Economic absurdities that
Democrats must expose:
...because it's wrong to penalize success and hard work.
...therefore, we should eliminate the capital gains tax.
...After all, they came from, and understand, business.
...even though it is based on pitting the worlds' workers against
...union bosses are only out for themselves.
...and the more the rich have, the more will trickle down to
...Democrats are communists, or at least, socialists at heart.
...so when we tax wealthy investors, we lose jobs.
...so investors, not workers, create wealth.
...so we should give them all the tax breaks possible.
...Democrats just want to tax and spend today.
...for those of Indonesia, Mexico, China and India.
...and how not to do it again.
...and the "crisis" is just a ploy by those who want to destroy
...Republicans' most important propaganda technique.
...and get the media on your side
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The REAL Problem with
Bill Bennett's Selective
Forget the debate about whether or not
Bennett, a flawed human being, has the right to lecture the public about
moral issues. As right-wing columnist Cal Thomas concluded, "Like all of
us, Bennett suffers from certain vices. But that does not override the
virtues he has proclaimed." True enough. But that's not the side of
Bennett to object to: he's an unabashed apologist for governmental
policies that benefit the wealthy and powerful, and at the direct expense
of working class Americans.
William Bennett's widely acclaimed Book
of Virtues may be the slickest, most devious philosophical attack on
working Americans yet published. Take a look at the list of virtues that
Bennett chose to head his ten chapters:
The Book of Virtues
by William J. Bennett
This is a powerful book because it does
two things. First, it omits from any substantive discussion the virtues
most important to the treatment of workers—fairness and justice.
Second, it allows those who caused the
income disparity between rich and poor to feel virtuous about themselves
and to publicly claim the moral high ground. Note that, with the absence
of fairness or justice, any greedy and materialistic chief executive
officer today would meet the criteria for virtue on the basis of this
They're disciplined, give money to
charity, are responsible to their shareholders, have friends at the county
club, "work" hard, have the courage to fire thousands of employees,
persevere in their efforts to make a profit, are honest (follow the laws
that are biased in their favor), are loyal to the politicians who do them
favors, and pretend religious fervor occasionally.
In other words, with a few
rationalizations, the qualities of greed and materialism can easily be
embraced by Bennett's list. His strategy: If you can't make greed a
virtue, by blatantly calling it so, you at least can make the pursuit of
greed a virtue by calling it work, perseverance, discipline, and so on. Of
course, leave fairness and justice—in the ways work is rewarded—out of the
It’s not likely that Bennett simply
didn’t think of fairness and justice as virtues, because he included
“Plato on Justice” as a minor essay in his Chapter 8, which dealt with
“Honesty.” Look at Bennett’s introduction to Plato’s essay, and Plato’s
definitive statement about justice. Bennett:
The ancient Greek word for “just” is a
slippery one for modern translators. Depending on the context, it can
mean honest, pious, fair, legally correct, lawful or obligated, to name
a few possibilities. In the end, it may be that the meaning of Plato’s
“justice” comes closer to our modern notion of
Plato On Justice, from The Republic:
But in reality justice was such as we
were describing, being concerned however, not with the outward man, but
with the inward, which is the true self and concernment of man: for the
just man does not permit the several elements within him to interfere
with one another, or any of them to the work of others—he sets in order
his own inner life, and is his own master and his own law, and at peace
with himself; and when he has bound together the three principles within
him, which may be compared to the higher, lower, and middle notes of the
scale, and the intermediate intervals—when he has bound all these
together, and is no longer many, but has become one entirely temperate
and perfectly adjusted nature, then he proceeds to act, if he has to
act, whether in a matter of property, or in the treatment of the body,
or in some affair of politics or private business; always thinking and
calling that which preserves and cooperates with this harmonious
condition, just and good action, and the knowledge which presides over
it, wisdom, and that which at any time impairs this condition, he will
call unjust action, and the opinion which presides over it
Bennett’s confused introduction is
revealing. To include justice in his book, he must have searched for days
to find an obtuse essay by Plato that has justice in the title, but has
nothing to do with our modern concept of fairness.
In fact, when you read Plato’s definitive
statement about justice, you have to wonder: Does Bennett himself have the
foggiest notion of what the hell Plato is saying here? (Your eyes aren’t
deceiving you. Plato did say all that in one sentence.)
So why did Bennett omit fairness and
justice from his list of virtues? Easy: These virtues are not consistent
with the political strategies of Wall Street and its supporters.
That’s why the only references to these
virtues in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune, Barron’s
and Business Week are those that, in one way or another,
justify greed and materialism. They have to say these absurd things in
their publications. Their ability to maintain any semblance of a clear
conscience and a pretense of virtue is to deceive each other and the
public about their pretended moral superiority.
"Work," as Bennett Defines It
Look at some other curious things in the
"Book of Virtues," especially Bennett's definition of "work":
What are you going to be when you grow
up?" is a question about work. What is your work in the world going to
be? What will be your works? These are not fundamentally questions about
jobs and pay, but questions about life. Work is applied effort; it is
whatever we put ourselves into, whatever we expend our energy on for the
sake of accomplishing or achieving something. Work in this fundamental
sense is not what we do for a living but what we do with our
This perversion of the definition of work
has become an important part of the defense of greed. Financial
conservatives align themselves with one of the most potent symbols of
American values by expanding the definition of work to include just about
anything. To give their own activities moral respectability, they make
them equivalent to the work done by real workers.
Attila the Hun,
Money-Changers-In-The-Temple, stock brokers, investment bankers,
professional athletes, Hollywood actors, chief executive officers, real
estate agents, politicians, management consultants like me, and some of
the greediest members of society fit Bennett's definition of work better
than do truck drivers, assembly line workers, secretaries, farm laborers,
janitors—and so on.
Most manual laborers work for the money.
They have to to survive—not because, in some inspirational moment, that's
what they choose to do with their lives (which, apparently, Bennett feels
is a more virtuous motivation to work).
The Selective Scrooge
Bennett's selections of materials to put
in his book are instructive. Of all the passages he could have taken from
A Christmas Carol, Bennett picked:
from A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
(After Marley's Ghost complained of his "chain I forged in life," he
described how his lack of compassion had led to his plight.)
"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was
my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy,
forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my
trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my
It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of
all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.
"At this time of the rolling year," the specter said, "I suffer most.
Why did I walk through crowds of fellow beings with my eyes turned down,
and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a
poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have
Bennett chose a passage in which Marley's
Ghost doesn't discuss his deplorable treatment of employees. Instead, he
describes his failure to go outside his business to seek out the poor and
give them charity.
So, what is the lesson we get from
Bennett? After you become wealthy by screwing your employees—and making
them poor—go to their homes and give them charity. How redeeming. How
inspirational. How perfectly Republican!
Instead of this excerpt, what could
Bennett have selected from Marley's Ghost? Why not use Dickens'
description of the deplorable way Scrooge treated his clerk? His clerk
worked "in a dismal little cell," and warmed himself with a comforter
because Scrooge threatened to fire him if he used too much coal. No, that
wouldn't serve Bennett's purposes—Scrooge's behaviors sound too much like
the behaviors that modern conservatives endorse.
Or, from "The First of the Three
Spirits," why not pick Dickens' description of Old Fezziwig? Fezziwig was
Scrooge's former boss and he treated his employees decently. Scrooge
observed that "He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our
service light or burdensome, a pleasure or a toil." No, that wouldn't do
either—it sounds too much like a virtue that today's corporate bosses
should have, but obviously don't. And, of course, these are the same guys
who finance the campaigns of Republican and conservative Democrat
Or, he could have quoted the passage from
"The End of It," where Scrooge said to Cratchit, "I'll raise your salary,
and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your
affairs this very afternoon." Obviously, an undesirable concept in a book
intended to make today's financial barbarians appear virtuous.
The Real Conservative Virtues
When conservatives extol the virtues of
"hard work," they're saying:
If your parents didn't send you to college, you are virtuous
if you work two jobs in manufacturing plants or fast-food restaurants,
develop carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, have no medical coverage
in the process, and end up at the age of 65 with no retirement funds.
Oh, by the way. Be a disciplined worker, be loyal to your employer,
don't cheat your employer, get your satisfactions from your friendships,
and be courageous. You must not be envious of the rich, or complain
about how little you make compared to your bosses, or complain about
your terrible work conditions.
On the other hand, if your parents send you to college, or you
inherit huge sums of money from them, you are virtuous if you have the
discipline to go to France to study art, become an expert in French
impressionist painting—and spend your life "working hard" by traveling
all over the globe giving lectures. Oh, by the way. You have a moral
obligation to complain about how much money uneducated or poorly born
waiters and assembly-line workers make for doing such uninspired and
Greedy and materialistic people never
change their behaviors to meet moral or religious standards—they redefine
their moral or religious standards to justify their egocentric behaviors.
And when enough of them gain control of government, their concepts of
morality become the new national standards for behavior.
Now go to: