I'm sure by now you've all heard or read what McCain said about social security:
I'd like to start out by giving you a little straight talk. Under the present set-up, because we've mortgaged our children's futures, you will not have Social Security benefits that present-day retirees have unless we fix it. And Americans have got to understand that.
Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed.
Basically, social security as a concept is a disgrace to him. It seems that the people who depend on it think differently (who don't have $58K/year retirement plans from their first job while working a lucrative second job).
His economic adviser Phil Gramm, who was destined to become the US treasurer before this gaffe, thinks anyone who isn't doing well financially right now is just a whiner:
"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.
"We've never been more dominant; we've never had more natural advantages than we have today," he said. "We have benefited greatly" from the globalization of the economy in the last 30 years.
Mr. Gramm said the constant drubbing of the media on the economy's problems is one reason people have lost confidence. Various surveys show that consumer confidence has fallen precipitously this year to the lowest levels in two to three decades, with most analysts attributing that to record high gasoline prices over $4 a gallon and big drops in the value of homes, which are consumers' biggest assets.
"Misery sells newspapers," Mr. Gramm said. "Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day."
From the surveys cited above, apparently most Americans don't feel the same way. Perhaps because we're a bunch of lazy whiners who didn't divorce our disabled wives to marry super-wealthy heiresses.
A major problem we've seen among liberals these past few decades centers around this - we're unable to clearly identify where this sort of rhetoric comes from and what it means outside of its face value. We see these few gaffes as just that, gaffes. Sure, Republicans want to privatize Social Security and put most of the wealth in the top 1% of America, all the while raiding the treasury with handouts to big corporations and no-bid contracts and "tax relief" for the rich as if it were their own private piggy bank, but that's just part of their philosophy! And when they fuck things up, like Katrina or Iraq, it's just a few bad apples!
If we accept that, we're giving them far more credit than they deserve. This isn't something that happened by accident, the state of government right now. It was expressly made to be cheaper, less efficient, and to direct funding to the wealthy for not doing their job. Everything else about privatization, tax relief, independence, their definition of freedom, all that, is just a ruse to get more money.
But the fact that he so brazenly and openly said that the problem with Social Security is the way it's funded, the defining characteristic of how it works, shows how deeply this is internalized as a problem. I'm thinking that he doesn't really get the full impact of what he's saying since he probably just hangs around other rich people who go to cocktail parties or the races or whatever it is they do these days and complain about the same things in the same way. They hate the fact that they have to pay into Social Security because that money will go to poorer people who don't deserve it. Their retirement is covered, so what's the deal?
Same for Phil Gramm. I'm sure that extremely wealthy folk watch the same news we do and wonder why so many people complain about the economy. Jeez, he just bought his fourth yacht or Van Gogh or whatever it is the fabulously wealthy are buying these days, so why are these whiners fussing? Things are doing better now than when back when they had to pay sky-high 28% capital gains income taxes, am I right?
Can I get a "Hear, hear"?
Really, what we're dealing with here is a cultural difference. McCain's culture is the incredibly wealthy. Their have their desires and needs and language and philosophies and legislative priorities, and they've repackaged them as a philosophy that supposedly benefits everyone.
Now let's wait for the pundits to point out how these statements show that McCain isn't running to be everyone's president, how they show that he's pandering to identity politics, and how he's going to have to piss off part of his base to reach the center and real Americans.
Oh, wait, those people are part of his same wealthy culture. And asking people to objectively understand the limitations of their culture without leaving it is like asking a fish what water's like - it's all around them so they don't even know it exists.