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Chomsky: How the Tea Partiers Are Getting Screwed by Their Own Ideology

'We should not underestimate the depth of moral indignation that lies behind the furious, often self-destructive bitterness about government and business power."
 
 
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On Feb. 18, Joe Stack, a 53-year-old computer engineer, crashed his small plane into a building in Austin, Texas, hitting an IRS office, committing suicide, killing one other person and injuring others.

Stack left an anti-government manifesto explaining his actions. The story begins when he was a teenager living on a pittance in Harrisburg, Pa., near the heart of what was once a great industrial center.

His neighbor, in her ’80s and surviving on cat food, was the “widowed wife of a retired steel worker. Her husband had worked all his life in the steel mills of central Pennsylvania with promises from big business and the union that, for his 30 years of service, he would have a pension and medical care to look forward to in his retirement.

“Instead he was one of the thousands who got nothing because the incompetent mill management and corrupt union (not to mention the government) raided their pension funds and stole their retirement. All she had was Social Security to live on.”

He could have added that the super-rich and their political allies continue to try to take away Social Security, too.

Stack decided that he couldn’t trust big business and would strike out on his own, only to discover that he also couldn’t trust a government that cared nothing about people like him but only about the rich and privileged; or a legal system in which “there are two `interpretations’ for every law, one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us.”

The government leaves us with “the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies (that) are murdering tens of thousands of people a year,” with care rationed largely by wealth, not need.

Stack traces these ills to a social order in which “a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities—and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours.”

Stack’s manifesto ends with two evocative sentences: “The communist creed: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. The capitalist creed: from each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.”

Poignant studies of the U.S. rustbelt reveal comparable outrage among individuals who have been cast aside as state-corporate programs close plants and destroy families and communities.

An acute sense of betrayal comes readily to people who believed they had fulfilled their duty to society in a moral compact with business and government, only to discover they had been only instruments of profit and power.

Striking similarities exist in China, the world’s second largest economy, investigated by UCLA scholar Ching Kwan Lee.

Lee has compared working-class outrage and desperation in the discarded industrial sectors of the U.S. and in what she calls China’s rustbelt—the state socialist industrial center in the Northeast, now abandoned for state capitalist development of the southeast sunbelt.

In both regions Lee found massive labor protests, but different in character. In the rustbelt, workers express the same sense of betrayal as their U.S. counterparts—in their case, the betrayal of the Maoist principles of solidarity and dedication to development of the society that they thought had been a moral compact, only to discover that whatever it was, it is now bitter fraud.

Around the country, scores of millions of workers dropped from work units “are plagued by a profound sense of insecurity,” arousing “rage and desperation,” Lee writes.

 
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