Archive - Jul 5, 2011

Political Theater: You Get What You Pay For

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Memo to Americans For Prosperity and Chuck Fleischmann: YOU ARE DUMB.

Hope you all had a lovely Fourth of July. I, of course, took the day off. I haven't in previous years, but that's before Mike Huckabee's videos and the Tea Party historians explained to me that July 4, 1776 is the day that Jesus told the Founding Fathers to sign the Declaration of Independence, free the slaves, give women the right to vote, and make sure gay people don't marry so that one day, Ronald Reagan could telekinetically tear down the Berlin Wall. Now that I know how important Independence Day is, how could I make fun of our national institutions?

Luckily, that shit is over now, and it's time to take a long, heartfelt look at the political stunt. Yes, it's all of the Evil and none of the Knievel, as organizations with an axe to grind and politicians sick of kissing all those damn babies try desperately to get the attention of millions of broke and/or Twitter-addicted voters.

We'll start in Tennessee, because this one is more stupid than deliberately cruel - although cruelty does come into play. As part of a broader stunt intended to convince people that we need to drill for oil and pump any hole we can find or make, Tennessee congressman Chuck Fleischmann took valuable time away from making boxed cherry danishes to spend the day pumping gas at a local gaseteria.

No, I don't know exactly how that works. Logic dictates that Fleischmann would be asked for ten gallons, only pump eight, and explain that he can only fill the rest of the tank once the driver agrees that we should drill straight through the bodies of caribou to get to the tiny reserves of sweet, sweet dino juice that lay beneath. But no. Apparently he just stood there all day pumping gas and shaking smelly gas hands with constituents. Only one problem.

This was a full-serve gas station. I'm assuming in Tennessee, it's easier to just hire someone to pump gas for customers than it is to hire three people to run around explaining how to work the self-serve pumps to the locals. And the Raceway station did in fact hire someone to do that job... someone who was sent home, and lost a day of pay, so that Chuck Fleischmann could shout "DRILL BABY DRILL" at drivers before taking their Diner's Club cards inside to pay for a fill-up and three bags of pork rinds.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the union-free free market at work. The employer was able to find someone to work for incredibly low wages, so the more experienced gas-pumper got, if you'll pardon the term, hosed. Which saves the gas station probably fifty to sixty bucks, which eventually will flow back into chuck Fleischmann's pocket so that he can make sure the oil company that provides the gas that Fleischmann spent a day pumping keeps getting tax breaks. Freedom isn't free, indeed.

But at least Fleischmann's cruelty was the general-purpose inadvertent cruelty of the privileged class who don't have time to think about the consequences of their actions. Americans for Prosperity knew the consequences of their actions - the consequences were the whole point of the actions. They wanted you shitting your pants in fear when you came home, which is why they put fake eviction notices on the door of your house.

No, really, they did that to you. Well, if you live in Michigan, they did. In a poor section of Detroit. See, Michigan is considering building a bridge. Americans for Prosperity, being a bunch of teabagging anti-tax fuckholes, thinks they don't need no steenking bridges. Or if they do, Donald Trump will just build one and charge people $15 a car to cross it*. So they went around the Delray neighborhood of Detroit and put plain anti-bridge ads on a bunch of doors, the largest text by far being reserved for the words "EVICTION NOTICE".

It's kind of like that old sign joke. "SEX! Now that I've got your attention...", except instead of "SEX!", AFP decided to scream "I'M GOING TO RAPE YOU. Now that I have your attention, don't bridges suck?" And how does the AFP excuse this behavior? ACTUAL SEX TIME!

"It was meant to startle people. We really wanted people to take notice. This is the time that their opinions need to be heard. We wanted people to read it." - Scott Hagerstrom, AFP's Michigan director.

See, for AFP, it's a win-win. If it turns people against the bridge... somehow... then they win. And if a bunch of low-income Detroit residents drop dead of panic-attack aneurysms, then they won't be begging for rich people's tax money to keep from slowly starving to death in a few years, and we can cut the corporate tax rate by another five points.

*You think I'm joking? One of the main opponents of the new bridge is Manuel Moroun, who owns and operates the Ambassador Bridge, a privately-run toll bridge that the new government bridge would be competing with. Laissez fare indeed.