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THE WORLD’S OLDEST PROFESSION! Our tribe is good—and their tribe is bad. It’s the world’s oldest profession: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2004

SHOW US THE FACTS: In this morning’s Times, Edmund Andrews previews the coming “tax reform” battle. “Economic conservatives share an ideological belief in flattening income tax rates and eliminating as many tax preferences as possible,” he writes. But would citizens want to “flatten income tax rates” if they knew the facts David Cay Johnston reports in his crusading book, Perfectly Legal? Once again, here’s the passage we featured last Friday:
JOHNSTON (page 94): The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its annual consumer expenditure survey, looked at the burden of local and state taxes as well as federal levies...For 2001 the government found that all taxes at all levels of government consume 19 percent of the incomes of the best-off fifth of Americans, those individuals and families whose average income was $116,666 that year. Down at the bottom the poorest fifth, whose average income was $7,946, paid 18 percent.
According to Johnston, our tax system already “amounts to a flat tax” when state and local taxes are included. According to Johnston, high earners and low earners already pay the same percentage of their incomes in taxes.

Very few citizens understand the way our overall tax system works, and as Johnston notes in his book, the media rarely provide a real overview of these crucial matters. What this means is very simple. At all levels, journalists must be pushed and prodded, forced to provide fuller information. “Republicans agree about the general goal of flatter income tax rates,” Andrews writes. But would Americans agree on that general goal if they understood their own tax system? We’ll never really know—till they show us the facts about the money. With Bush’s objectives abundantly clear, we need to demand more information about the way the tax system now works.

THE WORLD’S OLDEST PROFESSION: Oh yeah—they’re racists too! In the Post, Michael Wilbon explains what’s driving those phony people who objected to that Monday Night Football fandango:

WILBON (10/12/04): See, the issue here is thinly veiled not to see it if you want to [sic].

Mostly, it's about the discomfort level of a lot of folks, some black and some white, of seeing a blond hottie paired with, to use Jimmy the Greek's phrase, "a big, black buck." That's all it's about: people's personal discomfort level, their own issues about who should or should not be hooking up, specifically a white woman and black man.

That’s all it’s about!! To return to a phrase we’ve recently used, there’s almost no way to be that dumb—unless you’re a Washington journalist. At any rate, let’s tote up the scorecards at week’s end. According to thoughtful American journalists, we know why people objected to that promo (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/19/04). They objected because they’re hypocrites, and they objected because they’re racists. If men objected, they lie to their wives. And then they go off to skank strip bars.

Yes, it’s hard to get dumber than that, but some of our readers joined in the fun as soon as they got the chance. It’s the world’s oldest profession of faith—people who disagree with me must be corrupt—and HOWLER readers went to town, reading the minds of those who objected to last Monday night’s skit. One reader knew what these “silly people” really do have on their minds:

E-MAIL: The reason the right-wingers are hypocrites for complaining is obvious—professional football cheerleaders...

Have you ever been to a Dallas Cowboys game? I have—it is all about sex and violence. I am not saying that it is wrong for being about that, that is simply what it is. Men love the violence of the game and the sexiness of the cheerleaders. They get drunk (believe it or not) and talk about going to “t*tty bars” afterward.

I don't know what fantasy world you are living in, but I live in the Dallas area. The land of Hooters, Southern Baptists, and strip clubs. You are cracking me up the last couple of days.

If the Democrats embrace these silly people who complain for the sake of complaining, I will not vote for a Democrat again.

Note the fractured logic here: To this reader, “right-wingers” are “hypocrites” if they don’t behave in accord with the way she thinks—if they think that the promo was worse than the cheerleaders, if they don’t think that football is too violent. And because some men get drunk and go to strip clubs, that means that those who objected must do so! Meanwhile, another long-time, valued e-mailer went straight to the atom bomb of comparisons. In the opening part of his e-mail, he refers to Bill Clinton’s comment that he “likes and admires” many Arkansas Pentecostals because they “live their faith:”
E-MAIL: I guess I just don't get this admiration for "living their faith". Didn't Nazis live their faith too?
The reader is right—in this instance, he totally doesn’t get it. In the passage we quoted, Clinton explained what he meant by “living their faith.” Let’s remember what Clinton said about those Arkansas voters:
CLINTON (page 251): I liked and admired them because they lived their faith. They are strictly anti-abortion, but unlike some others, they will make sure that any unwanted baby, regardless of race or disability, has a loving home. They disagreed with me on abortion and gay rights, but they still followed Christ’s admonition to love their neighbors.
“Unlike some others,” Clinton wrote, these Arkansans make sure that any unwanted baby has a loving home, and they follow Christ’s admonition to love their neighbors. But to our reader, who hasn’t met these people, this makes him think that they’re just like the Nazis! And when he thinks of those Monday Night Football complainers, he throws out the race card too:
E-MAIL: I know that this is a difficult subject. And I know you are trying to shed light on some aspects as to why Dems can't win the South. Silly me—I thought it had something to do with the Dem Party's acceptance of the Civil Rights movement in the '60's. Who knows, maybe if the vixen on Monday Night Football wasn't white, maybe that would have been enough to make our “Southern Men” happy.
Maybe. And maybe not. Maybe it depends on the individual! But the world’s oldest story is the story of tribes, and of tribal members who love to feel that their tribe is good and the other tribe evil. Many readers love that feeling, a point they rush to put on display when we say things of which they disapprove.

As we said last Wednesday, the Monday Night flap gave Dems a chance to test their feeling about newly-bruited “moral issues.” And many readers were quick to reply in the way any good fundamentalist would. Their reactions are right and good; other reactions must be wrong and evil. Indeed, in the spirit of our fundamentalist readers, let’s quote Dana Carvey’s greatest character. Where did the “silly people” get their ideas last week? Could they have come from—Satan??

ONE MORE E-MAIL: One more e-mail, from another longtime mailer in the Philly suburbs. Count him among the “silly people:”

E-MAIL: You are so right about the sophisticates in the urban media who look down on the morality of most Americans. They are so imbued with Hollywood moral "standards" —anything goes —they don't even realize that families watching Monday Night Football would consider it not only inappropriate, but shocking, to see a women seduce an NFL footbal player in a locker room by stripping naked and jumping into his arms...

And to make sure the shocked fathers and mothers associate the descent of sexual morality with liberal Democrats, you tell me that Jeff Greenfield thinks that we fathers who complain about TV trash are hypocrites who "lie to their wives and drive to a topless bar". He's been watching The Sopranos too much; most of us family men don't do that. Chances are, those who do that would agree with Jeff that everyone complaining about Hollywood and TV immorality is a lying hypocrite.

By the way, I'm a long-time Democrat living in the Philadelphia suburbs, and I was shocked by that sexual introduction to a football game. And we wonder why more middle class Catholic and Evangelical voters keep shifting from Democratic to Republican.

The mailer notes that “Gore won the Catholic vote 50 to 46, while Kerry lost it, 47 to Bush's 52.” In Ohio, the mailer notes, Bush increased his share of the Catholic vote to 55 percent. “That gave Bush an extra 172,000 votes, when he only won the state by 136,000.”

Final note, and now we’re making it easy: Dems who might prefer to win don’t have to agree with those who complained. They just have to consider the possibility that those who complained about the promo aren’t racist, or sexist, or hypocritical, and may not be a gang of skank, lying sleazeballs. Of course, this would rob them of the world’s oldest rush—the feeling of tribal superiority. Yes, they get to retain their pose—but it may mean that they’ve been born to lose.

DRUM’S ALONG THE COLISEUM: We support Kevin Drum’s love for the Southern Cal Trojans, but might we suggest an ecumenical turn? Might we suggest that Kevin follow our incomparable lead and support the mighty Pac-10 as a whole? Of course, we have a special relationship to this greatest conference; according to sources, we could have been the answer to a former trivia question about the 1966 UCLA freshman team. The source of our knowledge is our old Borel Junior High pal, the superlative Bob Marcucci, pictured in this pleasing team photo. (Answer to the former trivia question? Of course! Who else? Kent Taylor.)

In a special Wednesday Turkey Day preview, we’ll discuss the injustice being done to this year’s Arizona State Sun Devils. Yo! Kevin! This year, the Trojans don’t need our help. Democrats should always try to go where the need is the greatest.