"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Politicians, Preachers, And Con Men–America’s Genius For Selling Religion, Snake Oil, And A Bill Of Goods

Snake Oil Salesman - First10EM

America has come a long way from the Depression, long, dark, miserable years of bread lines and piece work.  The country now has money to spend, lots of it, and more where that came from, hot off Treasury Department presses, ‘investments’ in infrastructure, social welfare, alternate energy, and environmental protection.  

Lobbyists have always had an easy job when Democrats have been in the White House, easy touches for ‘helping the people’, making a difference, and doing the right thing; but the open doors to the Oval Office have never been swung wider than under President Biden, the audiences never more congenial, and the promises never more generous.  

It was Christmas in July on Pennsylvania Avenue last year, gifts handed out to all with smiles and handshakes all around. Of course the President would support Congressional action on black poverty, black underemployment, and black recidivism.  After all he had been elected to alleviate the suffering of the inner city and transform it from a dysfunctional, crime-ridden, nasty place of gangs, bling, and pimps into an Elysium Field of progress and productivity. 

Fact check: False claim pre-2021 US dollars will be invalid in 2023

“The black man has endured far too long the long, white arm of social injustice”, the President said when signing the Poverty Alleviation bill, a grab bag of favors and walking around money with no strings attached, “and this bill will herald the dawning of a new age of black prosperity”.  With a coterie of black leaders around him as he signed the bill into law, the President went on to invoke the memory of Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, and the fallen civil rights leaders of Alabama and Mississippi.  “Never again will white privilege keep the black man down.  Never more will elitism, prejudice, and racial hatred rule.”

It was a good speech, worthy of the stable of speechwriters who had crafted every public line read by the President.  Never a great orator, no Williams Jennings Bryan or Abraham Lincoln, the President relied on the poetry of others for his eloquence.  Unfortunately his readings were, no matter how much his drama coach prompted and prepared him, flat, dull, and lifeless. 

“Put a little more oomph into it, Mr. President”, his coach offered; but no matter how much he tried, he could never come close to his hero, the Reverend Isaiah Jones who every Sunday thundered from the pulpit of the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Anacostia with soaring oratory – cajoling, lecturing, loving, and shaking the timbers with invocations to Jesus to come down from the Cross and be with his brethren.

William Jennings Bryan - Biography, Cross of Gold & Scopes Trial - HISTORY

So the President had to rely on the Treasury to speak for him – the billions and trillions of dollars flowing into the public trough were enough to convince the people that he meant business.  Actions speak louder than words, he said, as he opened the spigot and watched gold and silver wash down the sluice. 

Democrats have always understood that a sucker is born every minute, and that when you are at the receiving end of a fat check, you never question where it came from, never look a gift horse in the mouth.  Debt, deficit, the dollar, China and the bond market, federal reserves, default, and bankruptcy were academic terms of no use or importance to the common man, whose relief checks meant more pork and beans in the larder.

Now, the Reverend Isaiah Jones had no money to give away.  He was in the business of dispensing the Lord’s bounty, the promise of salvation, redemption, and forgiveness; and to do so he only asked for a few farthings in the collection basket.  In fact, his online ‘financial resource center’ was a huge moneymaker, promoted through his weekly televised cable network.  “Jesus Loves You” was his meme, hallelujah his byword, and the wings of the Savior his prophecy; and thanks to his passionate, theatrical, brilliant performances, he could loosen the pocketbooks of the most niggardly followers.

The Reverend Jones had learned the art of selling a bill of goods early on in life, where in his hometown Baltimore neighborhood he saw all means of trickery and sleight-of-hand. The con was on from morning to midnight, suckers forking over their last buck to make ten, then heading for the store front churches on Sunday morning to ask for forgiveness for their credulity, materialism, and slide away from Jesus. 

The pastor at Jones’ church was a master of subtle ‘encouragement', a genius of creating myth out of nonsense and hope out of misery, all made possible through the intercession of the Lord whose beneficence was due thanks to his prayers and meaningful invitations.  It was well-known that Jesus did in fact come to Baltimore one Sunday, shining brilliantly in white, lustrous robes, arms extended in peace and love to save each and every member of the congregation.

The 'transfiguration' of Jesus in Matthew 17 | Psephizo

“I can do that”, thought the young Isaiah as he sat in the front row of the church listening to his pastor’s cannonade.

Thanks to the counsel of his Assistant For Racial Justice, the President attended the Reverend Jones’ church on Sunday mornings.  “You might learn something”, she said, referring to Jones’s inimitable way of rousing thousands of people to prayer and contribution. At first Biden felt out of place in this all-black church.  He was no Bill Clinton who really loved black people, was comfortable with them, and felt no distance at all.  Joe had grown up in the North where racial separatism if not discrimination was the rule.  Wilmington had its black people to be sure, but they lived a comfortable distance away from his white, working class neighborhood.  Yet, the President persevered. If nothing more, the photo ops were priceless.

No matter how you look at it – Marxian dialectic or Adam Smith’s competitive individualism-  there is a sucker born every minute and a con man to take his money.  An American dyad, the perfect expression of market economics.  Every day on every street corner the small con is on, fractals of the big show in Vegas and Hollywood where silver tongues, promises, fantasy, and ambition are the same, just on a smaller scale.

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Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, Arthur Skilling, Rudy Kerniawan,  and Sam Bankman-Fried bilked billions from suckers they had conned.  Madoff concocted a Ponzi scheme and got his Jewish friends to buy into it.  A house of cards, worth nothing when discovered.  Rudy Kerniawan took millions from wine connoisseurs who bought his fake wines.  Bankman-Fried stole untold billions from crypto-currency investors who wanted to get rich and never looked behind the scenes.  It takes two to tango, and suckers and cons make perfect partners.

Only the mousy, whiny Ross Perot who challenged the political bigwigs in the presidential campaign of 1992 told it like it was.  There is no such thing as a free lunch, Perot said and illustrated basic economics with charts and a wooden pointer.  Don’t be fooled by false promises, he said, and for the first time in recent memory, someone was telling the truth.

Truth in Washington – or anywhere in America for that matter – is a scarce commodity; and that fact will never change.  We are a nation of suckers and conmen who will congregate on street corners, board rooms, church pulpits, and political podiums ad infinitum.

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