J.K. Rowling’s “Casual Vacancy,” Book Review, Take 1

“The Casual Vacancy”  is instantly notorious because it’s J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. It comes with a prominent black “X” on the cover, fair warning that between these covers you’ll find a subject that’s TABOO in America.

The subject is class warfare and classism. Ms. Rowling’s story takes place in England, and you have to remember that the British and Europeans are not as squeamish about class issues as we Americans. Until recently, we’ve been in full denial.

(If you’d like to read my preview of Casual Vacancy before you start the review, see J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy — Prices Slashed.)

Ms. Rowling takes the micro approach to class warfare, focusing on the lives, relationships, and foibles of the individual men, women and children of one small town in England. The macro alternative would be a “God’s-eye view,” examining society from a distance. Rowling understands that you need to get up close and personal to understand classism and class warfare.

In the first 100 pages of Casual Vacancy, Rowling introduces an average of one new character every two pages.

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Mitt Romney’s Economic Divide, Part 2. Lash Yourself to An Oar.

We used to have the upper class, middle class, lower class, working class. Most of us in America pretended that class wasn’t an issue.

Retired folks living on Social Security and pensions were in a separate category. As elders and retired, they were deemed “entitled” (gasp) to the Social Security and pensions they received. They had, after all, worked long and hard to earn those Social Security and pension checks.   Continue reading

Mitt Romney Clarifies the Economic Divide in America

Mitt Romney is to be commended for finally bringing into focus the economic divide emerging in America.

Mitt Romney Steve Pearce event 057

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the Winner’s Camp are people who own and control the wealth. It starts with the very richest, a tiny sliver at the top, less than one percent.  This camp also includes the affluent classes, the bankers, accountants, lawyers, executives, innovators and politicians who preside over the modern economy. They provide the brainpower to monitor, preserve, and increase the wealth.

You also find in the Winner’s Camp a large number of people who are crucial for the operation of the economy.

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American Debt Crisis: Rich and Powerful Demand Total Victory over Middle Class and Poor

No. 3 in a series on the Debt Crisis of 2011.

President Barack Obama floated a trial balloon on the front page of the Washington Post on Thursday, in a long story that said the President is prepared to discuss cuts to both Medicare and Social Security. As the headline put it, Medicare and Social Security are “on the table,” otherwise known as the chopping block. No one quoted in the story was willing to have their name attached to the information.

In the whole, long newspaper story, the words “defense” and “defense cuts” were never mentioned. Not once. What? You mean Medicare and Social Security are on the table, but the elephantine defense budget is not? It’s not credible, not believable.

As Obama was supposedly preparing to sacrifice Medicare and Social Security, Republicans repeated their long-stated position: Tax increases for the rich are NOT “on the table.” Republicans allowed as how they might be willing to wheel and deal on tax breaks and loopholes, so long as the net effect is no increase in taxes on the rich.

Also yesterday, AARP, the largest organization representing senior citizens, made its position clear: The AARP opposes any cuts in Medicare and Social Security.

So, the lines are clearly drawn in the class war to divide up what’s left of the American Dream. The rich and powerful have made clear they will accept nothing less than total victory over the middle class and poor. President Obama hints he might be a willing accomplice in the cashing out of Medicare and Social Security. If so, it would be a presidential betrayal of the American people on a historic scale.

(If you cringe at the words class war, don’t forget that class warfare will probably be followed by generational warfare, pitting mother against daughter and grandfather against grandson. See “Divide And Conquer: The New Plan To End Social Security by Dividing America at 55.”)

Could President Obama possibly be serious about caving in to the rich and powerful on both Medicare and Social Security? Plus a player to be named later, Medicaid?

I hope the President is not serious. To balance the budget by cutting Medicare and Social Security for the middle class and the poor, while at the same time refusing to raise taxes on the rich by a single penny, would be a craven injustice. Remember, the rich are paying tiny taxes, compared to what they have paid historically, and their wealth continues to expand, in a continuing social transfer of assets from bottom to top.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the American budget that could not be remedied by modest tax increases on the wealthy, accompanied by modest spending cuts in the defense budget. That’s what should be “on the table.”

I hope Obama floated this balloon simply to highlight how outrageous it would be to force the middle class and the poor to pay for the financial crisis created by the rich and powerful. In any event, the trial balloon provided an easy target for Democrats in Congress to shoot down.

Do you suppose that anyone is negotiating in good faith as the clock ticks down to financial default by the U.S. government?  If U.S. leaders fail to behave responsibly, the hard times ahead could test the fabric of American society like never before.

— John Hayden

“You Say You Want a Revolution?”

A picture is worth a million words. There seems to be a difference of opinion throughout Europe (and in America, too) concerning money, and debt. Also, some mild disagreement about who should pay the price and make the sacrifices, and who should get bailed out.

Schoolgirls link hands to protect a police van during student protests in London. -- Peter Marshall photo.

Baroque in Hackney reports that a younger generation — “The Kids” — is seizing responsibility because their elders are cowed by the powers that be. Ms. B’s post is enlightening. I urge you to read it.

How far will the wealthy elites in Europe and America push the children of the former middle-class? If you want to know which way the wind is blowing, please read this article by Jonathan Jones from The Guardian. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“For this picture tells a lot, very quickly. It tells us the menace of violence is real as anger grows among groups directly afflicted by the coalition’s cuts. Yet it also reveals that most protesters are peaceful, idealistic, with a sense of history and of the gravity of their actions. Most of all it tells us how amazingly young many of them are.

Future historians may well write that the Conservative-Liberal coalition was doomed the day schoolchildren took to the streets to assert their right to a university education.”

People are protesting in the streets in France (Social Security); England (college tuition); Ireland (budget cuts); and the European Union is getting ready to bail out the biggest banks in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and maybe Italy. The U.S. already bailed out its bankers, and people protested with their votes.

So this is the way it’s going to be? The rich get richer; the middle-class get screwed?

“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right”

— The Beatles

I’ve written about the consequences of what I would call “capitalism off the hook” before. I didn’t think the reaction in the streets and at the voting places would be so swift or serious.

With apologies to Buffalo Springfield, I don’t think it’s paranoia. I think, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

Mr. Jones of The Guardian describes what’s happening as follows:

“We can look at this picture and see a mass movement rapidly evolving as a generation goes beyond merely taking to the streets and starts finding a larger meaning in its rebellion, and imposing order in new ways. What these girls are showing us is that this is not just about rage. It is a defiant stand for youth and hope.”

Do you think President Barack Obama and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke understand what’s happening?

“The Kids” and their “cowed” parents understand that they’re being screwed. Government leaders understand the consequences of tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for the poor.

The wealthy elites understand that they’re screwing the poor, and what’s left of the middle-class. The wealthy always believe they have a right to exploit the poor.

So it looks like it’s the Powerful elites against “The Kids.” You can call it “class warfare,” if you want. I’m afraid that the Powerful will make precious few concessions to “The Kids,” at least not without an ugly struggle. How it will play out, no one knows.

— John Hayden