Subcontinental Divide - 2021

A Philosophical Civil War?

By Ahsen Jillani

When I was last discussing the state of this country with optimism, it was just before the Biden inauguration. Things looked optimistic then, after years of chaos, and I was happily thinking that maybe I will be writing musings about philosophy, or culture, or the arts. You know, something that doesn't give me or the readers severe heartburn.

That was all wrong. Now a few days out from the passage of the American Rescue Plan, I am realizing that it may now be impossible to separate politics from even biting into a slice of pizza. Even post-Trump, not a single Republican in either legislative chamber voted for the bill, which was popular with 61 percent of Republican voters.

Then of course, the Republicans went on local and national TV and declared victory for the American people. You see, lots of these benefits will be going to right-leaning blue-collar working-class people in states that have been hard hit by the pandemic economic downturn. I walked around puzzled by this weirdness for several days. I mean, why not win over some voters toward the 2022 elections by taking a stand on economic and pandemic relief.

You see, it is not that simple in the America we live in now. The secret message that right leaning leaders are sending to their constituents is the same: “This money is just going to Antifa and illegal aliens and convicted criminals, so just take it even from Biden. It's your taxpayer money." Actually, none of this is actually more factual than calling ObamaCare a socialist policy, and labeling climate change directives as anti-capitalist. There have been “socialist" policies that have been benefiting Americans for more than a century. Child labor laws, unions, the Social Security system, Medicaid and Medicare, public welfare programs, etc. Draping them in the American flag to suit your political needs does not make them any more or less socialist.

But the battle lines are now starkly drawn, and as I climbed the muddy hill to look at the arena, I wondered if there will ever be a resolution going forward. On the right is this encampment that is skinning deer hanging on trees and where guns are godly and the men are men and the women are women. On the left, well, they have tofu in a pot, ready to be mixed with beans, and gender, well, we need to accept everyone. Little stereotyping here. You get my drift.

If that reminds you of the Vietnam Era protests, you are not wrong. A good portion of the country wanted to kick some commie tail and show them Vietcong and Chinese who was boss. The other side was smoking pot and couldn't understand why America had to napalm a tropical jungle. But the two propaganda machines were exactly the same as today. Now the communist threat is over so the buzzword is Socialism. Hippie culture is over, buzzword is Antifa. The “Nuke the Commies" radicals are now called Trumpists.

The truth may lie somewhere in the middle, however. Yes, some of these provisions in the new rescue bill may be liberal and socialist. The Republican argument remains that this money is coming out of the pockets of hard working Americans, who may be denied pizza and beer if their taxes are used to feed illegal aliens. But the real truth is that deficits are a strange animal that economists and academics keep arguing about. Trump gave tremendous tax breaks to the rich and to large corporate entities using the Reagan-era nonsense concept of “trickle down economics." Turns out the rich just eat the money and nothing trickles down.

In the year since Covid hit, the wealth of billionaires has increased by $2.9 Trillion. Is it trickling down yet? The way right wing pundits spin it, the government has some kind of savings account of your taxes and then writes a check to hungry children at the border. The US government has been in a constant deficit since I landed here in 1979. It hasn't gone bankrupt yet. Why? It owns the right to create money as it pleases. Traditional economic wisdom was that a move like that could cause a dozen eggs to cost $100. It could; but situations like American Rescue Plan probably will not. We are not dealing with a bank that will recall its loan. We are not dealing with the IMF or World Bank type entity, which really can bankrupt you demanding their money back.

I'm no economist, but I'm not seeing the negative in the rescue plan. Besides bringing scores of people out of poverty, the plan will flood the country with cash that will hop across the economy like a spritely springtime rabbit. Yeah, maybe the egg prices will rise by 50 cents/dozen. Who even knows? But the battle lines are clearly drawn: Our taxpayer money can't go to undeserving elements domestic or foreign—period. I have spent a lifetime in America arguing with people that foreign aid is hardly ever cash and is usually a credit line to purchase American products from a limited menu that congressmen have assembled to benefit their local corporate donors (Planes, jet engines, bombs, training, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides). It's not like you can take American money and spend it in Hong Kong.

So technically, even if a balanced budget was some sort of reality, bombing Syria would not be about American interests. That's just a distraction. Congress allocates your money to a foreign country and really hands it to a defense contractor 20 miles away to build more bombs or aircraft – as if our 5,000 nuclear missiles may not be adequate in case of a brutal attack by Afghan goat herders.

So think of this anyway you wish. Your tax money is going to the undeserving poor and the undocumented aliens; or the government is just creating money as it pleases because it really does not matter as long as talented minds are analyzing the inflationary impacts of just printing pieces of paper and flooding the country with them.

But take your careful pick on which TV channel you are on watching this battlefield – the ones with guns and eating deer-meat jerky for breakfast, or the ones doing the morning yoga with ginseng tea brewing.


Ahsen Jillani a former editor and publisher, is originally from Islamabad, Pakistan, and now lives in Mint Hill. He owns Must Media, a PR company focusing on both political and corporate clients.