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Late Night: Rich People are Oppressed

Poor, poor rich people:

But over at the Alliant Center, where a four-day bus tour to support Walker was wrapping up, the 500 or so crowded into a small room had a different take. “Collective Bargaining is Not a Right; You abused it … now we refuse it,” read one sign.

The tour and rally was organized by Americans for Prosperity, a group backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, whose PAC gave Walker’s gubernatorial campaign $43,000.

Addressing the crowd, former School Board member Nancy Mistele said that she and everyone else in the room were fighting to protect the freedoms they held dear – a fight, she added, they also waged on behalf of those “oppressed by the socialism of unions.”

Republican consultant and radio host Brian Schimming told the crowd Walker was “cool as a cucumber,” despite the massive protests against him in recent weeks, and that “he ain’t backing down.”

“He’d better not,” someone yelled out from the crowd.

Schimming said that the governor needed supporters to go back to their communities and educate others. “He needs you to get loud.” He added that the Capitol has been under mob rule in recent weeks, controlled by a “collective of leftists, 60s retreads and special interests.”

“It’s time to take it back,” he said.

Take it back and do what, doofus? You can have it any time, you just have to put up with people you disagree with being, you know, around. Like most of us having to deal with your privileged ass. There’s no “taking back” because nobody took it away. The problem these jerks really have with public property is that it, on occasion, contains the public.

But really, it’s “Americans for Prosperity” that I want to talk about, because one of the great political frustrations of the past half-century is how the GOP has continued to convince people to vote against their own economic interests. We see this particularly in the Wisconsin union protests, as people go on talk radio and bitch about schoolteachers making enough money at the end of their careers to, horror of horrors, pay off a house and/or own a car that is not rusted through the floor. How dare they want to achieve financial security? Those horrible people. The way they oppress the rich with their aspirations not to be poor!

I get it, I do. People have exploited those they considered beneath them since the beginning of time. It’s only recently that we’ve begun to tell ourselves we ought to like it and help them to do it, in the hopes we may someday be the exploiters. I don’t know when that became an admirable thing to be, but it seems that’s the motivation: Side with billionaires because someday you’ll be a billionaire and then you’ll want to keep all your money instead of giving it to the government so they can teach unwashed poles like you to read and patrol the filthy streets where you live in your hovel.

I wouldn’t mind being rich. It looks like fun. You get to have a big house or houses, maybe a place somewhere warm for the winter like St. Thomas or Grand Cayman. Maybe a boat if you like to sail or a fantastic antique car if you like to drive. If you have a crap ton of cash you can throw a party whenever, or take people places, or make somebody’s wish come true without thinking about it. People come over and instead of calling your place “cozy” in the way we call a bedraggled shelter dog “promising,” they go, “oooh” and admire the hand-finished wood beams and gourmet kitchen.

But mostly I want to be rich so I can fix a bunch of shit. What people who have a lot of money and don’t want to give it away love to say is that money doesn’t solve problems. “You can’t just throw money at a problem,” they’ll say, citing public education as failing despite years of apparently funding it at some secret high level we’ve never really achieved. Or they’ll talk about how lottery winners usually see their lives go to shit after coming into all that cash, or bore on about how they used to be poor and happier when they were eating lentils and ramen.

To which I say, BULLSHIT. Money fixes a hell of a lot of problems. Money builds libraries. Money fixes schools. Money saves animals. Money feeds hungry children. Money does all this stuff. Yes, you need smart people in charge of the money, and you need a mechanism to spend it all sensibly and take care of it, and you need to know what you’re doing, but once you have all that you still need money and I’d like to be able to give it to people in those situations.

One of my favorite games to play with Mr. A on long car rides is to look at whatever the lottery jackpot is on the billboard and then divide that cash up. Like, once we’d fixed up and paid off our hole in the wall and our car, what would we do with the rest of the money? Establishing a Filthy Hippie Blogger Command Center and paying salaries to people who’ve worked their asses off for years doing journalism when journalists couldn’t be bothered, giving endowments to organizations we volunteer for, those usually come to mind first. Then it would be divvying up the money into chunks so that any time any of us saw a problem, we could just fix it without thinking too hard about the financial consequences.

Though I really wouldn’t mind a condo in St. Thomas, too.

What would you do with Koch-level wealth? If you hit the lotto tomorrow, how would you spend it?


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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.