Sometimes even I can’t tell when I’m writing satire
I do napkin math. I like sloppy numbers. I especially like sloppy big numbers, where the margin of error could be in the millions or billions (these days, trillions) and it wouldn’t matter because the point is still made. “Oh, but that’s only 999,000,000! What do you mean, a billion?” is hardly ever a good look. I think this is especially true when we’re dealing with humans.
I’m so contrary, that, with no expertise to back me up whatsoever, I’m willing to scrap the entirety of any economics predicated on the idea of a rational actor. Everything after that, to me, looks like someone who doesn’t know sign language flapping their hands like they know it. With all the handwaving and rounding errors and unaccountables and externalities and unknowns and unforeseens, nobody really knows a damned thing.
Yes, you economists are free to laugh outright. “Hardy har! Lookie, Karl! It’s trying to think! Isn’t that special?” I probably would, too if I were you.
See, I’ve been around a few blocks by now, and I’m of several minds when it comes to people. People are pretty damned amazing for the most part. What you get with most is a social pretense of what they want you to think of them. Ironically, that can also be entirely genuine. Not always. One of the most awesome things about people is just how damned ornery they can be.
We are a perverse creature. We start with it as kids. We find something that bothers someone? We poke it. “Stop touching me!” in a five year old’s best earsplitting demand follows on the heels of some adorable, wee asshole-to-be poking, and having one of the very best aha! moments of their young lives. When the other person doesn’t like it, that is some funny shit.
Does it seem like we ever really grow out of that? Oh, you, sure. You’re one of the good ones. I mean generally. Has anything in the news over the last 50 years indicated that we’ve ever gotten past that as a species, at least for long?
We’re a cussed creature, the lot of us. Maybe the most civilized of us have sublimated this impulse into comedy and would never dream of actually poking people, but whoa, did you see that zinger I laid on someone. That had to leave a mark!
We are irrational creatures, aware of our mortality unlike any other creature, and utterly incapable of planning on that accordingly. We all love to think “but what about the children?” while kicking all the cans to them. “Hey, kids, we left you a cold war, a bunch of nukes, barely addressed climate change, injustice around the world, a police state, a surveillance state, a mockery of journalism, no jobs for the degrees you are getting, no reason to get the degree that hires when those jobs are just going to get outsourced to save money, crime, prisons for cash, and a bunch of you could just starve already, but you just remember…every one of you is special and weeeeee love you.” And it comes out in a jumbled hot mess because we’re yelling it at each other all the time.
Reality sounds like a William Burroughs cut up. Welcome to Interzone.
The future is upon us, and I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow some Congressperson suggested we bring back the typewriter industry. If you think me wildly fancied, perhaps, consider what that would portend for the internet. Would they dare?
What wouldn’t they at this point?
Hello, napkin math.
Sloppy numbers. Google numbers.
US population: 325 million
Eligible voters: 235 million
That’s only 72% of the population.
In the last vote that really made a difference, call it a 140 million that voted.
Record-breaking! Might as well call that 60% of the eligible voters. Where I’m going, the rounding error won’t matter.
60% of the people who could vote did.
40% of the people who could vote did not.
We might think we know a fair bit about those non-voters, but I submit that we do not.
To hell with polls on that front. We’ve got napkin math and deduction and a fervid imagination to work with. As Stephen King wrote in Duma Key, “God always punishes us for what we can’t imagine.” To my way of thinking, that is one of the most brilliant lines in all of literature.
I often hope to be mistaken. This is one of those times.
4 out of 10 people who could vote did not vote in 2016. What does that mean?
Here’s what it means to me.
That’s 95ish million people who did not vote.
Clinton got 66 million votes. Trump got 63 million.
The rounding errors won’t matter.
I’ve heard from polls that the independent, non-voting voter, you see, is just waiting to be convinced issue by issue with rationally presented facts that aren’t loaded with bias one way or the other, and what they see instead is rank advocacy and mudslinging and everyone is full of shit and what does it matter anyway because the government’s gonna do what it wants to do anyway, like they have any real say in the matter. They’re just keepin’ on keepin’ on, heads down, leave ’em the hell alone already, and as far as they’re concerned, taxes might go up a bit or down a bit or this benefit might go up a bit or down a bit and the price of gas might go up a bit or down a bit and otherwise it’s pretty much all gonna be the same old song and dance, and hey, look…something new!
They say they want the facts. That would matter.
They’ve had the facts, folks. They don’t care.
We like to convince ourselves that if only we just made the best argument, they’d see reason and not only vote, but vote with us.
Have you seen what passes for argument from the other side lately? Worse, have you seen what occasionally passes for argument from our own side?
That’s not to say those non-voters are more rational. I don’t know that they can or cannot see the quality of the arguments from all sides. Why not? Because no argument makes them vote. Not yours. Not theirs. Sure as hell not mine.
We like to think that dammit, simple human decency will get them to the polls. I mean, hell, look what’s going on right now.
I will be shocked if anything we’ve seen thus far actually motivates them to go to the polls.
I don’t think that it’s because they don’t care. They just have other priorities. Like garden variety humans across the span of time, I think their primary interests are in “me and mine.” I’m not even suggesting that it’s necessarily a bad thing. In a world of fighting cats and dogs with hawks circling overhead, I think those people who just haven’t felt compelled to vote thus far are basically gophers. A gopher isn’t wrong for that. Life is hard enough. Just leave them be to scurry for a living and you don’t screw things up for them first, maybe no hawk will swoop down. Oh, shit. Heads down.
If gophers could talk, I suppose there would be a fair bit of cussing at all the aggravations disrupting their furtive scurrying.
We call that privilege.
As a rhetorical device, that is apt.
How is that working out for us? Being apt?
So here’s what I think we know. That voting block won’t vote on facts, on reason, on moral grounds, or for pretty much anything else you throw at them.
We’ve thrown it at them. We have the internet now. They’re on it, too. We’ve hit them with everything we possibly can. Knowledge won’t win them. Decency won’t win them.
They are pragmatists.
There’s your rational actors. Economics only makes sense when rationally acting is the swing vote between the passionate forces of faith versus reason (and sometimes faith).
If I’ve learned anything, you can’t rationalize someone else out of their faith, for better and worse.
The motivated rational voter is already mostly with us. Sort of. There’s your Dems.
And when I say rational, I mean short term. Forget the bottom line. How’s the cash flow?
Us fools worried about existential calamities are right, of course, what have those calamities done for me lately?
Kick the can. The DOW is great!
Side by side with that, I see our 5ish/4 court turning into a solidly 5/4 court unless, by some sheer twist of fate Trump accidentally plays a Ginsburg card thinking he had an ace. It’s possible. He’s at least as much of a twit as Reagan was, with none of the sleepy charms.
I’m also a pessimist. 6-3 is a heartbeat away. It’s insensitive, but true. And since shit really likes to slide downhill, I just wouldn’t be surprised if 7-2 might happen.
So much damage. Just. Well, do you go with the Resistance? Or is Vichy a really nice part of France right now?
This is where the Dems say, “see, I told you so,” and laugh with their best Martin Shkreli face on.
Decency lost in 2016. The non-voters saw. Decency wasn’t enough. They had keep on keepin’ on to do. Reason wasn’t enough. Facts weren’t enough.
It ended up being a fight between the wrestling heels and the opposition team’s management. Standing in for them? The Dems. Also not batshit insane Republicans. They play both sides against the middle. All the principle rolled off onto the rest of us, fat lot of good it did.
And here we are. The headlines speak for themselves. Things are going sideways. The wheels haven’t come off, but the lug nuts are loose.
With 5-4, we aren’t going to see a lot of things because of barriers. With 6-3, we aren’t going to see a lot of things because spider monkeys run the government, they’ve got hammers, and there won’t be an adult in the room to stop them. Because adults are good at handling armed spider monkeys, or something.
Maybe we hope America’s top brass will finally step up and do the right thing.
Maybe? I like to think so? But they’re only as good as their toys, and their toymakers love them some disposable product sales. Consumables in their industry are going gangbusters, and everything is consumable. Regardless of what principled officers do, someone is going to have those toys. Too much money rides on it for it to be otherwise.
6-3. Maybe 7-2.
You think we’ve seen a humanitarian crisis at the border? Wait.
You think cops have an unjustly high body count? Wait.
You think you’ve got a bathroom crisis? Wait.
You think you have medical privacy? Wait.
Wait, what? You think you have privacy?
You think wages are low? Wait.
You think medical care is devastatingly expensive? Wait.
You think medication prices are maybe even worse? Wait.
Oh, you get the picture. Of course you do. You always have. You’re woke af.
You know who can stop it?
They don’t like market disruptions unless they’re profitable, and hey, since they’re world fucking wide, a little chaos here might not be so bad. Just leave their high-rises and gated communities alone, and it’s all good.
They are incentivized by one thing. Your money.
Maybe the boycotts work here and there. The question is, would they work fast enough?
This isn’t the 1930’s. We’re not limited by an antiquated communications network and a tangle of state highways. We’ve got the internet and the interstate and 24/7 everything. Kristallnacht won’t sound like it did before if it happens again. Nothing will be moving at a snail’s pace. It would be a conflagration, because we’re all busted up into little teams of who hates whom more and why and better for all the best reasons. It would be along race, religion, and maybe class lines all at once, and it’ll all be perfectly frightful right up until the internet goes out and the phones go dead, but the ubiquitous GPS will still be telling those who must know exactly where you are.
Team A: will gladly kill you, call it good, and has guns. They think they’re right. Maybe the Nazis have good fashion sense. Free speech. You know. Whatever. However you window-dress them, they are what they are.
The government we didn’t stop under Obama is theirs now. And all their toys, too.
Meanwhile, Wall Street already bought the voting system. Team A is doing what it can to shrink the eligible voter number to keep things simple and clean and
legal white tidy, like God intended. It doesn’t have to be because they have anything against illegals and not-whites as people, really. They just vote wrong. Or something.
When the boot comes down on all the rational and generally morally superior boat-rockers, are you really Team B, banking on centrist Wall Street Republicans to say, no, no, you’ve crossed a line? It took separating babies from mothers to finally get that out of them. All our other crap? They know! They did it to us!
The police state is going to protect you when the glass is breaking?
The Dems are going to do anything more substantial than play their best Nancy Pelosi card?
And you’re going to defend yourself with what?
See, I think we’re in one high-stakes life or death mutant variation of a poker game, and we’re all almost nearly all in already. The worst elements have the upper hand. Wall Street is the house. The centrist GOP and the Dems have the most chips. 95 million non-voters have their chips. And for all our principles, we just don’t have that many chips. Not yet. Not soon enough. Not compared to everyone else at the table combined. And if the 95 million non-voters and the center GOP and the Dems decide that we’re acceptable losses as long as markets get back to normal quickly, we’re toast.
Maybe the smart money is to push all our chips over to the Dems while sending the house a clear message…you keep us as customers, but do something about the worst elements, would you? A left/right pro-Wall Street coalition might even just move those 95 million to vote, if only to eliminate any doubt as to the Wall Street winner. The left might even get a bone now and then if it’s a good dog and stops barking every time someone is killed in the street or denied a place to piss. How does free community college sound? Just think of all that skilled exploited labor you could be, gratis.
But if we don’t put those chips in the Dems hands and capitulate to Wall Street (just for another generation or three, think of the cash flows!), the Dems won’t have the cops or the military, and that 95 million is probably not going to lift a finger to help you. They’ve got keep on keepin’ on to do, and there’s absolutely no reason to expect more from them than that.
Give Wall Street a solid voting majority without the wedge issues, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll reduce their investment in right wing hobgoblins to tolerable levels, but never zero. Never zero. They will always need them in the wings, waiting, just in case they need to be fired up again to scare you back into good sense.
Now, wouldn’t that just be so much better? After all, I’ve got to keep on keepin’ on, and I don’t see myself taking a bullet for more than a handful of you, and nobody is forming a line to take one for me and mine, so, nothing personal, it’s just survival is all.
What’s it gonna be?