Please forgive the protracted interval since my last plunge into the political quagmire, but the recent gouts of ugly madness, here and overseas, have envenomed my spirits. There’s only so much poison a body can ingest before experiencing total somatic collapse, and I have reached my limit. Even as the scurvy conservative swine, naked in their wanton lust for war, angle for a fresh intractable conflict in the name of their one true God, the Almighty Dollar, I can’t help but feel hollowed out like a rotting Halloween pumpkin whose face has collapsed into a rictus of permanent disgust. Why bandy words when the world teeters on the brink of destruction? Has it always been like this?
In my lifetime, the USA has waged war in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Zaire, Lebanon, Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq (pt. 2), Pakistan, Libya, Syria, Nigeria and Grenada, a tiny island off the coast of Venezuela with about as much military significance as a pimple on a dog’s ass. The choice was let Ronald Reagan, a septuagenarian gradually losing his mind to the ravages of Alzheimer’s, pretend to be a war president or risk him heating up the Cold War with a little nuclear fire. Dangerous times indeed.
Or so history tells me.
I was there, I existed during that era. But youth sheltered me from reality. I recall my high school creative writing instructor, Mr. Sampson, getting riled on the subject of President Reagan. He sketched an agitated portrait of an ex-B-movie actor buffoon with the political savvy of a bobble head doll undeserving of a modicum of respect, let along the ornaments of high office, a humorous aside that left little impact on my outlook until college, where a casual canvassing of the campus intelligentsia made it apparent that Mr. Sampson’s unflattering appraisal of Ronald Reagan was the consensus opinion. According to my new roomie, Dave, a heavy pot smoker of upper class stock, America had drawn its choice of leaders from a shallow, brackish pool of quips, one-liners and anecdotal exaggerations. As an individual who voted for Reagan in 1984, this was new information. The press portrayed Ronald Reagan as an affable old gentleman with a twinkle in his eye, a dye-job Santa Claus with a magical bag of tricks capable of whimsically curing the nation’s myriad festering malaises left untended during the “dreaded” Carter years. I was taught, perhaps trained is more apropos, to believe that the press were forbidden from abusing the privileges of the Fourth Estate to push an agenda. It’s difficult to pinpoint the source of this myth but if I had to guess I’d say it was the press abusing the privileges of the Fourth Estate to push the agenda that the press doesn’t abuse the privileges of the Fourth Estate to push an agenda.
Wheels within wheels.
(Where on God’s verdant planes do you suppose this rambling leads? Uncertain. I’m unmoored from the gestalt that holds together the perceivable universe. Perhaps if I’m lucky I’ll collide with an asteroid and be sent hurtling into the blackness of the Unknown. None of this I’m typing will make the final cut, it’s just my desperate search for a rung to grasp before the leeches come to suck me dry.)
Donald Trump, Shiva save us, claimed in an Iowa stump speech that over 6 million Americans 112 or older receive Social Security benefits. As an addendum, he foisted the fact-checking burden on the feeble backs of the shabby shambolic shadows masquerading as journalists who in all probability will just run the story as is, and cries of “he’s just telling like it is!” will drown out think pieces dissecting the bizarre mischaracterization of a woeful tale of rotting, dysfunctional government propagated by Republican defunding strategies dating back to the 1980s.
In 2014, the GOP controlled House voted to cut $1 billion from IRS enforcement staff, with an expected cost to the government of $3–5 billion in lost revenues from errant and fraudulent tax returns, including those filed under Social Security numbers belonging to decedents who, due to an intense backlog of paperwork, have yet to be added to the sinister sounding but necessary Social Security Death Master File or DMF.
The negative synergy at work stems from underemployment in key government agencies.
The Social Security Agency employs 65,000 to manage payments to 54 million recipients. That’s one employee per 830 recipients. Auditing payments to the SS fund via payroll taxes, as of 2012, adds another 13.1 million businesses to oversee, representing just under 116 million employees. That comes to 201 businesses per SS employee, making the total average load 1,031 accounts per employee. Since the needs of the living outweigh those of the dead, the overburdened staff doesn’t have the energy to expend processing an avalanche of manual paperwork yet introduced into the DMF. As a result, we have 6.5 million people assumed dead by the SSA (none of them receive payments) but whose SS numbers remain excluded from the DMF. In effect, the SSA’s problem spills into the IRS’s lap, and as the IRS ranks dwindle, more and more fraudulent tax returns pass through the system unchecked which in turn exacerbates . . . I can’t do this anymore.
Nobody gives a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut about the number of unprocessed files or the auditing woes of the chronically understaffed IRS. It’s a literal political dead end. The second you pair bureaucratic abbreviations with gigantic numbers, the foul lumpy porridge which passes for the average American’s gray matter tunes out, takes to Twitter/Facebook and doesn’t give a right jolly old fuck. We are a nation of imbeciles who drop 25 lb. frozen turkeys into deep fryers then marvel, after the ensuing explosion, what could have possibly precipitated the whole fucking block to catch fire.
The worst subset of this bunch has a new name: Donald Trump’s base. Racist, bigoted, gun-twirling twits stuffing their faces with processed reprocessed poison, eyes so crossed the left one’s in the right socket and vice versa, bumpers encrusted with crude stickers proclaiming their unfettered devotion to the 2nd Amendment and the Bible, cross-wielding hypocrites prepared to spray bullets at gun-grabbing liberals, “towel heads,” and anybody else who didn’t come out of the womb properly color coded. America’s next wave of mosque bombers, Planned Parenthood terrorists and unabashed killers itching to go off on a “shooting spree.” Nothing more American than softening an aberrant criminal act of the highest (and lowest) order with meaningless cutesy slang.
“Dave went on a shooting spree!”
“And he didn’t invite me? That prick!”
Will somebody please wake up our narcoleptic, somnambulistic press and tell them to get on the fucking job and stop mindlessly repeating intellectually bankrupt narratives handed to them by billionaire simpletons with the vocabulary of a third-grader? That’s not hyperbole either. A linguistics expert analyzed a sample of public statements made by Donald Trump and concluded his working vocabulary was equal to that of a 3rd grader. The same bastion of copy and paste enthusiasts who regurgitated Trump’s pabulum tear Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to pieces for minor verbal slippages. Zeus’s ghost, the media had a field day penning Al Gore serial exaggerator pieces for saying things that were, at the core, completely fucking true. Al Gore was the inspiration for a character in Love Story, written by his roommate. He was an ardent supporter of Arpanet, the Internet’s precursor. One thing Al Gore never said was that 6.5 million dead people were receiving Social Security benefits, but for all intents he might as well have.
The standards for the Republican Party have been eradicated to goddamn nothing. Void. Trump could piss on a puppy, cannibalize a grandmother, set fire to a neonatal care unit, and the media zombies would reprint verbatim the Trump campaign’s press release explaining the “rationale” behind his bouts of unfettered madness, and then the late night comedians would all sigh and say, “Oh, that Donald!”
And fuck them too, the comedians guffawing over the Trump circus. They’re part of the problem as well. Colbert, Fallon, Wilmore, et al, you are not helping anything or anyone besides yourselves. And don’t tell me I’m being a hypocrite by penning this impassioned rant. I received no payment for this labor of pure desperation and fear, fear that we will wake on January 20, 2017, to watch John Roberts swear in Donald Trump as the 45th Command in Chief of the US Military. I can’t think of anything less conductive to laughter than that. Let this be your visual guide, liberal activist-comedy America—
January 21, 2017: President Trump sits in the Oval Office, feet parked on the desk in complete I-don’t-give-a-fuck-fashion, looking emptily around the room. After a spell, he strains to pick up the desk phone, orders his personal Russian slave girl to do it for him, and slaps her on the ass for a job well done. President Dumbfuckovic holds the phone for a while before he remembers what he needed the phone for, then barks into the receiver for the Secretary of Sexy Oval Office Shit That Needs Doing to get him somebody, anybody who knows what the fuck a president does.
“Somebody like Rush Limbaugh,” President Trump declares with a jackal smile, sweeping aside an aberrant tendril of hair luminous with eldritch Cthulhu-esque terror, the countenance of a thing that should not be. “Or that Hannity guy. Seems like he knows what to do. Oh, and if my vocab should get better, chalk it up to the Dumbwich Horror living on my head. It’s the one really controlling the show. And by the way, if you repeat a word of what I just said, you’re . . . you know the rest.”
R. A. Roth