Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Reactionary Fruits of Futurology, Social Security Edition
Amplifying my most recent post, from yesterday afternoon, here is a clip from yesterday's Cenk Uygur show on MSNBC. In this clip we have Earl Blumenauer, a Democratic Congressman from Oregon, and not just a Democrat but a member of the Progressive Caucus, as well as a member of the budget committee.
Signaling his openness to raising the retirement age and justifying this betrayal of the progressive legacy of his party, his betrayal of the majority of Americans, his eagerness to murder and immiserate hundreds of thousands of his fellow citizens in thankless back breaking stressful toil in service to the forever continuing wealth concentration benefiting a handful of billionaires, the Congressman offers nothing but incredibly airy-fairy fantasies of massive healthy life-expectancy increases in the near future: A "ten year" leap in healthy lifespan is cavalierly tossed off without support or justification at 5.30 of the clip, and then it has amplified in the usual manner of futurological discourse all the way to twenty years or more by 11.19 on the clip! Perhaps the Singularity occurred between minute five and minute ten of the broadcast?
Of course, actual life expectancies at the relevant age of 65 scarcely justify the Congressman's faithful declarations that technoscience is delivering such youthful health to seniors. If anything -- rather like the buying power of the paychecks of people who actually work for a living over the last thirty years -- life expectancy increases are stuttering to a halt for laboring and especially for poorer seniors.
Now, to be sure, there are plenty of hyperbolic futurists yammering about nanobots and longevity pills on the horizon, just as there are plenty of superannuated paragliders and Casanovas on tee vee commercials. But futurological pop-tech magazines and commercials aren't real, however incessantly, insistently, and hysterically they circulate. They are fantasy and they are fraud, they exist simply to peddle crap to consumer dupes.
To raise the retirement age -- especially for those who toil in physical labor and stressful conditions of a kind Congresspeople and the smug Lords and Ladies of the Commentariat can scarcely fathom, not to mention usually at a fraction of their pay -- and let us be very clear about this -- is to sign the death warrants of many who work hard all their lives and follow all the rules, and happen not to claw their way to the fame and fortune of the sociopaths who rule the world and fancy themselves indispensable to the world in their madness and meanness.
Rather than pivoting from jobs to an economically illiterate and politically inept discussion of deficits, Democrats should, if anything, have been pressing to lower the retirement age to stimulate the economy and increase the demand for jobs. Further, social security is not in crisis nor does it face a crisis that justifies a focus on that program rather than on dozens of other, more urgent, problems (especially involving climate change, resource descent, militarism and the military budget, spiraling healthcare costs, unsustainable agriculture, crumbling infrastructure, weapons proliferation, underpaid educators and falling educational standards), but any time any Randroidal Starve-the-Beast Predator-State Republican squawks about Social Security insolvency, every Democrat should always, instantly, resolutely respond with three words "Raise The Cap" and that would shut those assholes right up.
There are actually quite sound and strong reasons to lower the retirement age to stimulate the economy and raise the cap on taxable incomes to pay for increased social security costs and adopt single payer to constrain rising healthcare costs -- these proposals make economic sense and would also happen to make income distribution in this country more equitable as well, to help re-democratize the nation. It's not that these facts are not known, it is not that the relevant experts do not propose these policies to legislators and pundits, it is not that these proposals do not make good political and electoral sense for Democrats as a party or the people as citizens, it is simply that our system is prohibitively plutocratic and dysfunctional and Democrats are disorganized where they are not captured by the gravity well of that plutocracy and crippled by the constraints of that dysfunction outright.
In a country of non-millionaires "represented" by multi-millionaires it is a difficult thing to connect the life experience and assumptions of the people with those who are running things. Futurological empty talk and wish-fulfillment fantasies mistaken for foresight and deliberation only derange further that already disabling distance of experience into a surreal disconnection from reality. The reactionary force of futurological framing in a public discourse already suffused with the hyperbole and deception of ubiquitous marketing and advertizing forms is just one more thing we need to grasp and expose for the distorting and confusing work it is doing as we struggle to educate, agitate, and organize to democratize this failing nation.