COLUMBUS _ "You know, there's only one thing wrong with the world," Uncle Chet paused, then dropped a log onto the stack.
"Maybe in your world," I was on my knees, feeding the last, heavy, freshly cut ash into an old wheelbarrow.
"The rich have all the money," he said. "Every other problem, from war to health insurance to global warming, stems from that injustice. And of course, the rich, and their minions in politics and media, are Republican."
"Of course," I got up slowly, reached down for the taped wooden handles, ready to wheel the load.
"And I love it when the rich cry poor, because I love dark comedy," Uncle Chet said. "They talk about shared sacrifice, then go buy a Mercedes and only two secretaries this year. To me, the nation's biggest crisis is the disconnect between the super rich and the rest of us, although you can't really blame the rich."
"No?" I grunted, wheeling, trying not to dump the load.
"No, because the only feedback they get is at the country club from each other, or from people who know they have to kiss up, let alone dare mention that someone is being piggy."
I lowered the handles, stretched my back, looked over at this septuagenarian in a T-shirt and green Jets cap who was slowly, methodically stacking logs.
He shrugged at me, said: "They talk about cutting back, trimming our waistlines, but I say those with the widest girth need to trim the most. The concentration of wealth and power has never been greater in this country. We're headed for rule by trillionaires, for crying out loud, barons more powerful than groups of nations."
"Who's the richest?" I said.
"I don't know, but we have hundreds of billionaires," he said, "and they control almost everything because money is power."
"The power to remain anonymous," I said.
"The country's broke because of the Bush wars and the banksters, but the crazy thing is we have more money in circulation than ever. We should be flush, but most of the money the government's pumping out is going into a few selected pockets."
"Some things never change," I said.
"So while people on fixed incomes are being squeezed, millions facing foreclosure, others working two jobs, scrimping, Republicans are getting richer, profiting on disaster, so cocky now they no longer disguise plans to destroy Medicare, Social Security, all the public commons. And the response from the middle class, the unions, is feeble because so many have fallen off the ladder."
"Look at the Republicans, going after teachers, that last regiment of a dying breed, those who believed that if they worked long and hard, they could raise a family and retire in their 60s."
"The nerve of them," I said.
"Look at the Republicans going after Elizabeth Warren, using that weasel from North Carolina to snarl at her because she has the temerity to stand up for consumers, because she wrote 'The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke.'"
"Never heard of it," I said.
"You ought to read it. She's arguably the best friend we have in government, and the big banksters are trying to take her out," he said.
"Swiftboat her," I said.
"Well, that's the way the shadow government operates; they just order up a media hit and bid the job out to those who depend on their money. Then, presto _ because no job is too big or dirty for someone _ John Kerry, Barack Obama or Elizabeth Warren find themselves being raked over the coals on Fox TV."
"I don't watch TV."
"You know the channel: `we distort, you absorb."
"How about the Democrats, though," I said. "They're not pure."
"Some aren't much better than Republicans, although some, like Dennis Kucinich, are great," he said.
"He has a beautiful wife," I said.
"He's anti-war, pro-worker, pro-Social Security, pro-Medicare, pro-single payer, pro-public power; he grew up poor and remembers where he came from."
"Like Paul Wellstone."
"Sure. Democrats still have a few heroes, and if you want to find one, it's easy. Just observe who the Republicans are trying to throw under the bus."