So I was sitting on the front steps to my apartment building the other day watching the people walk by when this kid comes up to me and says, “Hey mister.”
I say, “What do you want, kid?”
He says, “Can you explain the difference between republicans and democrats to me?”
I think about it for a minute, and then I tell him, “No.”
“You don’t know?”
“Yes and no. The thing is your question is like asking the difference between someone from the East Coast and someone from the West Coast. When you get right down to it they have more in common than they have at odds. And while they may have a few ideological differences you could point out, there’s so many people who don’t fit the stereotype you just end up looking like you got a narrow view of society when you point out those generalizations.”
“My momma says Democrats want to steal all the hard working people’s money and give to lazy people who don’t want to work.”
“Ah hell. Looks like we gotta do this. Look here, kid. That’s an over generalized stereotype that Republicans have against Democrats. In turn, the Democrats over generalize the Republicans for wanting to exploit the poor people and horde all the money in the world for themselves.”
“So the difference between them is how they want to spend money?”
“Well, there’s a few more differences. In theory, democrats tend to think less social structure is better for society. In theory, republicans tend to think more social structure is better for society, and generally speaking. In reality most people don’t think. So most democrats and republicans only have a vague emotional reaction to vague summaries of the terms “democrat” and “republican.” As for those few who actually do research in their free time, and understand what these concepts mean, they’re both right…and they’re both wrong. But yeah, if I had to say what the bottom line difference is I’d say it’s about money. For all the fancy bla, bla, bla you hear on television you’d be surprised how many of the world’s problem boil down to just money.”
“So who’s right about what we should do with the money?”
“Well, that’s why they resent each other so much. They both want what’s best for society, but they’re both wrong about how to go about it. One side theoretically wants to use the government’s money to help the poor under the assumption that handouts won’t encourage a culture of dependency. The other side theoretically wants to use the government’s money to help the rich…or at least keep the government from taking the rich’s money under the assumption that handouts won’t build a culture of dependency.
Even if both of those tactics weren’t fundamentally flawed, they still only address the symptoms of a broken system while ignoring the source of the problem.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is inequality. Why do the rich have more money than the poor? Because they worked harder? Kid, when I was a little older than you I spent my evenings and weekends washing dishes at a little Italian joint around the corner that’s not there anymore. You don’t know the meaning of words ‘hard work’ until you’ve washed dishes for 8 hours a day, and I got paid crap.”
“But you went to school, didn’t you? That’s how you know all this stuff.”
“After high school I went to college for a year before I ran out of money. After that I went to the library, and ever since then I’ve worked under people who couldn’t tell their brain from their ass. The reason they make all the money and get all the respect is because they screwed and drank their way through 4 years of college on their parent’s dime and got that degree that says they’re a hard working, intelligent member of society. Never mind that they haven’t read a book since. Those are the people who run this friggin country. Is it any wonder this place is screwed up?”
“So how do we fix the problem?”
“Like I said, the problem is inequality in how much money people have. The reason there’s inequality between how much money they have is because there’s an unequal opportunity for success. Sure, theoretically, everybody can make it, but there’s a huge difference between how much work it takes for a poor kid to make it and a rich kid to make it. Think what you want, but most poor kids get the shit beat out of them by life. And you expect them to have the optimism and strength to climb a mountain after that?
Even if they did have the optimism and strength it still costs money to get an education. But the jobs open to people without an education don’t pay real money, and the bills poor people have to pay cost more of a percentage of their income than rich people have to pay.
You think the poor stay poor because they don’t want money or because they don’t want to work? There might be a few bad apples, but I see poor girls out here selling their bodies for money. I see the poor boys out here selling drugs, risking going to jail or getting shot for money. What’s it say about our system that fighting on the streets is more promising than entering the work force?”
“Well, they can get scholarships or loans to go to school. Why don’t they do that?”
“Not many people can get scholarships, and even if they can it won’t pay for much. They could get loans, but then they’re going to be in debt for half their life. After spending half their life paying off their debt they’ll still be poor. So why bother?”
“Well, I think they should do something.”
“They are doing something. They’re working hard just to stay alive. If they had the same opportunities as the rich they’d be working hard at doing what the rich do.”
“So what’s that?”
“A kid that has his college paid for by his parents gets to go to college for free as far as he’s concerned. If he gets to drink and screw for four years and then get a high paying job after he gets out of course he’s going to go to college. Anybody would.
So make college free for everybody, and pretty much everybody will go to college. Then people can get the jobs they deserve and make a decent wage. Plus, with everybody being smart they’ll all be able to fix society’s problems and run things more efficiently.”
“But then who will wash the dishes.”
“The people who can’t or won’t do anything else, not the people who can’t afford a degree.”
“But who will pay for everyone to go to college?”
“If there are free websites on the Internet that have 15 million videos of white kids getting hit in the nuts there’s no reason we couldn’t have a website with 15 million videos of school lessons. And anybody could go to that school anywhere any time and have the same access to education as anybody else.”
“But how do you get a degree out of that?”
“Let me ask you something. What kind of person asks a question he could answer for himself?”
“Think about that. But to answer your question, as it stands, degrees don’t represent shit except that you could afford to go to college and had enough brain cells left between beer bongs to retain enough rote facts to pass a couple of tests on a Bell Curve.
Now computer certifications on the other hand mean something though because you can’t get one without knowing a thing or three about what you’re talking about. Replace meaningless degrees with meaningful certifications. That’s what I say.”
“And that’ll solve the world’s problems?”
“That’s only part of the solution. The other reason the rich are rich and the poor are poor is because the way the global business model works is businesses work their employees as hard as possible while paying them as little as possible. Then they charge their customers as much as possible for the cheapest quality goods and services possible. So what little money the poor have gets sucked up to the top, and it don’t trickle back down to the poor. It trickles down to the rich people’s children and grand children and great grandchildren who get to use it to open doors of opportunity for themselves without having to work as hard as everybody else for it.
I’ll tell you what, if you pay people the fair percentage of the profits that they helped the business they work for earn and you put a cap on how much profit you can extort off the goods and services you sell you’re going to see two things happen. One, poor people are going to have money to accomplish things with as well as having the peace of mind to take risks, and two, the rich are going to have more incentive to work harder to make as much money as they used to without being penalized for it with taxes only to have their money go to people who didn’t work for it. But you know why that hasn’t happened yet?”
“Because there’s a difference between the normal citizens who call themselves Republicans and Democrats and the politicians in power who call themselves Republicans and Democrats.
Just like the people, the politicians have more in common than they have at odds. And the thing Republican and Democrat politicians have most in common is their need for money and security. See, they don’t have much motivation to pass laws based on ideological reasons. They’re motivation is securing kickbacks from lobbyists and campaign contributions from large corporations. That’s how they keep their jobs and make enough money to secure their family legacy. Their job description is essentially to kowtow to the people who control 90% of the wealth in the country, the people with the most to gain from the system staying how it is and the most to lose by the establishment of an equitable system.
That’s why the system won’t change. Because despite all the fancy blah, blah, blah you hear on the television the poor people have an unequal amount of influence in the government, and as long as the masses stay sitting on their asses blaming these vague phantoms we call Republicans and Democrats for all the world’s problems nothing real changes. ”
“Gosh, I’m confused.”
“Should I be a Republican or a Democrat?”
“Jesus Christ, kid. You’re killin’ me here. You know that?”