The Bigger Picture
The attacks on the disadvantaged, carried out in the name of reconstruction and relief, did not stop there. In order to offset the tens of billions going to private companies in contracts and tax breaks, in November 2005 the Republican-controlled Congress announced that it needed to cut $40 billion from the federal budget. Among the programs that were slashed were student loans, Medicaid, and food stamps.
A FEW WEEKS AGO John Stewart chastised Democratic Representative Steve Cohen for likening the repeated Republican lie that health care reform was a "government takeover" to the "Big Lie" strategy of Goebbels.
Stewart's point was that because the Nazis did such horrible things there could be no analogy between them and Republicans.
I posted a reply (to both Stewart and Rachel Maddow) in which I made the mistake of assuming that Stewart's difficulty was due to a knee-jerk attitude toward Nazi Germany.
I now think I overestimated him—because about two weeks ago he made almost the same claim about similarities between Wisconsin and Egypt.
His real problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of analogy.
After showing a series of clips where the protests in Egypt and Wisconsin were compared, he commented:
They’re not the same in any f*cking way, shape, or form. At all. At all. Not at all. This is the same as people in the Middle East overthrowing years of dictatorship? Or is that just the last story you saw on the news?
Is shoplifting a piece of costume jewelry as big a deal as selling millions of dollars in bad derivatives to your own clients while simultaneously betting against them?
But they are still the same thing: stealing.
In fact, it is impossible to have a positive analogy without an accompanying negative analogy—you can't claim two things are the same unless they are different in some way.
To call two things a hat, you have to have two different hats.
And in most cases the difference is significant.
Obama and Bush are the same in that they are both presidents.
Light and a tsunami are the same in that they are both waves.
Jon Stewart and Jonathan Swift are the same in that they are both satirists.
So, for the benefit of Mr. Stewart (a man whose work I admire, by the way), but also to make a larger point, I present the following chart:
|Mubarak used a "state of emergency" to eliminate basic human rights for the last thirty years.||Scott Walker used a "budget emergency" to eliminate bargaining rights.|
|Mubarak used the power the "emergency" gave him to transfer money to the wealthiest people in Egypt.||Walker used the power the "emergency" gave him to give big tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals and corporations in Wisconsin.|
|Enormous crowds protested Mubarak's policies, calling for an end to his rule and that of his supporters in the government.||Enormous crowds protested Walker's policies, calling for an end to his governorship, and that of his Republican supporters in the legislature.|
|The Egyptian military sided with the protestors.||Wisconsin state police joined the protests.|
|Mubarak placed trouble makers in the crowds to counteract the protests.||Walker considered placing trouble makers in the crowds to counteract the protests, but decided against it only because he thought it wasn't necessary.|
There are other similarities, but those are enough to establish that the two events belong to the same species.
That species is the ongoing political and economic struggle between those with wealth and power, on the one hand, and those whose work produces the wealth on the other.
The super-wealthy and the middle class.
The protests in the Middle East and the protests in the United States are both part of the same struggle, even though they are being played out on different battle-fields.
In fact, the U.S. can be an important object lesson to the people of the Middle East.
Don't think that establishing a democracy will end your struggles.
Wealth and power never give up their efforts to destroy the middle class.
We've had a democracy for over 200 years, and we are still fighting that battle.
By your side.
It's a battle that goes back all the way to our common ancestors.
But more about that next time.
Next: All Us Hunter Gatherers...