A Dickens of a Christmas

The scene is at the door of Scrooge and Marley’s. Two men address Mr. Scrooge after presenting their papers of introduction.

From “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens:

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

I watched the movie version of this scene from the comfort of my bed this morning and remarked to myself how familiar this sounded. I know I’ve watched this movie before (thank you, TMC for keeping me up with the classics), but not for some time. I don’t think I’ve watched it in a couple of years, at least. Why did it sound so familiar?

Then it hit me. This is the Republican/Teaparty agenda – Mind your own business, fend for yourself and the out of work be damned! Merry frickin’ Christmas. Maybe a remake is in order, hmmm…

Scrooge is heading home from a hard day at work. He has just outsourced the last of his office workers’ jobs so there was no one left to get him his mocha latte. He was forced to waste his time in line at the corner Starbucks. On his way out, a Salvation Army bell ringer asks him for spare change only to be brushed aside. Up to his penthouse suite he relaxes in his recliner, turns on Fox News and takes a few satisfying sips of his latte, only to fall asleep.

A tear drops onto his forehead and an agonized, distorted ghost appears. It is the Ghost of Christmas Past, Glenn Beck, reaching for him. The apparition takes Scrooge by the hand and together they fly right into a blackboard that becomes the night sky. They are soaring over America. “We’re giving our freedoms away. The American experiment was about freedom. Freedom to be stupid, freedom to fail, freedom to succeed.”

“Ummm, yes, stupid…” Scrooge repeats. They fly over the White House.

“What we don’t have a right to is healthcare, housing, or handouts. We don’t have those rights.”

The ghost goes on, “The higher the tax, the less people get hired. The more people need government to give them healthcare or housing! This is a freedom grab!” Then the spirit fades away.

“No rights…mmm…Tax cuts, ” Scrooge stirs, smiles and finds himself back in his chair when the next ghost appears. It is the Ghost of Christmas Present, Sarah Palin. He sleepily wipes the drool from his chin.

“Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant — they’re quite clear — that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments,” she intones.

“And without that Sermon on the Mount part, right?” Sarah looked down at her hand and nodded as she flew off into the winter sky, taking her place in the constellation Ursa Mater.

In his deep slumber another ghost comes to him, tall and fatherly; it is the Ghost of Christmas Future, the spirit of Ronald Reagan. “Governments don’t reduce deficits by raising taxes on the people, governments reduce deficits by controlling spending and stimulating new wealth.”

“… stimulate wealth…” salivated Scrooge as he turns in his chair, pulling his blanket close to hide his erection. As he awoke the next morning he vowed to help the poor and unemployed by teaching them a valuable lesson. He was wealthy. He had earned it. He maximized his profits and reduced his tax burden. This was America and those people could do just the same if they would just work hard and stopped whining. They just need to live the dream – Get theirs and screw Tiny Tim.

Though this tale takes place in dreamland here is an interesting site giving some background reality on how we got into this mess:

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/war/trickle_down.htm

or here:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1077730

I don’t claim to have an answer for our woes,  if I did I would be an economist. I do, however,  have a few thoughts about it. I get the sense America is being readied for Poor Laws and Workfare so a new supply of cheap labor can be pooled with the “illegal” immigrants. This  will be the new/old wave platform of the Party of No – let the out-of-work and poor be damned, make any program run by the government so ineffective that it becomes an incentive to pull one’s self up by the boot strap just to avoid being in them. This includes education, food and drug inspection, along with any social welfare programs. If you can’t afford the best then let social darwinism have its way. The next move might be based on Swift’s A Modest Proposal.  It scares the dickens out of me.

(All quotes attributed to real characters, living or dead, are accurate. The portion of Dicken’s A Christams Carol quoted was sourced from http://www.stormfax.com/dickens.htm )

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