and then go back home to enjoy the largess of their wealthy conservative parents. If Bill Ayers were really a revolutionary, would he not have burned down his father’s estate rather than have bombed a public facility for the general use? Or might he have given all his inheritance to Chicago community organizers? And if gays want gay marriage, I suggest they put their Obama buttons back on, and come to Fresno, Los Angeles, San Jose and began re-canvassing the neighborhoods with gay teach-ins and bilingual seminars on gender tolerance, or perhaps enlisting rap singers to stop the ‘fag’ lyrics and instead start offering tunes that celebrate diversity and gay tolerance.

On a personal level, I was always struck how Ronald Reagan Jr., or Christopher Buckley or the daughter of George Wallace sometimes chided, or even lashed out at conservatives by evoking memories of their own far-right parents in support of their centrism or liberal views. Excuse me? Ronald Reagan as California governor was often a firebrand who courted confrontation; William F. Buckley opposed civil rights legislation; and George Wallace stood in the door to block racial integration. The point? Before lamenting the illiberalism of the present conservative movement and reinterpreting their namesakes’ legacies, they should really cool the rhetoric against those who were not nearly as right-wing as their own sires and instead perhaps write an essay criticizing their own parents for helping to foster the very landscape they now find in part odious.

The problem with identity politics and coalitions

They are unrestrained. Once one runs on the notion that he is a hyphenated American, there is no end to it. Obama had not been elected one minute, and immediately the people claimed their anti-war due. Then wily Bill Richardson was on TV bragging that the Hispanics in the southwest had won him the election, and that they needed to be rewarded. The gay community will think federal support for gay marriage is a dividend of their support as well. Ditto women, unions, radical environmentalists, etc. The list is endless once one appeals to the tribe and the single-issue voter rather than to shared ideas and values.

Like it or not, Obama, at a time  of soaring deficits and debt, has promised the entitlement industry even more. In a recessionary cycle of shrinking sales and red ink, he has promised the unions everything. At a time of multiracial complexity, the African-American community, at margins of 95% support at the polls, has claimed him as their own. The claims are indeed many, but the reciprocity by needs will be few. Even the media will want their due, claiming (rightly) they too elected him. Endlessly each group elbows another faction.

Wealth and poverty

For much of my early life as a farmer I never netted over $10,000. As a professor for 20 years as CSUF, in comparison to farming, I thought the pay was very good — I started in 1985 at $23,500 and thought I was in heaven when I reached after 15 years $60,000 , especially compared to raisin income and plum returns.

Although I do better now, I have no envy or anger at those who make big money. Here are a couple of considerations about the current furor over the Obama tax hikes that, with income and payroll combined with state and Medicare, could put some incomes in the 65% tax bite. First, it is their money, not mine. I long ago realized that an academic enjoys all sorts of perks, summers off, sabbaticals, free time that higher-paid CEOs or doctors and lawyers do not. Each person to some degree has some free will about the sort of work, sacrifice, and unpleasantness necessary to endure to alter his income.

Second, after 50 some years of living in the central valley of California, I conclude that a lot of the precursors for low income, not all, but a lot, is brought about through so-called ‘lifestyle’ choices — the use of drugs, breaking the law, alcohol usage, the desire even to have more than 3-4 children, divorce, the inability or unwillingness to finish high school — as well as injury and illness. It is politically-incorrect to list sloth and laziness, but such traits also contribute to impoverishment.

Third, this is the 21st century, not the 19th. Those who makes $40,000 or $80,000 or $1,000,000 per year all pretty much have hot water for their showers. Their tap water doesn’t sicken them, and they watch about the same TV shows and mostly have cell phones. Mass consumerism, easy credit, and technology have blurred the distinctions between wealth and poverty. That I buy a Wal-Mart sweat suit to ride a bike in the winter for $20 does not mean that I am any colder than the Manhattan exec who buys one with a designer label version for $150 at a boutique on Park Avenue. His $20 million-dollar penthouse apartment is no warmer or cooler than my Selma farmhouse. As far as the private jet, the yacht, the 5 homes, I’d prefer to fly commercial, rent a kayak, and have trouble enough keeping two toilets running and the hot water heater from silting up without worrying about either 50 of them or a staff of 5 to oversee them all.

So the advantages of wealth are more of a status thing and free choices of recreation or more leisure time than a vast difference in material conditions. For all the talk of the uninsured, one can buy catastrophic health insurance for $200-300 a month. And at the local rural health clinics in my area, many people, a year or two after arriving from the third world in Oaxaca, find good dental care, prenatal attention and major medical treatment pretty much free, something, for example, unheard of in rural Mexico.

Fourth, I realize, however, that human nature being what it is, that when we confiscate someone’s income (and that is what a 50% plus rate begins to do), we destroy initiative that in the long run enriches us all; while at the same time creating inefficient agencies that redistribute the money that often has the effect to discourage self-reliance on the other end of the spectrum. This is not the 1930s when there were few government safety nets, but a time of complex entitlements from unemployment insurance, welfare, disability insurance, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, income tax credits, low income tax deductions, subsidized housing, health care, and food stamps (On Thursday at the Selma Food 4 less, the four people ahead of me all had prepaid country food stamp credit cards, and their carts had, I would wager, more expensive foods than did my own). The question now is whether to enlarge these entities by tapping 5% of the population to pay even more, and whether a reluctance to agree is either rightly considered selfish or unpatriotic (I am paraphrasing Obama and Biden).

Look to California

We will soon have the highest sales taxes in the country. Our income tax rate is among the very highest. Our property is assessed at astronomical and overinflated values. And we Californians in return get substandard schools, pot-holed and crowded freeways, antiquated rail, crowded and therapeutic universities, and broke hospitals. Millions over the past three decades with degrees flee to tax-free Oregon or Nevada, but millions more come replace them from impoverished and depressed areas. The state is unrecognizable from my youth in the 1960s. We were given ideal weather, rich soil, mountains and sea, oil and minerals, timber, ports and bays, lakes and rivers, and our forefathers built industries in the Silicon Valley, agricultural in the valley, defense and tourism in Los Angeles — and we have essentially squandered it.

Things add up

I flew yesterday from California to Florida. All the beverages (including water!) were for pay only. No complimentary snacks. No movies either as of November 1 it was announced. An extra bag was charged to be checked in. When one reads of the spikes in oil prices and the tremendous transference of wealth abroad both in energy costs and consumer imports from China, one in insidious ways can now see the results as sort of an accustomed trivial affluence starts to crumble and crack.

An Obama dividend?

Many are frustrated by Obama’s apparent lack of knowledge, and the slick way in which his rhetoric masks his ignorance — and the complete infatuation of the media. But surely this could work abroad?

Imagine: Obama might say that he wants hope and change and so wishes to withdraw 40,000 troops from Europe to stop our unilateral and hegemonic presence on foreign soil. A German PM or the Spanish and Greek socialists would not say much of anything, as the Euro public and press are still mesmerized from the Victory Column nonsense. And so the foreign press praises to the skies how Obama just took the U.S., in neo-isolationist fashion, out of Europe.

He’s back

Rev. Wright was on television, subdued and playing the victim of the “snippets” card, as if those infamous Hannity-played out-takes had done in him. He was forgetting, of course, that despite the Wright venom that aired, Barack Obama was OK with that: in his famous post-Wright KKKofA/GD America speech, Obama promised that he could no more disown Rev. Wright than the black community and his own grandmother. No, what did in the Right Reverend was the National Press Club performance. And it was not even his repeated racist views there that did it. The rub was the foolish arrogance of insulting the national press in their nerve center in DC. Had he simply made nice to the assembled reporters rather than insulting them, his racist views would not have mattered that much (they hadn’t in the past). They can forgive a black militant, but not one who mocks them openly.

The first President-elect Obama Press conference. Suggestions:

1) call on 1 opposition press person at least 1 time

2) Don’t talk more about hypo-allergenic puppies more than the state of the world

3) Don’t make cheap cuts about an aged former first lady that would better apply to Hillary Clinton

4) Use the teleprompter more

Bring back the WPA?

The hysteria of this boomer generation never ceases to amaze. During the 1970s and 1980s we went through 7%+ periods of unemployment. The Great Depression saw spikes of 25% and more. Yet we go over 6% and suddenly CNN is blaring about the need to restore massive public works projects, and the government hiring of millions.

The Mea Culpa Press

Scanning various media today and doing a few radio interviews, I was struck how they have all simply taken conservative pre-election claims that we didn’t know who the stealth candidate Obama was, given his blank slate , and now agreed — but in worry that they don’t know whether he will come through on their own agendas. Indeed conservatives are more likely to wait and see, as liberals worry out loud “now what?”

In fact, listening to the widely-circulated interview of Newsweek editors worrying about Obama’s contortions (”this creature” and “creepy”) is damning proof that they are really no longer journalists. For months most assured us that worries about the plastic Obama were illiberal, then they got what they wanted and now confess to us what they themselves knew all along, that there could be no there there:

So is the elite media worried Obama will prove a centrist rather than a liberal?

Or a black nationalist rather than a hope and change healer?

Or that they have been so stung that they utterly lost their reputations for credibility they are now scrambling to restore a shred of them?

Or do they wish to be a day ahead of the curve and now somehow fill the void created by the departure of the anti-Christ George Bush and be on the cutting-edge of slicing Obama?

Or are they such sad creatures of the day, that they simply babble, then re-babble as the hourly perceptions change?

Like many, I wrote some pre-election essays with titles like ‘The Obama Enigma’ and ‘The Blank Slate’ and got the usual tons of hate mail that most now get from the organized Obama electronic minutemen, but is the media party line really now to be “We also knew all that then, but can only say it now”?

©2008 Victor Davis Hanson

Share This