Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Love's Lost

In retrospect, we couldn't have asked for a better Republican candidate than Mitt Romney, who, in the end really did encapsulate the Republican belief system, all rolled up into a single, every-hair-in-place emblem of the Haves.

In centuries past, when peasants saw the king ride by in his gilded carriage and asked why he should live in such opulence when their own children were in rags and underfed, the answer from the king's people was the king deserved his place and privileges because God wanted him to have all that, and the implication was God wanted your children in rags, living in hovels.  To be high born was evidence itself--if you were put in a position of such privilege God must have willed it.

Romney embodied the modern day version of this reply. Rich guys like him deserved their fortunes because they have been the "risk takers."  They won big because they bet big.  Those feckless, cowardly, indolent, no-ambition types who make up the bottom 99% deserve to be living in those overpriced, shabby houses, working two jobs because they are the "takers," not the makers.

For the rich to justify their own good fortune, they have to do two things: 1. Justify their wealth as just reward  2. Demean those losers who have not achieved the upper 1%. 

Of course, politically, it is also useful to suggest that you, Joe Sixpack, will not be in the lower 99% for long--your day is coming. You will get pie in the sky right here on earth, if you just vote Republican because you will win big and no damn government will take away your winnings.

The proof of the validity of this approach is the large numbers of white, economically struggling males who vote for Romney, Rand Paul and every other Rush Limbaugh endorsed Republican--if they are that stupid, they deserve to be stuck with the loser's share.

But  really intrigues Mad Dog is this concept of "risk taker."  Mitt Romney was born on third base. He never took the risk of stepping up to the plate. If he failed, he was not going to lose his home, his wife, see his kids shipped off to relatives.  He, like so many other self made men were born rich and yet they talk about "taking risks" and putting themselves on the line.

In fact, if you really look at the lives of those Republicans who ballyhoo the "risk taking" behavior which entitled them to reap huge rewards, there was never much risk there.

Donald Trump risked only being less rich.

Mad Dog fondly remembers the CEO of his hospital, a dyed in the wool Republican, who ranted about Democrat takers.  This guy never took risks in his  own life and accepted what the government and later what corporate employers handed him. This CEO went into the military after high school, went to college on a GI bill, worked for big corporations his entire career, always an employee, always with a paycheck, never having signed a lease for his own office, never having met a payroll from his own revenues, never having dealt with regulations or licensing which might shut down his business.  He was the classic "salary man."  And he talked about risk!

Mad Dog, having run his own business for decades, is never more amused to look at all the "risk takers" out there who don't have the faintest idea what real risk is.

Real risk is jumping out of the plane with no reserve parachute. If your plan A doesn't work, they will peel you off the pavement. 

And through all the years  of real risk, Mad Dog did not consider taking a risk a great test of character. He would very much have liked to not have to take the risks he took for his business. At the point those risks became simply more than they were worth, he sought out an employed position and became a salary man. 

There are risks in being an employee--companies change their plans and jettison employees like so much dirty dishwater--but the risks in small business still tower over the pale risks of the rich guy who starts a company and thinks himself a tough guy for working hard and risking somebody's money, not his own.

Next time you hear somebody talk about entrepreneurs, risk takers, the captains of industry, ask about what they really risk, in personal terms, if the enterprise fails. For many, the structure of the deals leaves them unscathed, at no risk for personal financial embarrassment. Losing a business, in many of these start ups is just losing at a game. 

For the wage earner who goes to work one day and is told he's out of a job, it's not the same. He doesn't know where his rent or car payment or grocery bill money will come from. He is desperate in a way the capitalist never has known. 


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