Friday, June 16, 2006

Why America desperately needs the return of commie pinko slimeballs – in Russia, or China or some other far-away place.

Call it the boogeyman theory.

When fear of communism was the modus operandi of the lunatic right, the average American citizen got a pretty good deal out of official paranoia. Trust me, I grew up during that period.

Yeah yeah, once a week we had to put our arms over our heads and dive under our school desks as the teacher yelled, “Take cover!” That kooky exercise was supposed to keep Russian nukes from zapping us into little cinders. We knew it wouldn’t work and we were scared that Russkie nukes really might be on the way, but so what? It never happened.

Yeah yeah, we also had Senator Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. They spent lots of time and money making noise while they made sure that nothing subsersive got injected into Doris Day’s mouth and then splattered all over the silver screen via some Hollywood pinko screenwriter’s pen. Yes, that gave some people the icy shivers.

I still say, so what?

In return we got something that kept America rich, happy and healthy. We got a pair of bad examples that nobody wanted to look like – communist Russia and communist China. And that was wonderful.

For example, we learned stuff like this in school:

• In Russia the state makes and sells everything. In Moscow there’s only one department store, called GUM, and it’s a lousy store selling shoddy goods. America lots of privately owned businesses competing with each other and that gives us lots of choice. Good thing we're not commies.

• In Moscow, there’s no decent affordable housing unless you’re a commie party bigshot living in a dacha. The rest of the poor slobs live crowded together in ugly communal apartments with curtains between the living quarters of different families. But in America, we devise tax and mortgage lending laws that enable the average guy to easily own his own home. Good thing we're not commies.

• In America you can pick any doctor you want. In Russia, you go to the doctor they tell you to see, and that doctor isn’t allowed to do much for you. That’s why we’ll never turn medicine over to a bunch of bureaucrats. Good thing we're not commies.

It went on and on, with invocations of people standing on line for stale bread and fixed “elections” that looked like the real thing but weren’t and more. You get the idea. Commies were the bad guys, we were the good guys, and that’s why we had all the good toys and the good lives.

Unfortunately, instead of a terrifying monolith, Communism turned out to be a house of limp cards. In was inept, unresponsive and incompetent and eventually it fell of its own weight. That’s unfortunate, because that left us boogeyman-less.

(Yeah, I know all about Al Chaida. But Al Chaida isn’t an economic and political model. It’s a movement of religious madmen who already look too much like our own religious madmen. We don’t want people too closely comparing them and the Republican right wing. And now back to Russian Communism.)

Since Communism fell, we no longer point derisively at one-GUM Moscow. Big city department stores have been vanishing like Houdini’s menagerie of rabbits. When Russia had communism, New York had Gimbels, Peck & Peck, A&S, B. Altman, Rogers Peet, May’s, Sakes 34th Street, S. Klein’s, EJ Korvette's and Sterns --all now gone, gone, gone.

Meanwhile Wal-Mart and K-Mart and other GUMS of capitalism, are pecking away at our municipal real estate around the nation.

No housing in Moscow, except for bigwigs in dachas? The day I sit writing this, The New York Times reported that housing is getting tighter and tighter for New Yorkers of “modest means” – say working stiffs like firemen and policemen. Researchers found that the number of apartments affordable to 80 percent of the median household income in the city, has dropped by 205,000 in just three years. That's in a city of over eight million people. Lotsa luck finding an apartment. Maybe you can put up a curtain in the living room and share with another family.

Meanwhile, if you’re a bigwig, finding an apartment is no problem. Sure, it might cost you two, or three, or twelve million bucks, but what’s a few million among top corporate bureaucrats?

Pick any doctor you want? Oh please, please, please do tell that to your HMO!

The sad fact is, ever since the slimebag bogeyman of communism drowned itself in its own bathtub, the American corporate and political version of the old commissars has been crawling out of the sewers and stealing from you and me left and right.

You can even get roundly ripped off if you’re a small capitalist. Just ask the stockholders who own shares of companies where the CEOs pay themselves $30 million, $60 million, $160 million or more of their stockholders’ money whether the company performs or not.

Who’s reigning them in? Not our Republican government, which re-arranged the tax system to make sure corporate crime pays. Not the boards of directors, who are either idiots or in on the scam. Who are you going to rely on to uncover all this thievery? Katie Couric?

A 97% tax bracket on incomes over $2 million would of course help, by making the theft-by-compensation of, say, $25,000,000 a year in corporate funds hardly worth the effort. In the days when communism was hiding under the bed, CEOs couldn’t really legally steal for a living. They had to pay their stockholders and their employees well so we could show how much better our own system was than communism.

That left precious little to “incent” CEOs to rob everybody else blind, especially when there was a 50 percent income tax bracket. The CEO business attracted people who wanted to lead and innovate. Today, it just attracts greedy thugs who mainly want to get rich.

Making sure the Ken Lays of the world spend the rest of their lives in the clink would of course help – even if the occasional squishy Scrushy squiggles through the net and gets to live happily ever after on his questionably gotten gains.

But the best cure for what ails America today would be to bring back the bad example that nobody wanted to be compared to. So I say nuts to bad examples like Al Chaida. I support the return of a big, evil and highly unpopular communist Russia.

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