Saturday, February 20, 2010

Joe Stack's Grievances Should Not Be Ignored



By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network


A columnist for AlterNet - a progressive Internet news service - writes today that while the actions of Austin, Texas kamikaze pilot Joe Stack - who flew his small plane into an office building housing the IRS - are inexcusable - his complaints were valid and ought not to be dismissed.

"Deplorable though he might be, Stack is not quite a 'random bad apple.'" His act might be uncommon, but his jumbled populism is not. His crime is in no way excusable, but it spotlights a larger problem that both political and corporate elites like to caricature or dismiss: visceral populist anger," writes Rich Benjamin.

Benjamin has a point.

We as a nation can't just ignore those among us who feel disenfranchised.

In his manifesto, Stack rants about "taxation without representation." He is clearly not alone among those who fear the IRS. Who feel that its ability to promulgate rules that have the effect of law without the approval of Congress is, in effect, taxing people without representation. A major grievance that the patriots voiced when deciding to rebel against the British in the 1700s.

Stack talks, as well, about the big companies that plundered the United States while people suffered. He mentions GM specifically. But who among us - with the exception of those who have enjoyed the largess of the taxpayer's bailout money - are not similarly frustrated by the bonuses on Wall Street? Bonuses at the cost of people who have lost their homes because those same financial institutions we bailed out used predatory tactics to sell them mortgages for which they really didn't for.

Stack also complains about insurance companies that "murder 10s of thousands of Americans" a year. Murder is a strong word. But, coincidentally, I've just begin looking into the cases of a number of musicians - people who lacked health insurance - who apparently died as a result. I bet everyone reading this article knows someone who has been denied care - either because their health insurance company wouldn't cover it - or because they had none.

The manifesto talks about people who worked all their lives - with a portion of their salaries being placed into pension funds - only to find that when they reached their "golden years" that the money was gone and all they had left to live on was Social Security. That's not living. That's barely existing.

Then, of course, there are those among us who have worked all their lives - only to find themselves unemployed and struggling to keep their homes. Stack goes into some detail about how he, as an independent technical services worker, lost all his retirement savings and was forced to work 100 hours a week to survive. The result of a combination of the economy failing and IRS tax codes, he writes. While his exact circumstances are not, of coursed, mirrored by everynone, many among us are similarly frustrated - and feel that they, like Stack, are at the end of their ropes - because of their lack of economic prowess.

There are those who have dismissed Joe Stack as a right wing nut job. But perhaps not.

He closes his manifesto with this:

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

His actions, of course, cannot be justified. But as former President Clinton might put it, we can feel his pain.

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Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dontloseyourlunch/4367724577/

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