I came to a realization this morning, a realization that cemented my resolve to, every Sunday, highlight one way in which America is letting us down -- allowing some people to live selfish lives at the expense of others, when there is more than enough wealth in America to allow everyone to live a decent life.
The realization was this: I subscribe to Newsweek magazine, and read it pretty much cover to cover every week. Despite that, and despite reading our daily paper, and despite listening to news-talk all day at work and watching CNN Headline News while I get ready for work, I had no idea what Barack Obama's health plan was when I wrote the first Shame On America Sunday a few weeks ago.
Not through a lack of trying -- like I said, I keep up with the news pretty well. But the news isn't keeping up with the news. The news is focused on things like (from a recent Newsweek) stories about how often Joe Biden says "literally" in his speeches.
That's why Shame on America Sunday is necessary: because the media no longer covers "the news."
Instead, they cover things that aren't news and that somehow, unbelievably, also aren't the cause of a revolution. They cover things like what Cindy McCain is wearing, and the story becomes, somehow, "Isn't she becoming a classier broad," when the story should be "How are Americans of the 21st century more immune to decadence being shoved in their faces than the French of the 18th century?"
Actually, there are any number of stories that could have been spawned by Cindy McCain's outfits at the Republican convention. The headlines for those stories include, but are not limited to "Cindy McCain hates poor people and wants them to know it," or the similar "John McCain will not do anything to help anyone who isn't already rich."
We didn't get those headlines. We got, instead, this:
Cindy McCain sets tone for GOP fashion.That is an Associated Press headline. The Associated Press -- not "People" or "US" or "Women's Wear Daily," but the Associated Press is reporting on Cindy McCain's fashion choices.
And what do they report? They report this:
"Vanity Fair editors estimated that [Cindy] McCain's fierce saffron shirt dress with the popped collar, diamond earrings, four-strand pearl necklace, white Chanel watch and strappy shoes totaled up to $313,100."
(Source.) Leave aside, for the moment, that Associated Press is simply reporting what others are reporting, and focus on how it is that any portion of the story out of the Republican Convention is what Cindy McCain is wearing.
Then focus on the fact that if we're going to hear about what Cindy McCain is wearing, it has to be in the form of a fawning, sycophantic article that froths at the mouth with love for Cindy McCain -- who is the very epitome of what Tom Wolfe called a "social x-ray" in The Bonfire of the Vanities-- froths at the mouth with love for her, instead of frothing at the mouth with vitriol over the fact that while the government is taking over two large mortgage lenders and more and more are losing their houses, Cindy McCain is wearing an outfit that costs six times more than the median annual salary in America.
Why were there exactly no stories (until this one) pointing out Cindy McCain's obvious disdain for people in the United States, based upon her decision to wear an outfit that costs six times what the average household income is? (Source.) Why were there exactly no stories (until this one) pointing out that either John McCain agrees with his social x-ray wife that it is appropriate to wear a $313,000+ outfit while people are losing their houses and at a time when one in 10 Americans earns less than $20,000 per year, (Source) or, if he doesn't agree, then he's simply oblivious to the facts?
Oblivious or disdainful of poor people: which is it, John McCain?
Cindy McCain's gall in wearing that outfit is even more shameful after you read this:
That is a letter written by a beneficiary of "Back-to-School Clothes For Kids," a website you can get to by clicking this link. "Back-to-School Clothes for Kids" does what it says (unlike the GOP and John McCain): they provide clothing for kids whose families can't otherwise afford to get a new back-to-school outfit or two. You know, those kids whose families come from the people who don't wear $313,000 dresses to a giant party where their husband will lie about whether he actually intends to help anyone's life get better if, God forbid, he is elected.
They buy clothes for younger kids; for older kids, they have "S.W.A.T. Nights" -- Shopping With A Teen nights -- where volunteers give teens a budget and help them pick out nice clothes to go back to school in.
Why do we live in a country where a social x-ray can wear a $313,000 dress for one night -- while young kids have to hope that someone, somewhere, will donate $20 so that they can get a new pair of blue jeans to wear to school?
Why do we put up with that?
Why isn't Cindy McCain being forced to hang her head in shame?
Do you think that Cindy McCain was as grateful for her $313,000 dress as Shawn was for the new outfit? As grateful as the kids shown in these pictures (all are from Back-to-School Clothes For Kids' website) are for theirs?
No, I don't, either.
Some people have said that Shame On America Sunday doesn't fix anything, it just complains. So to remedy that, I will for each article provide not one, but two solutions.
The Fix: There should be a federal consumption tax that kicks in at $500 for any consumer item other than food, cars and houses (which I'll deal with separately.) The consumption tax should be equal to 50% of the price of the consumer item. Maybe if her outfit had cost her $469,500, Cindy McCain would have thought twice about purchasing it. I doubt that, since social x-rays (and the McCains) have no conscience, but at least our society would have gotten $156,750 in extra tax revenue.
That tax revenue should be earmarked specifically for poverty-relief efforts, including a new national project, like Americorps only better, to provide good-paying jobs to people by employing them to help replace and upgrade our aging telephone and data network and extend that network to rural areas.
What You Can Do Until It's Fixed: Send money to "Back-to-School Clothes for Kids," P.O. Box 304, White Plains, NY 10605. For more information, call (914) 576-6053, or email email@example.com. Many local Salvation Army posts hold back-to-school clothing drives, too -- check their website out here.
Then, to make sure your message gets across, when you make your donation, send an email saying that "Rather Than Support Rich People Getting Richer, I gave money to help poor people buy clothes" to Cindy McCain c/o her husband's failed presidential campaign at "firstname.lastname@example.org." (If you like to mail things, then write it on a postcard to Cindy McCain, /co John McCain 2008, P.O. Box 16118, Arlington, VA 22215.)
The Trouble With Roy firmly believes that no adult should be allowed to earn more than $200,000 per year; that health care is a basic right, and that America can do better. Lots better.