Everyone invested in the #OccupyWallStreet movement, either for or against, seems to be discussing Adam Carolla’s latest rant on his podcast regarding said movement. Conservatives have been desperate to find articulate voices to buttress their arguments against a tidal wave of progressive talking points that are clearly resonating with the American people in a positive way. Carolla, with his blue-collar bonafides and that “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” life philosophy that Conservatives would pour over their morning breakfast cereal and drink the bowl if they could. Finally, it seems, a celebrity has arrived to defend their indefensible and selfish positions on issues like income disparity, corporate greed and joblessness.
For many on both sides, Carolla’s honesty is a welcome and refreshing voice in a debate mired in racism, ignorance and stupidity. Even if its dismissed as intentionally provocative, which it is, the fact that a podcast can generate this much controversy is really exciting and should lend some confidence to other podcasters who have prayed for some viability to be injected into their broadcast medium of choice. After all, the podcast seems to be the last, safe place a man like Carolla can bear his soul without the specter of consequence hanging over him, and Carolla is no stranger to controversy. You might remember the sex-advice show “LoveLine” or the Man Show, that overtly homosexual homage to male chauvinism that paved the way for pathetic male-centric marketing like the Spike Network and Man Cave. The last controversy involving his podcast regarded the use of transgender slurs for which he later apologized.
His latest dismissive condemnation disparages such a wide swath of people it’s absurd on its face. He begins with a common argument among working conservatives.
“I just heard today that, in California – before the economy fell apart – I think it was the top 1% of taxpayers paid for 50% of the taxes that came in here, in California. That’s 1% paying for 50%. Not good enough? Not good enough?”
What Carolla fails to understand is members of the #OccupyWallStreet movement neither want or need the 1% to pay their taxes. That 50% of the tax burden represents untold billions in financial resources hoarded and squandered by a select minority who through considerable political influence in the form of campaign contributions bought themselves a political system that not only allows them to hold on to that money but further leach from an already distressed financial system. To avoid speaking in baseless generalities, here’s a couple of examples:
- The Californian direct democracy system allows any resident to collect the requisite number of signatures to place an policy initiatives on the ballot to be voted on in the general election. This signature collection process is extremely resource intensive, both in time and money, placing it well outside the capabilities of the average system. Corporations, like Amazon.Com however, are using this process to avoid paying state sales tax under the guise of interstate commerce freedoms.
- California is #8 in the nation in income disparity between rich and poor. California has not had an estate or inheritance tax since 1982. Money flows from generation to generation without infringement. (Although it is rumored to return in 2013)
- In 2007, California had the second highest foreclosure rate in the county, losing billions in economic growth from the economic meltdown caused in no small part by the banks and the financial services industry who engaged in a coordinated strategy of predatory mortgage lending and over-leveraging of worthless mortgage securities without government oversight.
“I understand some people have more than others. That’s always gonna be there. Even…Y’know, we started off, this evening, talking about the auto show and about how the crazy competition just led to these crazy crazy cars. And I know, sometimes, it goes astray but, for the most part, it’s the best system we have. And, trying to get the top 1% to pay for the top…bottom 55% – or to pay-in 55% – that’s not the angle that’s used. The angle’s: worrying about what the fuck the other 50% are doing, not what the top – who is already paying *way* more than their fair share – is doing.”
Notice how he glosses over the critical observation in bold. #OWS would argue the term “astray” is woefully inadequate, that through years of deregulation and political manipulation the rich have rigged the “best system we have” to benefit themselves. Consider Mitt Romney, potential GOP presidential candidate, who through his financial management company Bain Capital leeched hundreds of millions of dollars from companies all over the country while thousands lost their jobs and watched their stock values plummet, all perfectly legal. How about the illegal? Check out this interesting report from the FBI regarding financial crimes over the last five years.
CORPORATE FRAUD PENDING CASES
It is clearly evident that greed, criminal or otherwise is becoming more and more prevalent among those who know how to play the system. Check out this graph-heavy article by Mother Jones to see income disparity trends over the last 40 years. This is not heresay or opinion. This is fact. The middle class is deflating while the upper class is prospering, now more than ever. #OccupyWallStreet understands this and is fighting this trend before its too late to do anything about it.
“There’s something that’s come up in this country, that didn’t used to exist, which is: envy. And it’s a big issue. And it *was* understood, back in the day, and we are empowering…we now are now dealing with the first wave of participation trophy – “my own fecal matter doesn’t stink”, “empowered”, “I feel so fucking good about myself”, “everybody’s a winner, there’s no losers” – we’re dealing with the first wave of those fucking assholes. That’s who we’re dealing with now. ‘Cause this has been going on for about 25 years, and we’re just starting to get – maybe 20 years – and those kids were 8 or 9 years old, and we’re getting the first…”
This is where Carolla’s argument begins to really fall off the rails. One of the most prevalent misunderstandings of the #OWS movement is its demographics. If you watch Fox News, you are probably operating under the false assumption that this is a movement of twenty-something disenfranchised potheads who lack the guiding principles of hard work and discipline. This could not be further from the truth. #OccupyWallStreet is a movement that spans generations, from seniors looking for a fair deal on health care and retirement to college graduates looking for work in an evaporating job market caused by a shrinking economy and exportation of American jobs to countries with cheaper labor. Few would deny narcissism is a plague on our society, but one can argue narcissism increases in direct proportion with ones financial holdings. The more you have, the more superior you feel towards your fellow man and the less inclined you are to share your good fortune. As the #OWS clearly demonstrates, there have been very few winners and many many losers over the last couple of years.
“Carolla: So what we have – I haven’t really broken this down but I’m going to try now – we created a bunch of fuckin’ self-entitled monsters. And this has become the pursuit of my life, where people are so far out of it, and what they expect, and what they think’realistic’ is, and what…the set of rules that pertains to them versus the other guys, cause *that’s* what the bottom line is.”
Who is the “we” Carolla is referring to? The baby boomers? Yuppies? GenX? It’s not uncommon for frustrated, middle aged men to employ nebulous antagonists in support of their argument. They use phrasing like “let me break it down for you” and “bottom line”. This is a multi-faceted and intellectually complex issue that cannot be distilled into one neat point of view. You’re talking decades of American political history fueled by hundreds of years of social evolution. It was only a relatively short time ago we were subjects of the kingdom of England, bound to his will and crushed under thumb to the point of revolution. It has only been around seventy years years since the Great Depression crippled the American economy and the New Deal assisted in its recovery. It’s only been three years since the mortgage crisis and we’re only beginning to see the effects and that which drives people of all ages to protest, not some ridiculous notion of entitlement. And what are these unrealistic expectations they’re fighting for? Affordable health care? The dignity of a good paying job and the means to support ones family? The ability to negotiate for better terms with ones employer? For the government to follow its mandate and protect their financial futures from bankers looking for risky short term gains?
“Alison Rosen: Is that the “millennials”. I think that’s the name to be used…
Carolla: I call them the ass douches.
Rosen: Colloquially, they’re known as the ass douches?”
While Carolla may consider this hardy har har, let’s not forget these “ass douches” are standing peacefully at the front line, taking tear gas, pepper spray, batons to the stomach and losing their freedoms for a cause they believe in. Besides, if there’s any reason not to take him seriously, it’s his use of dated mid-90s put downs.
And then everyone gets involved and then everyone gives everyone a participation trophy, and then everyone feels good about themselves. But not *based* on anything. You should feel good about yourself *because* of your *accomplishments*. Not because somebody yelled at you to feel good about yourself and you got a fuckin’ fake piece of plastic that was sprayed gold and had your name on a plaque at the bottom of it. And, when these folks become adults, and enter the work force, and we – they’ve done stories about this. “
This is a rather Californian point of view. As a mecca for pseudo-psychology and snake oil phrenology, California has developed quite the reputation as a nanny state, with public policy bordering the absurd. Carolla’s father was a psychologist. I can’t speak to their relationship, but one can imagine this as the source for his disdain for the profession. What this has anything to do with #OccupyWallStreet is beyond understanding. People didn’t lose their jobs, savings, investments and homes from some nonsensical and systemic weakness of character. “There goes Mr. Jenkins. Look up to him. That guy works hard. That guy built a company. That guy built an empire. Now look at him. He’s got his Rolls Royce. He’s drivin’ up the hill.”
But what do we do *now*? Now it’s like: “Oh, look at him. Look at him. Does he need that car? Why’s he need that car? I’m drivin’ a fuckin’ Chevette! Why’s *he* get to drive that fuckin’ car, you know? Let’s go up there and throw a rock at it.” “That ain’t gonna help you get out of the Chevette, ass douche.”
Is Carolla actually suggesting people were not covetous prior to whatever generation bred this army of narcissists? Again, another assertion that the guiding principle of #OccupyWallStreet is envy, which its not.
“Carolla: We started, you know, we have these weird swings in raising kids, and they’re not very good. I mean, I grew up in the sort of 70′s, “just free to be me, you and me”, “Hey man, if he doesn’t want to learn to read he doesn’t have to learn to read”…yeah, just “run wild”, you know, “free range”, “do your own thing, man” – that whole hippee “do your own thing” – never fuckin’ panned out. And – the super self-esteem building, and just all this bullshit where we have to knock down a Christmas celebration and call it a “Holiday Celebration” so we don’t offend the one kid whose parents are litigious, or whatever – we fucked our society up royally; basically, take that one kid and empowered him, and we’ve gotta stop, ’cause that’s what all this is.”
Carolla continues to conflate his gripes with a indisputably irrelevant attack on secularism. While it is not germane to the topic at hand, its important to point out growing sensitives to non-Christian religions is a good thing. When our government spends tax dollars celebrating one religious holiday over another, it debases people. There is nothing wrong with a little tolerance, a little understanding when it comes to sensitive issues like this. Parents are fully capable of educating their child about Christmas and celebrating their holiday in the privacy of their own home without imposing it on Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and the many other religions in this melting pot of a country.
It used to be that you’d look – I’m not saying you took random rich guys and worshipped at their alter – but you took guys who built something, and you said “There’s a guy who’s accomplished something”, not “Well why isn’t he paying his fair share?”. I mean, when did that ever fuckin’ come about? “That guy paid-in millions of dollars last year. You paid in shit, and you’re pissed at *him*?”. Obviously it doesn’t make sense. Obviously it’s not a *rational* thought. It’s *shame* driven.
This is another illustration of a feeling not backed up by fact. This kind of speech lacks any kind of critical thought whatsoever. It’s the same manner in which people speak of black people whenever they see black crime on television, the ubiquitous ”They’re all like that”. See the commonalities in phrasing? “It used to be”, “back in the day”, “I remember”….all anecdotal, all based on personal experience. When Steve Jobs died, a nation celebrated his accomplishments. Where was the derision? When #OWS speaks of the 1% “paying their fair share”, they’re directing that message at companies like GE who paid no corporate income taxes due to loopholes or the Bush Tax cuts which largely benefited the rich. Even now, the Republicans are opposing the extension of payroll tax cuts because they do not benefit the wealthy, who for the most part do not collect a paycheck and live off of their investments.
“And – you want to extrapolate this – this is essentially what the terrorists do with us. They see us over here in our hot tubs, driving our big cars around, havin’ our parties, turnin’ on…”
Ugh. An almost Herman Cainian understanding of the middle east. That’s why they hate us? Because we’re the only rich country in the word strutting about? Not because of our history of meddling in their affairs, including the backing the Jews in the creation of a state right in an area of incredible religious significance to them and the countless wars that followed?
It’s difficult to tell if Carolla was being serious. He is, after all, an entertainer first. Unfortunately, the right has no qualms with co-opting his views in their campaign to shut down #OWS. Not that it matters. It will take a lot more than the tongue-lashing of a comedian to turn the tide of public opinion.
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