It does not take much in the way of powers of observation to see that anger against what we called “the Establishment” in the 1960s is rising. A good deal is correctly focused on how banks have looted the taxpayer; a lot of it is more inchoate but if anything even more virulent: anger about downward mobility, about the rising gap between the rich and everyone else.
Machiavelli warned that killing a man’s father was a safer course of action than taking his partimony. The American dream has two core precepts: first, that if you work hard, you can do well, and attain at least a middle class standard of living, second that your children can attain a better standard of living than you had. Those are being turned on their head.
I met with a pollster yesterday, and he said he had never seen such a gap in attitudes in beliefs among those in the political elite versus those of the public at large, and he expected bad outcomes. So I’m not certain the news story du jour, courtesy Karl Denninger, would surprise him.
A plane crashed into a 7 story office building near Austin that had federal offices, including those of the IRS. Denninger reports that CNBC says that the owner of the plane had burned down his house. One website has a copy of what appears to be a lengthy note posted by one Joe Stack, who is reportedly suspected to be the pilot; Denninger checked out the domain registration of the original site and it appears to fit.
The entire note is worth reading, but here is are some key sections:
If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt wondering, “Why did this have to happen?”….The writing process started many months ago, was intended to be therapy in the face of the looming realization that there isn’t enough therapy in the world that can fix what is really broken…….
We are taught to believe as children that without laws there would be no society, only anarchy. Sadly, starting at early ages we in this country have been brainwashed to believe that, in return for our dedication and service, the government stands for justice for all. We are further brainwashed to believe that there is freedom in this place and that we should be ready to lay down our lives for the noble principals represented by its founding fathers. Remember? One of those was “no taxation without representation”….
Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunders can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of GM executives, for scores of years) and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has not difficulty coming to their aid within days, if not hours? Yet as the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around year after year and debate the stat of the “terrible health care problem”.
Per Joe, his problems started with a run-in with the IRS, when he and some of his friends, with the advice of tax attorneys, began making use of exemptions “that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy”. Um, the Catholic Church IS a wealthy institution, but yes, tax breaks help keep it that way.
This proved to be a costly lesson. A tax law change in 1986 worked to the disadvantage of independent software contractors like him. He does not say precisely how, but he is clear that he spent a lot of time trying to get the new rule overturned. He also suffered in the economic downdrafts (the early 1990s recession and the dot-bomb era) and went through a divorce.
This is how his piece ends:
I know I’m hardly the first one to decide I have had all I can stand. It has always been a myth that people have stopped dying for their freedom in this country, and it isn’t limited to the blacks, and poor immigrants. I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. But I also know that by not adding my body to the count, I insure nothing will change. I choose to not keep looking over my shoulder at “big brother” while he strips my carcass, I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me, I choose not to pretend that business as usual won’t continue; I have just had enough…..I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.
Note that he sees his violent response to his economic plight as a political act, a blow for freedom. I am certainly not advocating this course of action. But others start connecting at least some of the dots this way, seeing their financial stresses not as the result of bad luck or lack of sufficient effort, but as an indictment of the system. Given the breakdown of communities (for instance, the fall in involvement in local civic groups and shortened job tenures, both of which lead to weaker social ties and greater isolation), the odds that the disaffected will turn to violence is greater than in past periods of stress.