Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

September 19, 2012

Compassionless Conservatism

By David K. Shipler

I met Debra Hall in Cleveland years before Mitt Romney slandered 47 percent of all Americans as lazy parasites who want government to feed, house, and coddle them. She was 39, the single mother of two, and lived near poverty by working intensively at hard jobs that paid extremely low wages.

She learned how to type, how to keep an inventory, and how to drive a forklift, but she couldn’t find a job commensurate with her skills. Hired by a bakery, she was placed at a grueling conveyor belt; all the forklift drivers there were men. When I last saw her, she was getting up at 2 a.m., driving her beat-up car to the bakery, and putting in long, numbing shifts for $7.90 an hour. Yet when I asked her to list the reasons that she thought she had been confined to a life of poverty, she answered with one word: “Lazy.”

Lazy? I said. You work harder than I do. And harder than Mitt Romney, I’d now add. So, where does this self-indictment come from?

It’s not unusual to hear the poor blame themselves by using the same terminology inflicted on them by the upper classes.

September 12, 2012

Where Are All the Bumper Stickers?

By David K. Shipler

I just spent two days driving from Maine to Maryland and saw a total of five bumper stickers for presidential candidates. [Postscript: In 10 days of driving 1300 miles in rural Alaska, I saw no bumper stickers at all--only one for Romney when I got to Anchorage.] This is disastrous for undecided voters who are waiting for a revelation on the highway.

The first was a snappy slogan on a pickup in Maine: “Protect Freedom. Defeat Obama.” This was confusing. The young man behind the wheel didn’t look as if he meant a billionaire’s freedom from reasonable taxes, which Obama’s defeat would surely guarantee.

In Massachusetts, a hatchback came along with a red, white, and blue sticker in the middle of its cargo door: “NOT a Republican,” and an Obama-Biden sticker down on the bumper, where it belonged. The driver was behaving more safely than the young woman who cut me off at high speed on the interstate; as I hit the brakes, her “Romney” sticker loomed large. This is the kind of driving that can lose a candidate the election, as surely as Al Gore lost it when he sighed during a debate.

Here’s a reminder for drivers promoting candidates on vehicles: Undecided voters have X-ray vision.