Herman Cain vs. G.K. Chesterton

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is winning cheers on the campaign trail for telling the poor and the unemployed that they have only themselves to blame:

“Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks — if you don’t have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself!”

G.K. Chesterton offered a different perspective:

The old tyrants had enough insolence to despoil the poor, but they had not enough insolence to preach to them. It was the gentleman who oppressed the slums; but it was the slums that admonished the gentleman. And just as we are undemocratic in faith and morals, so we are, by the very nature of our attitude in such matters, undemocratic in the tone of our practical politics. It is a sufficient proof that we are not an essentially democratic state that we are always wondering what we shall do with the poor. If we were democrats, we should be wondering what the poor will do with us.”

The new tyrants, it seems, have enough insolence both to despoil the poor and to preach to them.

Here (via Mark Thoma) is yet another chart illustrating the “awful” outlook for jobs and wages in the wake of the financial crisis created by Wall Street and the big banks:

 

 

That news arrives the same day we learn that “the median U.S. wage in 2010 was just $26,363.”

Economist Nouriel Roubini looks at such data and repeats Chesterton’s question. Roubini wonders what the poor will do with us:

Firms in advanced economies are now cutting jobs, owing to inadequate final demand, which has led to excess capacity, and to uncertainty about future demand. But cutting jobs weakens final demand further, because it reduces labor income and increases inequality. Because a firm’s labor costs are someone else’s labor income and demand, what is individually rational for one firm is destructive in the aggregate.

The result is that free markets don’t generate enough final demand. In the US, for example, slashing labor costs has sharply reduced the share of labor income in GDP. With credit exhausted, the effects on aggregate demand of decades of redistribution of income and wealth – from labor to capital, from wages to profits, from poor to rich, and from households to corporate firms – have become severe, owing to the lower marginal propensity of firms/capital owners/rich households to spend. …

Any economic model that does not properly address inequality will eventually face a crisis of legitimacy. Unless the relative economic roles of the market and the state are rebalanced, the protests of 2011 will become more severe, with social and political instability eventually harming long-term economic growth and welfare.

And Lemony Snicket chimes in, skewering people like Herman Cain for having the insolence to preach at the poor …

6. Nobody wants to fall into a safety net, because it means the structure in which they’ve been living is in a state of collapse and they have no choice but to tumble downwards. However, it beats the alternative.

… and echoing Roubini’s warning to Wall Street and the big banks, for having the insolence to despoil them:

11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.

12. If you have a large crowd shouting outside your building, there might not be room for a safety net if you’re the one tumbling down when it collapses.

 

 

  • P J Evans

     Cain doesn’t seem to be aware that government health care and unemployment checks didn’t exist then. (Government programs were pretty much limited to the military and tax collection, IIRC.)

  • Don Gisselbeck

    The predator class simply cannot stand civillization, especially that part of civilization that made it possible for laborers and mechanics to live the good life.

  • http://www.ghiapet.net/ Randy Owens

    *cough* The aqueduct?

  • Kukulkan

    P J Evans wrote

    Cain doesn’t seem to be aware that government health care and unemployment checks didn’t exist then. (Government programs were pretty much limited to the military and tax collection, IIRC.)

    The phrase “bread and circuses” — panem et circenses — is a reference to the Roman practice of providing free grain to the poorest citizens (the bread) and putting putting on large entertainment spectaculars with free admission (the circuses) as a way of winning approval (or, at least, averting the anger) of the plebeians.

    The free grain was referred to as the “grain dole” and “the dole” is still used to refer to payments made to the unemployed, at least here in Australia. Also, I think in the UK, but I may be wrong about that.

    The price of grain was an ongoing issue in Roman politics throughout the period of the Republic and into the Empire. In addition to a daily dole of free grain for the poorest citizens, the Government would subsidise the price grain for all other citizens. This was a major plank among popularist politicians, though the practice was not without opposition.

    Of course, Jesus wasn’t a Roman Citizen and so wouldn’t have been eligible for the grain dole, but I doubt Cain would know that either.
     

  • Kukulkan

    Randy Owens wrote:

    *cough* The aqueduct?

         “Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that’s true. Yeah.”
         “And the sanitation.”
         “Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?”
         “Yeah. All right. I’ll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.”
         “And the roads.”
         “Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads —”
         “Irrigation.”
         “Medicine.”
         “Education.”
         “Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.”
         “And the wine.”
         “Yeah. Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.”
         “Public baths.”
         “And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.”
         “Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it. They’re the only ones who could in a place like this.”
         “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”
         “Brought peace.”
         “Oh. Peace? Shut up!”
     

  • Kukulkan

    Apocalypse Review wrote:

    If this man actually said that in those exact words –

    *agog*

    The full quote is:

    “I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration,” Cain said Wednesday to the Associated Press during a book signing event. “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

    Personally I thought the first part of the sentence sums it up: “I don’t have the facts to back this up”. Pretty much an admission right there that what follows isn’t based on any sort of reality.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    “Becoming”?

  • Anonymous

    You know how Libertarians always wail on and on about “at gunpoint this and at gunpoint that”?

    http://imgur.com/gallery/P3H7Z

    Penn Jillette is a fucking douchebag.
    Preach.

    My favorite is the comment on that photo:The point of helping the poor is not to make them better people. It’s to make *us* better people. Government always forgets that.

    No, you dickweasel, the point of helping the poor is so that nobody has to go unfed, unmedicated, uneducated, unclothed, or unsheltered. Because Jillette’s right about that part.

  • Anonymous

    I seem to have missed the gunpoint thing.  Are these literal guns or metaphorical guns?  And at whom is the government pointing them?

    Penn Jillette is a fucking douchebag.

    WORD.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    That Chesterton quotation kicks arse!

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I am really happy you’ve got an interview, I hope you get the job!  Especially since it gives you a better shot at getting something you actually want (stupid companies discriminating against the unemployed ><)  So I guess that's really my wish here that it leads you to something better.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Actually, we think that voting to have the government give poor people money is justice. Compassion is a ways off.

    Also, there are plenty of fucking guns in the US and I’ve yet to see one pointed by the government at a rich person demanding they give money to poor people.

    What a DICKHEAD!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “I don’t have facts to back this up, but I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated

    Oh, does he mean the way the Tea Party was orchestrated and astroturfed by some rich guys who hated Obama?

    Because I can certainly belie–

    Oh, he means he’s projecting again. Never mind.

    How silly of me to believe that a truly spontaneous gathering that barely got any press to start is in any way similar to a manufactured set of gatherings of old white people who’re just mad they have to pay taxes so one of those people can have it.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    “They should be camping out in front of the White House.” So yep, still Obama’s fault (so presumably the protesters’ fault for voting for him).

    Ah, I see.  He is being perfectly consistently 21st-century Republican there.  Now we can all repent of our sins and make ourselves worthy of acquiring adequate food and shelter by working hard to elect Herman Cain, I suppose?  Bah, I say.

    Good luck on your job interview!

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Heartland: The difference is that between Marx and Nietzsche, i.e. instead of an
    epic, eternal stuggle for equality, movement conservatives see
    themselves as fighting to impose a society where Great Men who have
    transcended vulgar human limitations are considered the standard.  
    Naturally they see themselves as such Great Men or something close to
    it.   They have an increasingly open contempt for the mass of humanity,
    and consider it deeply wrong to accept people as they actually are and
    govern them as such because they see it as an act of of surrender to
    mediocrity, and mortality.

    Gods, I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but….  An unspecified amount of time ago yet relatively recently (relative to, uhm, let’s say the 2010 midterms) I attended a family gathering.  I saw EXACTLY what you are talking about here.  Exactly.  The amount of white middle-class cisgendered neurotypical privilege there was stunning.  The cultural isolation they live in was breathtaking. It wasn’t even a matter of them wearing blinders, or rose-colored glasses; they had created for themselves their own reality, and everything they said reflected that faux reality.  Someone there complained about being the only man on a team of five or six women at work.  One guy lived in a half-million-dollar house in a desert biome, went to work on paved roads and had water piped in from an aquifer a hundred miles up the mountains, saying that taxes were ruining him.

    I saw someone there tell a black man to his face that whites have nothing anymore.

    I hate myself that I couldn’t think of anything to say, that I was just too gobsmacked to think, and too godsdamned embarrassed to be related by blood to just about everyone there.  Jesus wept.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    My curiosity about the Tea Party is that I don’t see what Obama did to spontaneously trigger them like that. He didn’t raise taxes. He didn’t create any welfare programs (yet). At the time that the Tea Party movement started according to Wikipedia, Obama had been President for, what, a month (?) What had he really done back then that made him so different from President Bush, or President Clinton?

    (I can understand them hating him now)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I think they mean that the government sometimes prosecutes people who don’t pay taxes and puts them in jail.

    It’s kind of weird that a lot of these same guys are okay with the death penalty and don’t think it’s a big deal if the person turns out to be innocent, but doing 5 years for tax evasion is the biggest injustice in the history of the universe.

  • Anonymous

    Which kinda sucks.  I used to like watching Bullsh!t — some of it was prickly, but some of it made sense.  (The takedown of the funeral industry was particularly poignant and applicable.) 

    There are some entertainers whom I wish would not open their mouths on some topics and make me wish I’d never liked them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I think you hit on why a lot of conservatives hate Hollywood so much. Like most of us, they love at least some movies — big, flashy action movies, sappy romance movies, laugh-until-you-can’t-breathe comedies… but then they have to deal with the fact that the adorable actress or the chiseled actor is scolding them for being homophobes or racists or for spreading lies about teachers. It bugs them. It would bug me if it was the other way around, if Ryan Reynolds did an ad for Michele Bachmann, for example. We like to think that attractive, intelligent, popular people on our side because if they weren’t it would make our jobs 10x harder.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    After Cain made that statement, The Daily Show’s Twitter feed began a practice of spouting random, nonsensical theories about people and policies, stuck with the hashtag #IDontHaveTheFactsToBackThisUp.  

    They included an @ for Herman Cain’s Twitter feed in every one of them.  

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    My curiosity about the Tea Party is that I don’t see what Obama did to spontaneously trigger them like that. He didn’t raise taxes. He didn’t create any welfare programs (yet). At the time that the Tea Party movement started according to Wikipedia, Obama had been President for, what, a month (?) What had he really done back then that made him so different from President Bush, or President Clinton? 

    That is one of the big things that bothered me about the Tea Party movement.  It did start as a grassroots kind of thing, and I think most of the people initially there were upset by the bank bailouts, thinking it was a misappropriation of taxpayer money.  Granted, Bush started that, and he was still pretty near in public memory at the time, and almost nobody liked him by that point.  The initial protest was a more general “anti-government” thing than an “anti-Obama” thing, which has always been around.  

    However, it did not take long before a lot of very monied interests latched on to this, poured a bunch of money into its promotion, co-opted the protests and took it in a much more specific, anti-Obama direction.  Those interests were not necessarily opposed to big government spending, they were just opposed to government spending that they did not have a controlling stake in.  

    They took something like the original Boston Tea Party, which was objecting to corporate influence in government policy, and turned it into an engine to enforce that same kind of influence the original event was meant to protest.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I suspected an astroturf movement due to how suddenly the “Tea Party” sprouted up aftre Obama became President. IMV it was started specifically to throw sand in the wheels of any of Obama’s projects. It has, unfortunately, worked very well, with the complicity of a generally right-wing media.

  • Anonymous

    I remember back when I was a conservative (not too long ago, sadly enough) and I believed that “economics was on my side”. Now that I have graduated college, taken both micro and macro economics (I am no expert, I will admit), I am puzzled by some of my former beliefs and the beliefs of Herman Cain. It seems that he fails to understand why we need taxes, what a public good is and why private individuals will NEVER pay for a public good, and the fact that the value these banks and CEOs are receiving FAR outweigh their contribution to society and the common good. He seems to assume that all the poor are like him and he completely doesn’t grasp social inequality and the reasons why a person who starts a family and has 100k in college debt, 20k in car/consumer debt and has to pay up the butt for health insurance can’t just hop up one day and start a pizza bussiness.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Cain’s also said that he would refuse to have Moslems in Cabinet positions:  a direct violation of the part of the US Constitution that prohibits religious litmus tests for office-holding.  In other words, he’s campaigning for President by publically saying that he’d violate the Constitution.

     

    To be excessively fair to Mr. Cain, cabinet officials aren’t elected offices – the President can appoint and fire them for any fool reason they like.

  • Anonymous

    To be fair to the Constitution, the rule about religious tests does not specify elected offices at all. It applies equally not just to Presidents, Senators, and Representatives but to all members of the executive branch as well as the wholly-appointed judicial branch. The President may fire his Cabinet officials at will but he can’t create a rule that says something like, “You must swear on the Bible to serve in my administration” or something along those lines.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    My curiosity about the Tea Party is that I don’t see what Obama did to spontaneously trigger them like that. He didn’t raise taxes. He didn’t create any welfare programs (yet). At the time that the Tea Party movement started according to Wikipedia, Obama had been President for, what, a month (?) What had he really done back then that made him so different from President Bush, or President Clinton?

    I can’t tell if you’re being wryly naive. That’s a worry!

    Noting that extreme hatred directed at Obama came out of the woodwork at a time when there was no policy-based reason to support it is what led many progressives to commit the greatest sin of the modern era: suggested someone has prejudiced motives.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    After Cain made that statement, The Daily Show’s Twitter feed began a practice of spouting random, nonsensical theories about people and policies, stuck with the hashtag #IDontHaveTheFactsToBackThisUp.

    AHAHAHAHA!

    Disdain for Fox became personal for me when The Daily Show was taken off free-to-air tv in Australia, and shortly afterwards we were blocked from watching clips online. I have the most unseemly crush on Jon Stewart. *sigh*

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Our last federal election saw the election of our first ever Muslim MP (a secular Muslim from a Serbian background). A (tiny) proportion of the population shat itself and said that such a thing should not be allowed. This group included at least one member of parliament, which made a larger proportion of us suggest that election of dickheads should not be allowed. At writing, our system remains free and Muslims and dickheads have equal rights.

    (We also elected our first female PM, first Aboriginal MP, and the Finance Minister is a left wing Asian lesbian Christian so it was a difficult election for the dickheads to deal with)

  • Anonymous

    (We also elected our first female PM, first Aboriginal MP, and the Finance Minister is a left wing Asian lesbian Christian so it was a difficult election for the dickheads to deal with)

    Australia: where ‘Christian’ is not the default assumption. Can I move there?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    We do get a lot of American tv so there’s a small part of the population that tries on US-centric hysterics. When Julia Gillard became PM they expressed concern about an atheist being Prime Minister (because of our Christian cultural heritage, you know) the large majority of people said “meh”.

    In fact, Kevin Rudd was the first PM for a long time who was a Christian in anything other than the “yes, I’m Christian but don’t want to talk about my faith in public” way and lots of people expressed discomfort at his religiousity. Not too much, cos he’s Labor, but still.

    Tony Abbott is openly passionately Catholic* but his popularity only rose after major downplaying of his religious views. The people who think he’ll continue to keep them in the private sphere once he gains power are kidding themselves, IMO.

    *In a way that has exactly nothing in common with me, another practicing Catholic. Abbott’s various descriptions of his faith downplay the social justice aspect; he’s said he is strongly turned off by the meditative, spiritual aspects; and he really likes the heirarchical, establishment aspect. Plus he’s an avid fan of the anti-Catholic British monarchy FFS. I suspect the only thing our respective faiths share is the name.

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

    That’s my favorite part of the American Jobs Act – that it makes discriminating against the unemployed illegal – thank goodness.  Now, enforcement would be a whole different issue, but at least someone is recognizing how wrong that is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    He seems to assume that all the poor are like him and he completely
    doesn’t grasp social inequality and the reasons why a person who starts a
    family and has 100k in college debt, 20k in car/consumer debt and has
    to pay up the butt for health insurance can’t just hop up one day and
    start a pizza bussiness.

    I was at a social event with just such a douchehat. When asked the options were for people who had lost their jobs, he included “start their own business.” Like it was something anybody could do at any time if they were just willing to work hard. Even if they’ve just lost their only source of income.

  • Anonymous

    When asked the options were for people who had lost their jobs, he included “start their own business.” Like it was something anybody could do at any time if they were just willing to work hard. Even if they’ve just lost their only source of income.

    Half of all businesses fail within the first five years, I hear. For exactly this reason, loans to startups are damnably difficult to come by. That and how banks are refusing to lend to pretty much anyone nowadays.

  • Madhabmatics

    Chesterton quotes in general kick arse unless they are about women’s rights movements or evolution, both of which he was embarrassingly mistaken about.


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