“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” -John Steinbeck
(Author’s note: The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.)
We live in a time of unlimited knowledge. Everything you always wanted to know is now at your fingertips.
You can learn how to do almost anything on the Internet, from how to tie a Windsor knot to changing spark plug wires on the Impala – it’s all there. But when it comes to politics, all bets are off, because it is said one seeks out the answers one wants to hear.
I have been working on a pet project for an entire year now, trying to get to the bottom of the Tea Party’s hold on the brains of ordinary Americans. The goal is to find out how and why certain people vote against their own interests and if there is any hope for them or us as a city, state or country.
Although my work will likely never be completed, I have arrived at a milepost of sorts and am now able to begin filing my report that shall ultimately be my life’s work – defining and debunking Teabaggery.
At first I thought it would be an easy venture -and it has been in some ways- because people love to tell you everything they know about politics.
Especially when they are dead wrong.
Frank is a guy who works at a unionized manufacturing facility in Louisville. He is 59 years old.
Frank has two kids (an adult daughter still lives at home) and is on his second wife. He was divorced a long time ago after a short and badly-planned elopement. Frank has held many jobs, but none as good as the one he has now.
He has a pacemaker, gets his news from Fox News Channel, lives in a lower-middle class subdivision (“It used to be nice over there,” he says) and drives a 19 year-old pickup truck that “needs tires.”
He admits giving in to a certain amount of “paranoia,” particularly at home. Frank keeps many guns in his home, but feels guns are not a political issue.
Frank was hit especially hard by the recent death of Andy Griffith. Pining for Mayberry, he tells me about the “good old days” that never existed anywhere but in his own mind. While he’s talking, it occurs to me how easily Frank could be taught to repeat something as if it were the truth – as long as it was on television.
Frank is the type of guy both major political parties would love to court, but while saying he “just doesn’t trust” either one, he admittedly votes Republican and considers himself a “Tea Party guy.”
He tells me his main area of concern is government debt and “out of control spending in Washington.” He cites “the recent government takeover of health care and new taxes” as the main reasons to oust President Barack Obama in November.
When we talk about politics, Frank channels Americans for Prosperity and seems almost hypnotized. It is fascinating to watch because Frank is an ordinary man who doesn’t complete many sentences without ending them with, “ya know?”
I ask him if he knows who Dick Armey is and he says, “Who? Is that a real guy?! You’re making that up!”
Frank used to have a tough time paying rent on the house and putting food on his family, but those days are over- as is his sympathy for others whose misery he used to share.
When we talk about his personal life, Frank admits he once relied on the “safety net,” having received federal food stamp aid and local assistance with paying his heating bill “for years” while working a low-paying job as an auto parts delivery guy.
“I didn’t live on it forever, though,” he says. “I got my act together. Besides, I was owed that help. I had kids. I worked for years and paid those taxes.”
And there’s the whole thing in a nut.
I used the help when I needed it, but I don’t need it anymore. So, you can take it away from everyone.
Frank says he plans to retire in about six years so he can collect Social Security along with a small, company-sponsored pension plan that was negotiated for him by the union.
When I asked him about Republican Mitt Romney’s choice of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate, Frank says he likes them both and plans to vote for them.
When shown a graph of what happens to the Social Security system in Ryan’s budget proposal, Frank refuses to believe it.
“They will say anything to get you to vote for Obama,” he exclaimed. Then he asks with suspicion, “Did the union give that to you?”
I explained to Frank that this was a real plan thought up by people like Ryan and Armey and the Koch brothers, and all those people needed was for him to believe that the country can’t afford to pay it out anymore. That is, until after he gets his.
Me: “It’s a plan that virtually guarantees people like you work until they die. Are you prepared to do that? I thought you said you wanted to retire?”
Frank: “I will retire. It will be YOU who has to deal with it.”
I asked Frank again about his past, but he is reluctant to dwell on hard times or “pour piss down the backs of the rich folks … you seem to want me to hate them for being successful.”
He is content and will move on, now that he has a good paying job and a pension.
He is going to buy a new truck in a few weeks – a Ford F-150.
“Because they didn’t take any bailout money, ya know,” he explains.
Oh wait, Frank, haven’t you heard?
* Although this is a story about one man, there are thousands of “Franks” right here in Louisville. Fight truth decay with knowledge, and spread it liberally.
Facts on Social Security from Kentucky’s Third District U.S. Representative John Yarmuth:
Social Security is responsible for nearly 7 percent of Kentucky’s economy.
– 1 out of 5 Kentucky residents receives Social Security, with an average benefit of $12,350.
– 1 out of 5 women in Kentucky received Social Security benefits in 2010.