Old Folks Down Home

I read somewhere that those earners at the top 1% take home 20% of the total swag in America, and that’s the biggest gap since 1928. That group also pays 28% of all federal taxes (the richest 10% paid fifty five percent). Somewhere else it says the top 3.4% will generate almost 14% of consumer spending. Roughly a sixth of the population accounts for half of total consumption.

Now the patrician set does not mind the income disparity, but they much resent on average the outgo. They had rather not promote the general welfare if they can avoid it. But they have a real problem in a democracy, for who speaks up for the huddled minority at the top of the heap? Why would 99% of us vote for benefits to the remaining 1%?

Enter the south.

I often use Mississippi to represent the south because my dear Mother’s folks came from Pontotoc, and my great-plus-grandfather William Simpson was recruited into the 2nd Mississippi as a blacksmith under no less than Colonel William Falkner, grandfather of the writer of almost the same name.

Colonel Falkner, alas, was voted out of his colonelship and came on home to bring a railroad to Ripley. He also is credited with perhaps the most literary violation of the Fifteenth Amendment in all our culture; he shot dead a couple of yankees there to register freedmen to vote. (This only a couple hundred miles from where the three civil rights workers were murdered for the same cause just over seventy years later. Misissippi upholds tradition, if nothing else.)

My Ma’s home state has the highest rate of adult obesity for the fifth year in a row, an astounding 32.5%. It leads in simple fatness with overweight and obese children, 44.4%. The resulting drain on medical costs for cardiac and diabetis troubles can be imagined. It has been discovered that the obesity rate approaches one quarter for 11 of the 16 southern states, and this is true in only five of the remaining 34.

According to the CDC, obesity could cost the nation $147 billion a year. Per capita, that means $1,429 more per fat person a year, or 42% more than the more svelte set. They weigh down the health care system 40% more in prescription drugs, 30% inpatient care, and 30% all other treatment for hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesteral. They just ain’t cost-effective.

But it isn’t the fat around the waist that matters most. It’s the sort centered between the ears.

In the south is where such stirring associations rise as: a president with African lineage in the White House means terrorist, muslim, socialist, is un-American by birth. Like hog calling farmers, the fat cat lobbyists send the hogs to the town halls to break up meetings just like the brownshirts just before the last world war. In defense of the extravagant profits to their masters and at a high premium to themselves they shout down any attempt to discuss health care rationally, even as they do in their own individual cases.

Were the south eliminated from the general discussion, the level of debate in all matters save football would rise like a helium balloon suddenly unmoored. No matter or manner of ignorance or jaw-dropping ignorant racist garbage would be a part of the question were it not for the sweet sunny south.

A couple of novels about a cattle drive and its consequences was produced by a Texas boy, Larry McMurtry, one of the more enlightened from that state. In there, two Texas rangers each encountered wounds to the lower extremeties which required instant amputation out on the lone prairie.

It was an allegory for what Abe Lincoln should have done with the wound of Ft Sumter: use the Ohio River for a tourniquet. But Abe, he made another choice. And he was dead wrong.

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