By Paul Avallone, author of Tattoo Zoo
Last week, we discussed five political phrases that we need to douse with gasoline and light afire (after throwing them under the bus). They are: “Boots on the ground,” “For the children,” “Too big to fail,” “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” and “That’s not who we are.”
Here are an additional four deserving of a similar fate. Once and for all, let’s put these phrases out of our misery!
1) Folks (and, The folks)
We may be in luck with this one, because President Obama spoke it one time in ten thousand too many last week, and people noticed and mocked him for it. He spoke of “violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.” They weren’t “folks” killed in that deli, they were Jews. Deliberately targeted as Jews.
Obama is an equal opportunity “folks” dispenser. Those Jews are “folks,” and the ISIS army rampaging through Iraq are “folks,” and the Iranian mullahs are “folks,” and Americans of every stripe everywhere are “folks,” whether they be street thugs in Ferguson, Missouri, or gun-and-bible-toting hicks in western Pennsylvania. Check out the president’s speeches for the past six years; “folks” is liberally sprinkled throughout each like salt on French fries.
“Folks” is a trope of most politicians, attempting to sound regular-Joe folksy, like they’re one of us, the unwashed out here. It’s condescending. It’s patriarchal, as if they care for the common man, as if they in their noblesse oblige are looking out for us folks. Oh wait, that’s Bill O’Reilly’s shtick, his trademark, that he’s “Looking out for the folks.”
Yeh, well, I’m among the unwashed, and I’m tired of Bill O’Reilly and any pundit and Washington politico, including Obama, faking simpatico with me. Better that they get off their high horses and come down here and walk with us folks. Or, more realistically, get out of their chauffeured town cars and take the bus or ’94 Ranger pickup like us.
2) Hardworking Americans
This goes with “folks” above—it’s thrown around by politicians ad nauseam. And what the hell do they mean, who are these “hardworking Americans” they’re talking about?
Oh sure, the idea is to present an image of roughnecks on an oil rig, ironworkers tight-roping steel girders seventy stories up, coal miners in blackened faces deep underground, farmers milking the cows before sunrise and wrestling mule-pulled plows until sundown. The implication is that these noble folks toil their lives away and simply want an even break to share in the wealth that they create through their muscle and grit. And it’s the politician’s job to even that playing field, to take from the rich bosses and landlords and bankers and pass the goodies on to the folks. The rich, the implication is, are undeserving “softworking Americans”—they in the silk ties, with manicured nails.
“Hardworking” connotes dungarees and calloused hands and sweaty brows. So, where’s that put the lawyer, the teacher, the IRS clerk, the heart surgeon, the city waste-water engineer, the TSA airport screener, the Walmart stock replenisher, the Victoria’s Secret model, the Wall Street broker, the political website editor?
The trick is, most of us accept that our jobs are not physically strenuous (and are mighty grateful for that), while believing that we expend great effort at the jobs—that we work hard. So, from the short-order cook to the internet billionaire phenom, we all consider ourselves “hardworking.”
Except, when we’re forced to confront #3 below.
3) Jobs that Americans won’t do
That’s right, the real “hardworking Americans” with the true calloused hands and sweaty brows are the illegals coming across the southern border to work the “jobs that Americans won’t do.” They are employed in the low-skill, minimal-education, heavy-physical, manual-craft, low-pay jobs that unskilled, minimally-educated native-born folks won’t do because they don’t have to because they are neither hungry nor cold nor wet.
I’m sorry, but there are no jobs that hungry Americans won’t do. Hungry Americans with hungry kids. On the other hand, sated and comfortable with a myriad of government assistance, freeloading Americans turn up their noses at jobs they can choose not to do. And we, by our absurd social welfare culture, allow them that choice.
Think there’s a problem with an open-border flood of illegals? Bring back hunger. Make it so that there are no jobs that Americans choose not to do. The hungry folks will be the first to demand that we shut down the border tight and preserve their jobs and thus their food.
4) Income inequality
This is a relatively new phrase, gaining momentum, and it’s meant as a weapon of class warfare to pit the “hardworking” folks against the “softworking”. We’re all hardworking, right? And we all think that the boss makes far too much more than we do, right? All together now, shout, “Income inequality!” Hashtag it, #INCOME INEQUALITY!
Phew, I feel better already, don’t you?
Not hardly. Because, if you have more than a Marxist knowledge of economics you know that the campaign against income inequality is hogwash. One can accept a politician’s disingenuous use of the phrase as a tool to get the folks’ support, but the passionate believer is a naïve sheep lost in unicorn land.
The campaign against income inequality is much like the old adage about the lottery, that the lottery is for people who are bad at math. “Income inequality” is for people who are bad at economics.
Excuse me. Rather, for hardworking folks for whom economics is knowledge they won’t learn.
Paul Avallone spent three-plus years in Afghanistan as a Green Beret then an embedded civilian journalist. His novel of the Afghan War, Tattoo Zoo was published in December.