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Isaac Asimov: “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been.” The pandemic is bringing them out of the woodwork, and What’s his name is encouraging them.

2020-05-08

photo by SamWilliamsPhotos courtesy of pixabay.com

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has

always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant

thread winding its way through our political and cultural life,

nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my

ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

― Isaac Asimov

I got this quote from a comment to an article in the Washington Post, but you can also find it here.

Rant begins here:

The comment containing the quote refers to an article about a woman named Judy Mikovits (who has a PhD and used to be a researcher in a former life).  She came out with a movie called “Plandemic”, which you should definitely avoid.  It has been knocked off of Facebook and several other web sites despite being extremely popular, especially among right-wing-nuts.  The reason for the ban?  The movie pushes a number of conspiracy theories and other nonsense, related to vaccines and to the pandemic.  She claims that the virus is a conspiracy by wealthy people to further burden the poor, who as we know are already suffering disproportionately from the novel coronavirus.

If this were a conspiracy, it would certainly be a clever one.  It may backfire.  The United States, as well as much of the developed world, even (or especially) China, is in danger of a revolt by the poor against the rich.  This danger is brought on by excessive wealth and income inequality, which has left a large proportion of the world unable to afford basic necessities.

At the same time, a small percentage (let’s say 0.1%) is doing exceedingly well, and in some cases likely to advance their wealthy status.  They get richer either because of good investment strategies or by subsidies from the federal government, which seems bent on passing out money, first come, first served.

It seems to me as if I’m making this up.  I’m not.  Despite all my caution and skepticism, I must believe it.  I’m shocked– shocked, I tell you– that the government not only allows gambling in the back room (see “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains) but actually encourages poor people to throw away what little money they have on ineluctably losing bets.  I’m talking here about state-sponsored “sweepstakes” that keep half of their receipts as a hidden tax that disingenuously claims to be giving “extra” funds to schools (which is deducted from the schools’ normal funding).

Take the payday loan industry.  They have been making money hand over fist for years (ever since bosses stopped paying their employees in cash) with loans that carry as much as 400% a year interest.  I was disgusted with a convenient small, revolving loan that carried 22.5% interest.  I figured I could afford to keep up the payments.  I could and did (and still do, because it’s to my advantage in other ways).

Consider the person who has no money for food until the next payday, so they take out a loan (to be paid back on payday, hence the name) that will allow them to feed their families.  That loan will have to be rolled over on payday, because paying it back will mean no money for food for another two weeks.  The carrying charges on such loans amount to an interest rate well in excess of that which Mafia/Cosa Nostra (Italian: “our thing”) thugs charge to their least stable clients.  That’s illegal– isn’t it?

No.  It’s perfectly legal.  In many cases, the operations are financed by banks that are chartered in South Dakota (or other small states, which allow virtually unlimited interest rates, disguised as “fees”) but that operate all over the US.  Many poor people don’t know it, but they can cash their paychecks at the same bank (a long bus ride away) that the check is drawn on, for a “small” fee ($5 and up), even if they don’t have a bank account of any kind anywhere.

Banks don’t advertise this– why should they?  They don’t want to provide services at a relatively low, uncompetitive (limited by government regulations) rate.  They would prefer to hand that business over to the predatory lending firms that call themselves check-cashing outlets (this keeps the riff-raff– poor employees– out of their lobbies and limits the amount of cash they have to keep on hand).

Now comes the federal government in response to the pandemic.  The feds have passed a law that provides forgivable loans to companies with fewer than 500 employees (a loophole allows companies with much larger employee numbers, only at separate physical locations, to benefit from the loans).  The loans turn into grants if the money is primarily used to keep employees on the payroll instead of firing them.

A clause in this law (which was passed so quickly and was so large that it became a mare’s nest of provisions, loopholes, and exceptions) excludes companies that obtain more than 50% of their income through making and administering loans.  The news story (which I won’t reference as I haven’t time to climb down from this rant) states that these companies get 60% of their income from the loans they make rather than from the fees that they charge to cash checks.

It’s a shame that predatory lenders may have to close up shop because their clients are “welshing” (failing to pay) their payday loans after being laid off.  Allow me to indulge in some schadenfreude (German: “joy at another’s misfortune”).  Thank you.  I enjoyed that.

I realize that the employees of these predatory lenders are living paycheck to paycheck and they may starve if they lose their jobs.  Wouldn’t it be just too bad if some of these scamster-led companies were forced to board up their places of business?

What if people who didn’t have enough money to keep a checking account would have to go to the bank which their employer uses and cash their paychecks for a semi-reasonable fee?  Someone’s going to have to die to make this happen, and as long as it’s not me that dies, I’m all in favor of it (sarcasm intended).

End of rant [limited to 1000 words].

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