A gladdening, maddening, new book bursts forth, like Athena from the brow of Zeus, from Celine-Marie Pascale’s pen. She’s that rara avis: a non-ivory-towered professor.
Professor Pascale’s life has endowed her with rare and precious superpowers. She’s a gifted writer who hears and conveys the stories of the “precariat.” Per Wikipedia, “the precariat is a neologism for a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which means existing without predictability or security….”
She’s a deeply moving master of narrative nonfiction, gifted with gorgeous empathy. Early in her Living on the Edge: Where Hard Times Become a Way of Life Prof. Pascale reveals the Marvel-worthy Secret Origin Story behind her superpowers:
“The early part of my life was spent playing in the woods, climbing apple trees, and catching salamanders in Southwestern Pennsylvania. … I carried sugar and margarine sandwiches with me to school for lunch and reveled in bologna sandwiches when we could afford them. …
In our new [rundown] home six of us shared the bathroom. … … For much of my life, just keeping food on the table was an issue for our family. I remember helping my mother steal bags of potatoes from the grocery store. I remember the numbness that would overwhelm me when I found the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator all empty. …
The funny thing is that we told the world, and believed, that we were middle class. We weren’t trying to deceive ourselves or others. There simply wasn’t a language for our experience that encompassed both the struggle and the dignity.”
Clearly, she thereupon devoted her life to generating that very language. Brava!
Her life is an epic. She presents her odyssey, often through Appalachia, meeting and dignifying members of the precariat, presenting injustices and injuries that linger in our social fabric, her presentation fretted with luminous anecdotes.
Yes! It is a moral and political imperative to force our leaders to address these, from injuries to Native Americans to racial prejudice to misogyny to meth to crimes against the environment. Among others.
Injustices and atrocities are intolerable yet cannot be cured just by condemnation. Maddeningly, she prescribes a suite of mountebank “cures.”
For example, the author prescribes a Universal Basic Income to redress some economic injustice. When I first heard of the UBI (advertised as something that archconservatives, like me, and my archenemies, the progressives, both could embrace) I yearned to believe.
So I read the formidable Andy Stern’s book Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream. It was so full of fallacies that it took me two lengthy columns, here and here, to expose how a Universal Basic Income in no way lives up to its claims.
In the words of Wolfgang Pauli, it’s not even wrong. It’s a covert way of imposing a whopping tax increase on workers, not the rich, to subsidize the indigent.
This is welfare masquerading as social insurance. Social insurance works. Americans rightly find it palatable. Welfare is a failure.
To somewhat absolve Prof. Pascale she is an unwitting victim of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy’s multi-decade, multi-billion-dollar PR campaign to portray ourselves as a monstrous, implacable force. We are mere lambs beset by left-wing lions.
Our ruse was useful during the Cold War to make ourselves appear ferocious, the better to beat the Commies. It worked, but that’s over.
Prof. Pascale just doesn’t grasp that there are more than a few “bleeding heart conservatives,” as couched by the late, great Jack Kemp. And our ways work!
We have powerful ways to help advance social justice … if progressives would just stop bitterly clutching their busted flushes and put us to work.
Prof. Pascale is a gifted sociologist. A great linguist.
Economist? Nyet comrade!
Let’s turn to the Nobel Prize-winning “libertarian” Friedrich Hayek’s canonical "The Road to Serfdom":
“Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance — where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks — the case the for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong. … [T]here is no incompatibility in principle between the state’s providing greater security in this way and the preservation of individual freedom.”
In addition to doing the right thing, which Prof. Pascale gets right, one must do the thing right. Enter the bleeding-heart conservatives?
So, Professor Pascale? I challenge you to encounter, even meet, a few bleeding-heart conservatives who would relish a chance to support your quest to propel America toward liberty and justice for all.
We learn from you. Can you learn from us?
Your advocacy of justice gladdens our hearts.
Game on? I’ll buy the first round.
Ralph Benko, co-author of "The Capitalist Manifesto" and chairman and co-founder of "The Capitalist League," is the founder of The Prosperity Caucus and is an original Kemp-era member of the Supply-Side revolution that propelled the Dow from 814 to its current heights and world GDP from $11T to $88T. Read Ralph Benko's reports — More Here
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