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Posted by @ 8:01 am on October 8th, 2012

David Fishkind recently asked “Are You Afraid of Politics?“, and a lot of people, myself included, chimed in. Since then I’ve realized I have much more to say on the subject.

I normally don’t think of politics in Democrat/Republican/presidential election terms. I’m registered as an independent, and I prefer to live my politics on a daily basis—which is why I don’t drive, buy organic food when I can, and support local businesses run by people I know, etc. But it would be damn foolish of me to not recognize that “the political is personal” (to invert a phrase), and that the gentle people elected to the state and federal levels regularly impact both my daily life and my career as a writer. Specifically:

  1. I’ve studied creative writing at three state universities: Penn State (Bachelor’s), Illinois State University (Master’s), and the University of Illinois at Chicago (presently).
  2. Those state universities have employed the following writers and literary critics: David Foster Wallace, Curtis White, Gabriel Gudding, Ricardo Cortez Cruz, Walter Benn Michaels, Jennifer Ashton, Cris Mazza, Christopher Grimes, Roger Reeves, and many others.
  3. ISU also once housed Dalkey Archive Press, FC2, and American Book Review
  4. …all of which received funding from the NEA.
  5. What’s more, I’m sure that many of the journals I’ve published in have also received funding, as have many of the artists whose work I’ve enjoyed. (To name but one obvious albeit old example, my all-time favorite filmmaker, Orson Welles, got some of his first directing jobs through federal assistance.)
  6. I’ve been on food stamps (during my Master’s degree), and received grants and student loans. (This is in addition to the scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships I’ve received from the schools I’ve attended). And unlike morons like Craig T. Nelson, I know whence those benefits came.
  7. Not to mention, I learned to read partly thanks to Big Bird & his pals. (By way of thank you, I included a Big Bird story in my first collection.)
  8. For most of my life, I’ve been part of the 47% moocher class: child, then professional student. (I’d gladly pay federal income taxes, if I made more money. Though I’d rather that money go to things other than bombing Third World countries.)
  9. And, except for the years when I’ve been in school, I’ve lacked health insurance! (The one time I had a “real job,” working as a technical writer for Lucent Technologies, I was considered a contractor, and not given any benefits. Thanks, wealthy industrial sector! Note that this was during the late ’90s, before the tech bubble burst.)
  10. I make regular use of roads and bridges and the internet, as well as state parks, and I like my air and water to be (relatively) clean.
  11. A more personal anecdote: I’m originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, a city you probably know mainly from The Office. And as you may have gathered from that show, Northeast Pennsylvania is not the most happening place in this country, either economically or culturally. And while I happen to love the region—bury my heart there, and all that—I left it mainly because it’s an economically depressed backwater. And why is that? Well, for one thing, most of the manufacturing jobs located there were moved overseas in the 1970s and ’80s. That happened for many reasons, but a primary one was the fact that, during that time, manufacturing stopped being a driving force in our economy, losing ground to the financial industry—Wall Street, and firms like Bain Capital, run by folks like Mitt Romney. And Romney can pretend not to know that there are incentives for moving jobs overseas, but there are, and a lot of people I know lost their jobs because of that. (The company my godfather worked for was acquired by Bain Capital; he managed to retire, but most of his coworkers “were let go of.”) So I have some firsthand experience with what guys like Romney mean when they champion the private sector for being “more efficient.” (They mean that the people who own the companies make more money.)

I dunno. It seems pretty clear to me that my decadent writerly life has been greatly enabled by government assistance … and that libertarian fanatics like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are determined to make such lifestyles impossible. (I guess, in their view, I could either be born rich, or go work at Wal-Mart … or just shuffle off to a ditch, and die.) I can’t fathom how I—or many of the writers I know (not to mention anyone who’s gay &/or female, obvi)—would benefit from their being elected.

P.S. The image that I stole for the top of this post is amusing, but I can’t figure out what kind of line Big Bird is standing in. If Romney’s so eager to cancel federal funding to PBS—even though it accounts for a miniscule fraction of the federal budget—without even considering cutting a dime in funding to the military or handouts to private corporations—then I doubt he’d be willing to provide bread and cheese to the indigent. Again: ditch, go, die.

Update 1:

Though who knows what the hell Romney will do? (Me, I’m willing to bet that the True Romney’s the one who wants to cut taxes for the rich, matched by cuts in social services.)

Update 2:

Speaking of breadlines

Update 3:

If politics aren’t your thing, go read this: “A Fat, Mustachioed Orphan Finds a Home.”

Update 4:

Here’s a New York Times article about a firm Bain Capital recently acquired:

Nine years ago, the company [Asimco Technologies] bought two camshaft factories that employed about 500 people in Michigan. By 2007 both were shut down. Now Asimco manufactures the same components in China on government-donated land in a coastal region that China has designated an export base, where companies are eligible for the sort of subsidies Mr. Romney says create an unfair trade imbalance.

But there is a twist to the Asimco story that would not fit neatly into a Romney stump speech: Since 2010, it has been owned by Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Mr. Romney, who has as much as $2.25 million invested in three Bain funds with large stakes in Asimco and at least seven other Chinese businesses, according to his 2012 candidate financial disclosure and other documents.

That’s the kind of economic reform Mitt Romney represents:

Mr. Romney’s campaign insists he has no control over his investments since they are held in a blind trust. That said, a confidential prospectus for one of the Bain funds, obtained by The New York Times, promotes China as a good investment for some of the same reasons that Mr. Romney has said concern him: “Strong fundamentals” like manufacturing wages 85 percent lower than what Americans earn, vast foreign exchange reserves and the likelihood that China will surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy.

The man is a scoundrel.

Update 5:

The inimitable Ruben Bolling weighs in.

Update 6:

Fact-checking Romney’s debate performance:

Update 7:

I’m watching the VP debate now, and Ryan is totally lying through his teeth when he talks about Medicare. He’s just so brazen! The Republicans really have nothing to run on in regards to this. The Republican position is to privatize medicine, privatize Social Security.

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